Criticize Justice Department’s Subpoena of Associated Press Phone Records

Target: James Cole, United States Deputy Attorney General

Goal: Return phone records obtained by the Justice Department to the Associated Press and have all copies destroyed

The Associated Press released articles covering a thwarted bombing attempt originating in Yemen in May of 2012.  While originally agreeing to withhold details from the public, information was revealed by the Associated Press on May 7th 2012, a day before government agencies were to announce the incident. Now, the Justice Department has obtained phone records from Associated Press Journalists, spanning over twenty separate phone lines including mobile, home, and office records.

Attorney General Eric Holder claims that this is a massive leak in information, and an investigation into the source of the information is underway. Yet the investigation only began after the article was published, not during open communication between White House agencies and the Associated Press. This is not only an invasion into the private lives of journalists involved in the case, but a violation of freedom of press. While government is able to determine the sensitive nature of information and insist it be withheld from the public, in this instance, officials were about to release the same information the very next day. They claim to be looking for the source of an information leak, yet they were ready to expose the same information themselves.

The Obama administration has already shown increased apprehension towards whistle-blowers, and this is no exception. This attempt at finding the source of the leak has invaded the privacy of numerous journalists on an unusually wide scale. Despite claims that the Justice Department is attempting to maintain freedom of press and refrain from violating laws, this is a heavy violation of the press’s ability to function in the search for truth and the first amendment: the freedom of speech. Journalists should not have to fear repercussion in the search for truth. By signing this petition, you will demand that United States Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who is heading the investigation against Associated Press, returns all seized phone records and destroys copies.


Dear Deputy Attorney General James Cole,

As you are the main investigative force behind the leak of information to the Associated Press regarding the thwarted bomb attack originating in Yemen in May of last year, you are aware that the phone (both mobile and office) and fax records amounting to over twenty lines have been obtained via subpoena by the Justice Department. Yet the subpoena was issued only after the Associated Press released information a day before government agencies planned to do so, rather than when it was known to said agencies that the AP had already obtained information.

There has already been an aggressive rebuke towards whistle-blowers by the Obama administration, and this is no different. The search for truth by journalists and news agencies is an exercise of their first amendment right to freedom of speech. They have not violated any laws necessitating such a broad gathering of private information. Attempts to stop information from disseminating under the pretense of calling them security leaks would be much more appropriate had officials not been ready to disclose the information in question to the public the following day.

As journalists of the Associated Press have been targeted by the Justice Department for a subpoena of phone and fax records, amounting to over twenty separate lines, I urge you to meet their demands and return all records and destroy all copies. The actions taken to obtain these phone records are a direct violation of freedom of speech, and no journalist should fear repercussion for attempting to expose truth.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Alterego via Wikimedia

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91 Signatures

  • Lynn Juozilaitis
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