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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

F.B.I.’s Use of Phone Records Shows Need to Protect the Press, Senators Say

WASHINGTON — Two leading senators said Monday that they were troubled by the F.B.I.’s collection of the phone records of four reporters at The New York Times and The Washington Post and that the episode showed a “pressing need” for legislation pending in the Senate that would provide greater legal protection for journalists.

Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation disclosed to the two newspapers that it had improperly obtained the phone records of reporters in their Indonesian bureaus in 2004 by using emergency records demands from telephone providers as part of an investigation. Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the bureau, made personal calls to Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, and Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Post, to apologize.

But the ranking senators on the Judiciary Committee, Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said that was not enough.

In a letter sent to Mr. Mueller on Monday, the two senators said they wanted formal staff briefings on the episode to address unanswered questions.

The phone records were apparently obtained as part of a terrorism investigation, but the agency has not explained what it was investigating or why the reporters’ phone records were considered relevant.  [Mark Godsey]

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