Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Monday, July 19, 2021

U.S. Attorney General's Office: New Memo "Restrict[s] the Use of Compulsory Process to Obtain Information From or Records of Members of the News Media"

Just released, from the U.S. Attorney General's Office:

a memo "to restrict the use of compulsory process to obtain information from or records of members of the news media."

 

It reads in part:

 

  1. 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, as set out below.
  1. This new prohibition applies to compulsory legal process issued to reporters directly, to their publishers or employers, and to third-party service providers of any of the foregoing.  It extends to the full range of compulsory process covered by the current regulations, specifically, subpoenas, warrants, court orders issued pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d) and§ 3123, and civil investigative demands. Further, it applies regardless of whether the compulsory legal process seeks testimony, physical documents, telephone toll records, metadata, or digital content.
  1. As with the current regulations, this prohibition on compulsory process does not apply to obtaining information from or records of a member of the news media who is the subject or target of an investigation when that status is not based on or within the scope of newsgathering activities.

There are exceptions, including when the member of the media is "under investigation for a violation of criminal law, such as insider Nor does it apply to a member of the news media who has used criminal methods, such as breaking and entering, to obtain government information," when the member of the media is a member of a foreign terrorist organization or is an agent of a foreign power, or has broken the law to obtain the information ("Nor does it apply to a member of the news media who has used criminal methods, such as breaking and entering, to obtain government information").

 

Link to the press release here.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/media_law_prof_blog/2021/07/us-attorney-generals-office-new-memo-restricts-the-use-of-compulsory-process-to-obtain-information-f.html

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