As has been widely reported, the U.S. Department of Justice has disclosed that it has obtained two months' worth of telephone records from 20 separate phone lines assigned to the journalists and offices of the Associated Press. The Associated Press was not informed of the investigation before the DOJ acquired the telephone data, which could potentially reveal confidential sources and editorial strategy (among other sensitive information).
The incident has resulted in widespread condemnation of the DOJ's actions by the press and demands for accountability and reform. In response, the DOJ has asserted its commitment to abiding by applicable law and its internal policies, which require special consideration before information may be sought from members of the news media.
This is not the first time that a government investigation into a news organization's operations has led to questions about the sufficiency of protection for the press, and in fact the effects of one prior incident in particular can be seen in these recent events. Examining this incident and its consequences provides a useful lens through which to examine the breadth and limitations of government power to investigate the press.
The First Amendment and the Fourth: Zurcher v. Stanford Daily read more »