Holder Refines Federal Rules On Obtaining Journalists’ Records

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Attorney General Eric Holder, who drew fire last year over the Justice Department's tactics in secretly obtaining reporters’ phone logs and emails in leak investigations, has signed new guidelines narrowing the circumstances in which law enforcement officials may obtain journalists' records, the New York Times reports. The rules, which will be published in the Federal Register, carry out a set of changes Holder announced last summer.

A preamble described the revisions as intended to ensure that the department “strikes the proper balance among several vital interests,” like protecting national security and “safeguarding the essential role of the free press in fostering government accountability and an open society.” The rules create a presumption that prosecutors generally will provide advance notice to the news media when seeking to obtain their communications records. The rules also address a law forbidding search warrants for journalists’ work materials, except where the reporter is a criminal suspect. They say the exception cannot be invoked for conduct based on “ordinary news-gathering activities.”

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