US Attorney General issues new policy that prohibits prosecutors from obtaining journalist’s personal records

United States Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday issued a new policy that prohibits prosecutors from obtaining personal data like phone and email records of journalists’ to investigate government leaks of sensitive information. 

The longstanding practice was used extensively during the Trump administration, to obtain sensitive information from several major news outlets. 

In a memo to federal prosecutors, he said “The Department of Justice will no longer use compulsory legal process for the purpose of obtaining information from or records of members of the news media acting within the scope of newsgathering activities.”

In the memo, it was also stated that the Justice Department would support the legislation that ensures protection for journalists.

The protections do not extend in cases where a person or entity is an agent of a foreign government, a member of a terrorist organization, or if a person’s life is at “imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm.” 

The policy also makes it clear that prosecutors cannot obtain records using legal process, simply because reporters published classified information

According to Reuters, last month, the Justice Department held meetings with media executives of major news outlets like CNN and Washington Post who revealed that their reporters’ records had been seized during the Trump era in an effort to identify their confidential sources for national security stories.