Associated Press says U.S. government seized journalists' phone records

WASHINGTON Mon May 13, 2013 6:48pm EDT

1 of 3. A man looks down at his smartphone as he walks past the offices of the Associated Press in Manhattan, New York May 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Associated Press on Monday said the U.S. government secretly seized telephone records of AP offices and reporters for a two-month period in 2012, describing the acts as a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into news-gathering operations.

AP Chief Executive Gary Pruitt, in a letter posted on the agency's website, said the AP was informed last Friday that the Justice Department gathered records for more than 20 phone lines assigned to the agency and its reporters.

"There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters," Pruitt said in the letter, which was addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder.

An AP story on the records seizure said the government would not say why it sought the records.

But it noted that U.S. officials have previously said the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia was conducting a criminal investigation into information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al Qaeda plot to detonate a bomb on an airplane headed for the United States.

Five reporters and an editor involved in that story were among those whose phone numbers were obtained by the government, the AP said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia, which notified the AP of the seizure, issued a statement on Monday saying it was "careful and deliberative" when dealing with issues around freedom of the press.

"We take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations," the office said.

A Justice Department spokesman referred inquiries to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The seized phone records were for April and May of 2012 and AP bureaus in New York, Hartford and Washington were among those affected, as well as an AP phone at the U.S. House of Representatives press gallery, the AP said.

The records seized included general AP switchboard numbers and an office shared fax line, according to the AP story on the probe.

(Additional reporting By Ben Berkowitz in Boston; Editing by Warren Strobel and Paul Simao)

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Comments (41)
byrond2 wrote:
Are the feds still looking for commies and socialists? I better hide.

May 13, 2013 5:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
totherepublic wrote:
Now they run it….here is a little more on this:

“Justice Department secretly obtained AP phone records”

“The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.”

This is a direct and illegal attack on the mainstream media…..too far yet?

May 13, 2013 5:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
USAPragmatist wrote:
Interesting, wonder if this had to do with some ‘War on Terror’ thing and using the Patriot Act?

I would like more details on the motivation.

May 13, 2013 5:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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