The Justice Department announced on Saturday that it will halt the secret seize reporters' records during lead investigations, following a pledge made by President Joe Biden last month. The president stated that this practice was "simply, simply wrong" and that he does not condone this practice by the Justice Department.
Both parties' administrations have utilized court orders to obtain journalists' records in hopes of identifying sources who revealed classified information, according to an Associated Press article. With the arrival of a new administration, reporters at three news outlets – The Washington Post, CNN, and The New York Times – were notified that their phone records had been obtained in the final year of former President Donald Trump's term.
On Friday night, The New York Times announced the presence of a gag order that prevented it from revealing a secret court fight over persistent efforts to have access to four reporters' email records. While the fight began during the Trump-era, it has continued under the Biden Administration as well. However, the latter administration has since moved to withdraw the gag order.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki assured the public that the White House was unaware of the gag order until Friday night. She said in a statement Saturday that "the issuing of subpoenas for the records of reporters in lead investigations is not consistent with the President's police direction to the Department."
The news outlets urged the Biden Administration further to take accountability for this incident in order to unveil how their records were obtained. Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee stated that the Biden Administration and Justice Department should "provide a full accounting of the chain of events in both administrations and to implement enduring protections to prevent any further recurrence."
Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement that the department “will not seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media doing their jobs," he continued, “The department strongly values a free press, protecting First Amendment values, and is committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensure the independence of journalists.”