Democrat Lawmakers Demand Biden DOJ Stop 'Spying on Reporters' Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., speaks during a hearing with United States Trade Representative Katherine C. Tai on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)
By Eric Mack | Tuesday, 18 May 2021 02:35 PM
Democrats are calling on the Biden administration's Justice Department "to end its practice of spying on reporters to secretly identify their sources."
"While previous administrations have sought to obtain reporters' communications records in efforts to identify the source of leaked information, it's past time that the United States end this invasive practice that threatens freedom of the press," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote in a press release Tuesday.
"We urge you to revise the DOJ's guidelines for investigations of journalists," the letter read.
"Simply put, the government should not collect journalists' communications records unless it's investigating them for a crime or as part of an investigation into foreign espionage, in which case it should get a warrant."
Wyden and Raskin plan to introduce new legislation in the coming months to protect reporters from being forced to disclose their sources.
Rep. Raskin introduced bipartisan legislation in 2017 with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, that would shield journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources and ensure they can do their jobs without fear of imprisonment or intimidation.
"The Biden administration has the opportunity to voluntarily leave behind the thuggish and Orwellian abuses of power of the last administration, and stand up as a world leader for press freedoms," Wyden and Raskin wrote.
The letter follows recent news the Trump administration, under former Attorney General William Barr, secretly obtained phone records and attempted to obtain email records from three Washington Post reporters between April 15, 2017 and July 31, 2017. During this time period, the reporters were investigating links between Trump officials and Russia.
The members also requested the DOJ provide reports for 2019 and 2020 on surveillance of media members under former-AG Barr, which have not been made public. DOJ began posting surveillance reports online in 2017, following a request by Wyden. Reports for 2016, 2017 and 2018 are all available online.