Holder releases new rules for media surveillance

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The Justice Department dumped its new rules for federal investigations of media organizations late Friday, saying it will ensure “more robust oversight” prior to approving future investigations of reporters’ activities.

The statement is intended to end the scandal caused by the revelation that the department had claimed Fox news reporter James Rosen broke the law while seeking a court’s approval for surveillance of the reporter’s source in the federal government.

“Members of the news media will not be subject to prosecution based solely on newsgathering activities… the department views the use of [surveillance] tools to seek evidence from or involving the news media as an extraordinary measure,” said the statement.

The statement, written by Attorney General Eric Holder, also suggested that the department would provide early warnings to media organizations who are caught up in federal investigations.

That portion of the statement came in response to a second scandal, which erupted when the department revealed it had tracked phone calls made by Associated Press reporters without telling the news company.

From now on, the department will “ensure notice in all but the most exceptional cases,” said a department’s statement, “Report on Review of News Media Policies.”

The most exception cases, it suggests, “would pose a clear and substantial threats to the integrity of the investigation, risk grave harm to national security, or presents an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm.”

Because of the scandal over the Fox investigation, the department will ensure that a reporter’s activities can be cited in requests for surveillance “only when the member of the news media is the focus of a criminal investigation for conduct not connected to ordinary newsgathering activities.”

“The department would not seek search warrants … if the sole purpose is the investigation of a person other than the member of the news media,” said the statement.