Allow Press to Report Freely at Department of Justice Meeting

Target: United States Attorney General Eric Holder

Goal: Make upcoming meeting with major news organizations “on the record,” which would allow the press to report the Attorney General’s remarks

After facing controversy for secretly seizing phone records from journalists and ruthlessly investigating a FOX news reporter for a leak, United States Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice have planned to hold a meeting with major media organizations about journalist subpoena policy. The session will be “off the record,” a journalism term meaning that the contents of the meeting, including the Attorney General’s remarks, cannot be reported. The New York Times and Associated Press have refused to participate in an off-the-record meeting. Demand that the Department of Justice hold itself accountable and change the meeting to be on the record, which would allow the press to report it freely.

The Department of Justice recently faced controversy for invading press freedom in an unprecedented secret seizure of hundreds of phone records from the Associated Press. The seizure was part of a probe into a leak about a story the AP had published in 2012. Holder had recused himself from the investigation, but did not immediately apologize for the overreach. Holder also approved an investigation into FOX reporter James Rosen, who reported that a source inside North Korea had revealed an upcoming nuclear weapons test. The investigation treated Rosen as a criminal and included a seizure of contents of Rosen’s personal emails. In the Associated Press case, contents of phone calls were not pursued.

Recently, a Justice Department official told Politico that Holder expressed regret over the AP phone record seizure and the breadth of the department’s investigation into Rosen. In response to the controversy and in the interest of reconciling the First Amendment with national security investigations, a meeting will be held with Washington D.C. bureau chiefs of major print and broadcast organizations about changing the U.S. government’s policies regarding subpoenas from news organizations. This is a good first step, but because of the off the record stipulation, it cannot be reported freely.

The New York Times and the Associated Press both stated that they refuse to participate in the meeting because it will be off the record. Sign the petition below to tell the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder that a meeting about free press should be on the record.


Dear Attorney General Eric Holder,

The upcoming meeting regarding policy changes for subpoenas from major media organizations should be held on the record. A session about policies that would protect the First Amendment should be openly reported by members of the free press.

This first session is an excellent step forward in showing that the government has a strong interest in the First Amendment in balance with matters of national security. But by making it off the record, you are not holding yourself or the government accountable for what is said about the matter during the meeting. The New York Times and Associated press have refused to participate, and they are right in their refusal.

You have admitted that the Department of Justice has participated in recent overreaches into news gatherings from major media organizations. It is time to be open and honest about government policy invading press freedom. Hold the meeting with the media on the record.


[Your Name Here]

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One Comment

  1. Vanessa Solis Vanessa Solis says:

    The meeting was still held off the record, and proved to be inconclusive. The Justice Department will continue to face opposition from advocates of the free press, here and elsewhere.

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