DOJ Secretly Obtained CNN Reporter's Records

Barbara Starr's records were obtained after Trump condemned leaks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2021 9:58 AM CDT
Under Trump, DOJ Secretly Obtained CNN Reporter's Records
The DOJ said it will speak to reporters about AG Merrick Garland’s "staunch support of and commitment to a free and independent press."   (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

CNN says it wants the Justice Department to explain why it secretly obtained the phone and email records of one of its journalists during the Trump administration, apparently as part of an effort to identify her sources. The network says it was informed in a May 13 letter from the department that it had obtained Barbara Starr's records for two months in 2017, reports the Washington Post, which received a similar notification relating to three of its reporters earlier this month. The letter said the government obtained information about the senders and recipients of Starr's emails but not the content. In the first months of his administration, Donald Trump strongly criticized both CNN and the Post and said he had ordered the DOJ to crack down on "criminal" leaks, the New York Times notes.

CNN says that during the period in question, Starr reported on military options in North Korea that were to be presented to Trump, as well as stories on Syria and Afghanistan. "CNN strongly condemns the secret collection of any aspect of a journalist's correspondence, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment," said CNN President Jeff Zucker. In a statement, DOJ spokesman Anthony Coley said the legal process to obtain the records was approved last year, reports the AP. He promised that department leadership would soon meet with reporters to address their concerns. The Times notes that rules on when the DOJ can secretly obtain information on reporters' phone calls were tightened in 2013 after a backlash to the Obama administration's investigation of reporters from the AP and Fox News. (Read more Justice Department stories.)

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