'A massive and unprecedented intrusion': Associated Press condemns US government for seizing journalists' telephone records without explanation
The Associated Press news agency has condemned the US government for the unexplained seizure of records of telephone calls made by its journalists.
Describing the seizure as “a massive and unprecedented intrusion”, AP’s chief executive Gary Pruitt accused the US Justice Department of gathering records from more than 20 separate phone lines; including reporters’ private and office lines, general numbers for its New York, Washington and Connecticut offices, and the main phone line used by reporters based in the House of Representatives press gallery.
He said that the records focused on calls made between April and May 2012, adding it was unknown how many phone calls were made and received on the 20 phone lines in that time but stressing that, as over 100 journalists had access to the phones, it was possible that the records ran into the hundreds.
He went on to say that the some of the calls are likely to have been with confidential sources on a variety of topics, including sensitive information about the US government itself.
Mr Pruitt said: “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of the Associated Press and its reporters.”
He added: “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know”.
The Justice Department has provided no formal explanation for the seizures, but US Attorney Officer officials have previously stated they were conducting a criminal investigation into information contained in an AP story about a CIA operation in Yemen which was published in May last year.
White House representatives quickly sought to distance themselves from the seizure, with press secretary Jay Carney issuing a statement claiming they had only become aware of developments through media reports.
He said: “Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP. We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department.”
The Republican chairman of the investigative House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Darrell Issa, criticised the seizure of records.
Speaking to CNN, he said: “They had an obligation to look for every other way to get it before they intruded on the freedom of the press”.
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, emailed AP a statement which read: “I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government's explanation.”
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union accused the Obama administration of “press intimidation”.
In response, the US Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia issued a statement insisting it took its obligations to “follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies” seriously.
It said: “Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media”.
It added: “Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws”.
- 2 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 3 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Nepal earthquake: More than 1,100 killed across four countries and in Mount Everest avalanche
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Hermann Goering's daughter fails to reclaim items looted by Nazi deputy during WWII
Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...