In what comes as a further constraint on freedom of the press, the US government has secretly seized the telephone records of journalists of the Associated Press.
The Department of Justice has gathered the telephone records of more than twenty lines. The chief executive of AP has described this act as a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’.
The department, however, claims the reported seizure of telephone records has been carried out as a result of a criminal investigation into information, which was contained in an AP story last year in the months of April and May, reports the BBC.
In the story by AP that was published in May 2012, it was mentioned that a CIA operation in Yemen foiled an Al-Qaeda plot, which was to blow up a US-bound airplane.
According to the BBC, the phone records of five reporters and an editor who were involved in the CIA story last year were traced. AP’s CEO called these tracings ‘unprecedented’ and ‘overboard’ in his letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder.
News organisations are given a notice in advance when the government seeks such information. The AP CEO claimed the government was obligated to look for alternative ways to get the information rather than intruding the freedom of press.
The US Attorney General’s Office, however, insisted it took the obligations seriously about following the applicable laws and seeking alternative means for information procurement.