Media figures expressed alarm on Friday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Department of Justice is reviewing current policies about subpoenaing reporters as part of the investigation into leaks of classified information.
” I have listened to career investigators and prosecutors about how to most successfully investigate and prosecute these matters. At their suggestion, one of the things we are doing is reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas,” Sessions said at a press conference Friday morning.
“We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance their role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in our intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law abiding Americans.”
Sessions’ announcement was not received well in the media.
“Shorter Sessions: Because he can’t recuse himself on Russia, he’ll jail reporters instead,” said Market Watch’s Washington bureau chief, Steve Goldstein.
“Sessions tells room of reporters he may make it easier to jail them if they don’t reveal sources, leaves without taking any press questions,” said MSNBC host Ari Melber.
NBC News’ Ken Dilanian called Sessions’ announcement “a significant development for anyone who cares about press freedom.”
New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski described Sessions’ speech as “authoritarian-style threats.” Kovaleski’s message to Sessions: “Get ready for even greater, tougher resolve!”
“Sessions threatens the free press — which is protected by the First Amendment,” said BuzzFeed deputy news director Tom Namako.
Other reporters expressed similar concerns on social media.
The administration is justifying the extra scrutiny of reporters who publish classified information on the grounds that national security is at risk.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said at the same press conference Friday morning that the torrent of classified leaks flooding out of the executive branch pose a clear threat to national security.