The Justice Department’s seizure of telephone records from editors and reporters of The Associated Press was an attack against a free press with dangerous implications for the ability of journalists to gather information, the president of Investigative Reporters and Editors said Tuesday.
“This is what police states do, not governments of the people,” IRE Board President David Cay Johnston said.
“Journalists have a duty to watchdog the government and hold it accountable without surveillance or other interference,” Johnston said.
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months worth of phone records for more than 20 lines assigned to AP and it journalists between April and May 2012.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt has demanded the return of the records and destruction of all copies. Pruitt wrote that the actions potentially reveal communications with confidential sources and “disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
The IRE Conference, June 20-23 in San Antonio, will offer several sessions on steps news organizations can take to prevent surveillance, as well as a half-day threat-modeling workshop to prevent hacking and other problems. Other sessions related to government secrecy at the conference include a panel on whistleblowers, government transparency under the current administration and discussion centering on the Justice Department's seizure of AP telephone records.