Last updated

US DOJ Seal (240x240)After multiple spying scandals in 2013 involving the surveillance of journalists at the Associated Press and Fox News, the Justice Department announced it had updated its "media guidelines" to better protect journalists' press freedom rights in leak investigations. 

This was portrayed as a big win for the press, however, the Justice Department quietly exempted National Security Letters (NSLs), meaning the FBI could use these controversial and unconstitutional surveillance tools in complete secrecy without ever following the supposedly strict rules. The separate rules for using NSLs against journalists were kept secret.

We sued the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act to find out what their secret rules for targeting journalists with NSLs were. 

As a result of our lawsuit, we confirmed the FBI does have separate but secret rules for using NSLs against journalist, but the government refused to release them. We are currently waiting on a judge's ruling in the 9th Circuit district court that hopefully will force the government to finally make them public. 

While our case was going on, an anonymous source leaked the unredacted rules we were suing for to the Intercept, which showed that there were almost no restrictions on the FBI using NSLs to target journalists, suggesting they can circumvent the media guidelines anytime they wish. 

You can read the documents we have received so far in this case here

Donate to support press freedom

Your support is more important than ever.