AP CEO: Phone Records Probe Was “Unconstitutional”

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 19 2013 2:25 PM

AP CEO: Sources Are Reluctant To Talk After Phone Records Probe

The President and CEO of the Associated Press told CBS News that the Justice Department’s seizure of phone records was “unconstitutional” and has hurt the agency’s ability to report on the news. It’s not that the government doesn’t have the right to seize phone records, Gary Pruitt said, but the methodology was “so sweeping, so secretively, so abusively and harassingly overbroad" that it violated the Constitution.

While investigating the source of a leak that led to a story about a failed terror plot in Yemen, the Justice Department "issued a secret subpoena for the phone toll records for 21 AP phone lines and these were phones lines for reporters, direct lines, cell phones, home phones but also the office numbers," Pruitt said. The Justice Department is required to make its request as narrowly as possible. Plus, it should have informed the AP first, although it claimed an exception to that rule saying it would threaten the investigation. “But they have not explained why it would and we can't understand why it would."

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Now AP reporters are having trouble getting sources to talk. "Officials that would normally talk to us, and people we talk to in the normal course of news gathering, are already saying they're a little reluctant to talk to us,” Pruitt said. “They fear that they will be monitored by the government."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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