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The toll records usually indicate which numbers a reporter called or received calls from and how long the call was connected, but does not contain any information about the content of the calls.
The Post said the journalists – Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and former Postal reporter Adam Entous – received letters on May 3 informing them that the government would keep their call logs from April 15, 2017 through July 31 2017 received.
Cameron Barr, a senior editor for the Post, said in a statement that the tactics have disrupted the newspaper.
“We are deeply concerned about this use of governance to gain access to communications from journalists,” said Barr. “The Justice Department should immediately clarify its reasons for interfering with the activities of reporters doing their job, an activity protected by the first amendment.”
The Post story was part of a series of leaks that infuriated President Donald Trump during his first few months in office. Just two weeks after reporting on Kislyak and Sessions, Sessions announced crackdown on what he called the “culture of leaks”. The attorney general also announced that he would establish an FBI department dedicated solely to unlawful disclosure of classified information in the media, and said the department is reviewing its guidelines on subpoenas to obtain information from or about journalists. As a result, no changes to the policy were announced.
Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi declined to discuss details of the move towards the Post or to say exactly who is being investigated, but stressed that the aim was not to prosecute the journalists.
“While this is rare, the department follows the procedures outlined in its Media Policy Policy when seeking legal process to obtain phone bills and non-substantive email records from media members as part of a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information “said Raimondi. “The targets of these investigations are not the recipients of the news media, but those with access to the national defense intelligence that they made available to the media and therefore did not protect them as required by law.”
The Post said that the communications it received indicated that investigators had been given permission to access information about which accounts the reporters emailed to or from, but that the government did not provide any such data had received. A Post spokesman declined to comment on why or to say if the newspaper knew of the government’s investigation prior to this week.
However, an official confirmed that the orders were only received last year. This increases the likelihood that the year-long emails were automatically or manually deleted when investigators were given permission to search the data.
It is unlikely that Swiss Post would have agreed to share the email details without litigation. It is unclear whether any of the newspaper’s service providers would have had access to the information.
According to guidelines, revised in 2013 by Attorney General Eric Holder following controversy over the Department’s use of legal instruments to track down reporters, the department must notify journalists of such searches within 45 days of receiving the records.
The Attorney General may extend this period to 90 days in urgent circumstances, but no additional delays are allowed.
The release of the notices earlier this week suggests the department didn’t receive the data until February of this year or later after the Biden administration took office.