14 May 2013, 10:12

US Justice Department caught spying on AP reporters

США Министерство юстиции США

A huge scandal erupted in the United States after it emerged on Monday that the world’s news giant Associated Press had accused the Justice Department of wiretapping phone calls of its reporters. The outing can mean grave implications for the White House, especially since telephone records appear to have been seized illegally. The Voice of Russia’s correspondent shares some important details.

On Monday, the AP published the letter by its Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt to US Attorney General Eric Holder, in which he sensationally slams DOJ for wiretapping journalists.

The AP leadership accused US secret services of recording private and work phone calls at its New York, Hartford, and Washington offices between April and late May 2012. Even the AP office at the US House of Representatives wasn’t exempted. A total of 20 phone lines were spied on.

The AP letter to the US Attorney General described this secret surveillance scheme as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into the agency’s activities. US Representative Darrell Issa was equally critical of the DOJ’s actions:

“From a constitutional standpoint, the First Amendment, it’s very clear Judiciary will have the lead on this. And Chairman Goodlatte and I will be happy to work together. And this is a constitutional question and a question of DOJ once again. One of the amazing things is, they have the ability to listen very transparently to all the government phones, and all the government activity. They had an obligation to look for every other way to get it before they in fact intruded on the freedom of press,” Mr. Issa said.

The Associated Press said there was no possible justification for DOJ's spying on journalists. Moreover, AP CEO Gary Pruitt warned the seized records could potentially reveal communications with confidential sources and stand in the way of investigative journalism. He demanded that the Department surrender all telephone records and destroy their copies.

Neither the Department of Justice nor the White House chose to comment on the brewing scandal. This story may in fact be the first sign of a starting campaign to curb continuous leaks that have been plaguing the US government, intelligence and army. For instance, last year the FBI was probing into the sources that had tipped off the AP about the CIA operation in Yemen. No details were revealed on the results of this investigation.

Voice of Russia's correspondent in New York, US

AP chief strongly criticizes seizure of their phone records by US government

The Associated Press, one of the world’s largest news agencies, has told the US Department of Justice secretly obtained telephone records of its reporters and editors for the priod of April and May of 2012, Politico.com has reported citing the Associated Press.

On Monday AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, where he told the agency had been informed that the government had seized telephone records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to the agency’s employees.

The disclosed records include a list of calls made to and from the agency’s offices in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn.. The exact number of reporters and editors whose telephone activity during the period is now known to the government is not revealed in the letter. At the same time, reportedly over 100 journalists were working in that period in the targeted offices.

In his letter Gary Pruitt strongly criticized the government’s actions, describing them as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how the agency works. He also demanded that all the phone records should be returned and any of their copies destructed.

According to Pruitt, the authorities have not yet explained why they sought the records, which were possibly provided to them earlier this year by phone companies.

It is possible that the phone calls were obtained as part of an investigation conducted by the U.S.attorney in Washington into the agency’s story released on May 7, 2012 about a CIA secret operation in Yemen that foiled a terror plot to blow up an airplane bound for the United States.

On Monday the Department of Justice issued a statement saying they “take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations.”

Meanwhile Jay Carney, the White House’s spokesperson, told reporters they were unaware of any attempts to obtain phone records of the agency’s journalists. He also noted the Department of Justice was responsible for the issue. 

The Tea Party movemnet background:

The Tea Party movement is an American political movement that advocates for reducing U.S. government spending and taxes, and reduction of the U.S. national debt and federal budget deficit. The movement has sponsored protests and supported political candidates since 2009. The Tea Party movement tends to be anti-government, anti-spending, anti-Obama, anti-tax, nationalistic, in favor of strict immigration legislation and against compromise politics. The Tea Party is skeptical towards the courts, shows a commitment to individualism and takes an originalist view in constitutional interpretation. 

Voice of Russia, ITAR-TASS, Politico.com, Reuters, Wikipedia.org

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