NEW YORK—CNN disclosed today that the Department of Justice had been seeking to obtain the phone records of a CNN reporter since July 2020 and had placed a gag order on CNN’s general counsel. The news came days after The New York Times’s general counsel revealed that the DOJ had gagged him and several Times executives in connection with a different leak investigation. Over the past month, news stories have revealed that under the Trump administration, the DOJ had secretly seized communications records of three Washington Post reporters, the CNN reporter, and four New York Times reporters to try to identify their sources.
President Biden has called the surveillance of journalists “simply wrong.” And the DOJ announced last week that it would no longer “seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media doing their jobs.”
The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, executive director, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
“Government efforts to access journalists’ records always raise serious press freedom concerns, but the gag order makes this case unusual and particularly disturbing. The courts have made clear in other contexts that these kinds of gag orders are rarely consistent with the First Amendment. Gag orders impede public scrutiny that’s important to ensuring that government agents aren’t abusing their powers.”
For more information, contact: Lorraine Kenny, communications director, Knight First Amendment Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org.