New guidelines issued by attorney general Eric Holder would limit the ability of law enforcement officers to seize media communications and would require officials to notify the targeted journalists in “all but the most exceptional cases.”
Under the new rules, released Friday afternoon, media organizations would be notified of records seizures except in cases where the attorney general personally signs a waiver based on a belief that “advance notice and negotiations would pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation, risk grave harm to national security, or present an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm.”
“It is expected that only the rare case would present the Attorney General with the requisite compelling reasons to justify a delayed notification,” the new guidelines say.
The guidelines limit officials’ ability to seize journalists’ records to cases where the journalists are “the focus of a criminal investigation for conduct not connected to ordinary newsgathering activities.”
The justice department also plans to set up a “News Media Review Committee” to advise the attorney general when justice department lawyers seek media-related records in investigations into leaks.
The report repeats Obama administration promises that journalists will not be prosecuted for practicing journalism:
As an initial matter, it bears emphasis that it has been and remains the Department’s policy that members of the news media will not be subject to prosecution based solely on newsgathering activities.