US government secretly obtained phone records of journalists
May 14, 2013 4 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Associated Press (AP) accused the United States government on Monday of secretly obtaining telephone records of its reporters, as part of a leak inquiry related to an intelligence operation. The news agency, which is owned cooperatively by news outlets worldwide, said the Department of Justice had secretly obtained pen-register information on 20 AP telephone lines in the US. Pen-register data includes lists of all numbers contacted from a particular telephone line and the duration of each call over a defined period. The agency said the government investigation included “the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters”, as well as AP office telephone lines in New York and Washington, and even the main telephone line used by AP correspondents at the US Capitol Building. It is believed that government prosecutors were probing the source(s) of a May 7, 2012, AP report, which disclosed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had prevented a terrorist plot by al-Qaeda in the
Islamic Arabian Peninsula. AP correspondents Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman had cited anonymous sources in claiming that the plot, allegedly hatched in Yemen, involved placing a bomb on a US-bound civilian airplane on the one-year anniversary of the death of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Less than a fortnight later, sources told the Reuters news agency that the White House and CIA were furious with AP’s revelation, because it allegedly forced the termination of an “operation which they hoped could have continued for weeks longer”. Gary Pruitt, AP’s chief executive officer, told reporters that the news agency was officially notified of the investigation late last week by Ronald Machen, US attorney for the District of Columbia. In a letter of protest to US Attorney General Eric Holder, Pruitt called the government investigation “overboard” and “a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news”. Noting that US law requires subpoenas for journalists’ telephone records to be drawn “as narrowly […] as possible”, Pruitt criticized the breadth of the investigation, which gave the government access to “communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period”. The news agency has issued a demand for an immediate explanation of the investigation and called on the Department of Justice to return all pen-register records and destroy all copies in its possession. The White House told reporters on Monday that it had no input in the investigation, which is handled independently by the Department of Justice.