Freedom Of The Press Foundation Sues DOJ Over Its Secret Rules For Spying On Journalists

from the a-little-transparency-please dept

The wonderful Freedom of the Press Foundation is now suing the US Justice Department for refusing to reveal its rules and procedures for spying on journalists. You can read the complaint here. The key issue: what rules and oversight exist for the DOJ when it comes to spying on journalists. As you may recall, a few years ago, it came out that the DOJ had been using some fairly sneaky tricks to spy on journalists, including falsely telling a court that reporter James Rosen was a “co-conspirator” in order to get access to his emails and phone records. In response to a lot of criticism, the DOJ agreed to “revise” its rules for when it snoops on journalists.

However, there was an important limitation on the “new” rules, as the NY Times noted at the time:

There is no change to how the F.B.I. may obtain reporters? calling records via ?national security letters,? which are exempt from the regular guidelines. A Justice spokesman said the device is ‘subject to an extensive oversight regime.’

Extensive oversight regime, eh? The Freedom of the Press Foundation sought to find out just what kind of extensive oversight there really was — and came up against a brick wall in the form of black redaction ink:

That’s from the DOJ’s Inspector General report, concerning a situation where the FBI had used an NSL to access a journalist’s communications inappropriately. As the Freedom of the Press Foundation notes, elsewhere in that same report, it appears that the FBI is actually ignoring recommendations of the Inspector General concerning these situations, despite the “First Amendment interests implicated.”
As the Foundation notes, the redactions here make the details entirely opaque, and the Inspector General’s Office has made it clear that it disagreed with the redactions, saying that revealing the information behind that black ink “is important to the public’s understanding of the FBI’s compliance with NSL requirements.” Given that the Foundation is now suing to find out those details. The lawsuit specifically requests that the DOJ reveal those documents in their entirety, which includes the “extensive regime, rules, guidelines, or infrastructure that oversees the issuance of NSLs or exigent letters to obtain records regarding a member of the media” as well as “the current procedures that FBI agents must undertake in advance of issuing a NSL or exigent letter to obtain records regarding any member of the media.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the DOJ will reply, hysterically, that revealing this kind of information will put national security at risk and could reveal important law enforcement gathering techniques that will aid those out to harm us or some such crap. Perhaps they’ll even toss in a request to dump the entire case for reasons of “national security.” Just recognize that this is all busllshit. The request here is not for any details that are going to help any criminals get away with anything. All it is asking for is what process the FBI uses to make sure that it’s not violating the First Amendment in spying on journalists. If that’s something that needs to be kept secret, there can be only one reason: because the FBI is embarrassed by what it’s doing in spying on journalists.

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Comments on “Freedom Of The Press Foundation Sues DOJ Over Its Secret Rules For Spying On Journalists”

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12 Comments
David says:

Re: Re:

The U.S. has acquired so much experience in establishing and supporting corporation-friendly dictatorships abroad (partly under the color of democracy, an interesting propaganda challenge when toppling grass-root supported socialist governments) that it would be a shame not to employ the requisite skills at home.

Why should the U.S. itself be saved the shame of liberation? It’s more believable if you make your own serfs eat your own dog food, too.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Obvious constituion patch

Now if only there was a real government in the USA that could initiate such legislation against the passage of crooked laws.

Sadly, all you have today is this Hollywood Government thing whose only desire is sicker, dumber people, fewer civil rights for non-millionaires, and every last dime in America.

Yep. Yer gonna need to create a real government before you can get it to make real laws against real crimes and punish the real crooks.

Good luck with that. 🙂

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