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Seizure of AP phone records condemned as grave violation
May 20, 2013May 14 - Reporters Without Borders regards the US Department of Justices seizure of the records of thousands of Associated Press phone calls as an extremely grave violation of freedom of information.
The DOJ notified the AP in an email on 10 May that it had obtained the records of calls made from 20 of the news agencys phone lines during April and May 2012. The email did not specify the DOJs reasons for seizing them or the legal grounds on which they were seized.
But the purpose was presumably to identify the news agencys sources for a story, in particular, an AP report on 7 May 2012 revealing details of a CIA operation to thwart an Al-Qaeda plot to blow up an airplane bound for the United States.
The targeted phone lines were those of several AP bureaux in the United States, its main number in the House of Representatives press gallery, and the personal numbers of some of its employees, including five reporters and an editor involved in producing the May 2012 report.
We share the view of AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt, who called it a massive and unprecedented intrusion in a letter yesterday to US attorney general Eric Holder, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. We urge the DOJ to comply immediately with the APs request for the return or destruction of the seized phone records.
We also think that such a flagrant violation of constitutional guarantees needs to be the subject of a congressional commission of enquiry. We regret to see that the federal government has not ended the practices that prevailed during President George W. Bushs two terms, when officials sacrificed the protection of private data and, above all, the First Amendment right to be informed.
Deloire added: This case has demonstrated the need for a federal shield law that guarantees the protection of journalists sources, a principle that 34 of the Unions states already recognize to varying degrees in their legislation.
For more information contact:
Reporters without Borders
Phone: 33 1 44 83 84 84
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