Gene Policinski: Seizure of AP phone records: An affront to a free press

From First Amendment Center:  What The Associated Press calls “a massive and unprecedented intrusion by the Department of Justice”(DOJ) into its news gathering activities is more than an affront to a free press — it’s a direct challenge.

If the seizure of telephone records from offices and personal lines is as broad and unfocused as AP CEO Gary Pruitt describes, the DOJ move to seize records of calls made from offices and personal phones of AP journalists marks a new and threatening move by an administration already facing reports that the IRS has targeted groups simply for educating others about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and a record of the most prosecutions ever of government employees over leaks to the press, under the nearly-100 year old Espionage Act.

The nation’s founders provided strong protection for a free press in the form of the First Amendment to guarantee a free flow of news and information from a source not licensed or controlled by the government.

According to Pruitt, records were seized of more than 20 phone lines used mostly in New York and Washington, D.C., and some home phone records for AP staff, for a two-month period early last year. Potentially, as many as 100 AP journalists may have used those lines in newsgathering activities.