Congress must pass the Justice Dept’s new media surveillance rules into law

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Promoting press freedom in the 21st century

In a welcome and long-overdue move, the Department of Justice (DOJ) today formally adopted a policy prohibiting, with few exceptions, the use of surveillance on journalists "acting within the scope of newsgathering activities."

The new memo, signed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, codifies an announcement outlined last month, when the White House and DOJ promised important new restrictions of the kind of surveillance that has been used in leak investigations spanning at least four presidential administrations, including in a series of high-profile cases beginning under former President Trump but only disclosed earlier this year.

The following statement can be attributed to Freedom of the Press Foundation advocacy director Parker Higgins:

These new rules prohibiting the surveillance of journalists are the strongest in the modern history of the Department of Justice — and that’s a big victory for press freedom. But it’s important to note that this new policy could be undone by a future Department of Justice memo.

Congress must immediately codify these new guidelines into law so that they will be permanent and cannot be broken or ignored on the whim of whoever holds the office of the Attorney General. Senator Ron Wyden's PRESS Act would do just that, and members of both parties should get behind swift passage of the bill.