Days after the federal government announced that they would not force journalist James Risen to comply with a subpoena demanding he reveal his source, Attorney General Eric Holder closed a loophole that allowed federal prosecutors to indiscriminately subpoena journalists. Oh yay!
The Department of Justice announced the change to its rules today, which formerly let prosecutors aggressively subpoena journalists and their records — much like they did with Risen for the past six years, to prove that a former CIA agent had leaked sensitive information to the New York Times journalist. As the LA Times describes it, Holder only changed one word — but that word is crucial:
New guidelines issued last February protected reporters engaged in “ordinary news-gathering activities,” which appeared to be a loophole leaving open to interpretation what prosecutors considered “ordinary.”
In the new guidelines, still being finalized by the Justice Department, the word “ordinary” has been dropped so that prosecutors seeking to subpoena reporters or their records must seek a high-level review for reporters engaged in any “news-gathering” activities.
The rule change, and the dropping of Risen’s case, may not be enough to solve the rift between the Obama administration and angry journalists calling them “dangerous” to press freedoms. But it’s a start?
[Image via screenshot]
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