WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland formalized a new policy on Monday that broadly prohibits prosecutors from subpoenaing reporters’ phone and email records, an abrupt shift after the Trump administration secretly seized records from several major news outlets in an effort to root out leaks.
In addition to the new policy, Garland reiterated that the Justice Department would also throw its support behind new media shield legislation to make the policy permanent.
“A free and independent press is vital to the functioning of our democracy,” the memo says. “The Department of Justice will no longer use compulsory legal process for the purpose of obtaining information from or records of members of the news media acting within the scope of newsgathering activities.”
The Justice Department last month held meetings with media executives to discuss formulating a new policy, after several media companies including the New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post revealed that their reporters’ records had been seized during the Trump era in an effort to identify their confidential sources for national security stories.
The Justice Department previously said it would stop the practice, but the details of the new policy had not been made public until Monday.
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