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DOJ Investigation of AP Part of Larger Pattern to Intimidate Sources and Reporters

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reprinted from Freedom of the Press Foundation

As part of a new leak investigation, the Justice Department has secretly obtained the call records for twenty phone lines owned by the Assocated Press (AP), which could put sources for as many as one hundred reporters at risk. The AP called the move a "massive and unprecedented intrusion," saying they "regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP's constitutional rights to gather and report the news."

From http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Press_Freedom_Index_2010_Map.png: Press Freedom Index 2010 Map; that map may need changing soon, as the Obama administration leans harder and harder on whistleblowers, journalists and media organizations
Press Freedom Index 2010 Map; that map may need changing soon, as the Obama administration leans harder and harder on whistleblowers, journalists and media organizations
(Image by Wikipedia)
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Press Freedom Index 2010 Map; that map may need changing soon, as the Obama administration leans harder and harder on whistleblowers, journalists and media organizations by Wikipedia

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We agree. It's time to stop looking at all of these leak investigations and prosecutions as ancillary to press freedom; they are a direct attack on it. This should be an important wake-up call for journalists.

While this incident has brought the Justice Department's crackdown on leakers to a new extreme, it's important to remember, this storm has been brewing for a while now. In five years, the Obama administration has prosecuted more leakers under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined, and virtually all these prosecutions have engulfed journalists one way or another.

As part of this current investigation, we've known the FBI has been data mining government officials' phone and email records for months, looking for links to journalists on a systematic scale. The Washington Post reported in January, the FBI is using new, "sophisticated software to identify names, key words and phrases embedded in e-mails and other communications, including text messages, which could lead them to suspects."

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According to the Post, "The FBI also looks at officials' phone records -- who called whom, when, for how long." Anytime the FBI found a government official has contact with the unknown number of "particular" journalists, FBI agents were "confronting" officials with this information.

A similar leak investigation to the one that has engulfed the AP is aimed at New York Times sources for its investigation into secret US cyberattacks. The government refused to comment if the Justice Department has gone to similar extremes with the New York Times' phone lines.

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