By William H. Freivogel, Visiting Professor, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
The following is an excerpt from a story Bill Freivogel wrote for the St. Louis Beacon.
The Justice Department obtained the credit reports, credit card statements, personal bank records, travel records and telephone call information for New York Times reporter James Risen during its espionage investigation of St. Louisan Jeffrey Sterling, according to a recent court filing.
The disclosure is the latest indication of the unusual tactics used by the government in the prosecution of Sterling, a former CIA agent who once accused the agency of racial discrimination and later allegedly leaked information about a botched intelligence operation directed at Iran’s nuclear program.
Justice Department rules discourage the use of prosecutorial power in a way that “impairs a reporter’s responsibility to cover as broadly as possible controversial public issues.” The rules normally require the approval of top Justice Department officials before prosecutors obtain a reporter’s personal phone records. The same requirement normally applies before prosecutors can call an attorney for a defendant such as Sterling before a grand jury. The purpose of the rules is to protect freedom of the press and the lawyer-client relationship.
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