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Letter to the Hon. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General - Additional Information Regarding Department of Justice Review of Guidelines on Subpoenas for News Organizations


Date: Dec. 14, 2017
Location: Washington, DC

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

I write to request additional information regarding the Department of Justice's review of its guidelines on subpoenas for news organizations, which was announced in August.

The Department's current guidelines, which were last updated in 2015, protect reporters engaged in "newsgathering activities" from being prosecuted for doing their job. The 2015 revisions also expand high-level review, including review by the Attorney General, to enforce a subpoena against a media organization. In addition, Attorney General Holder committed to releasing an annual report on any subpoenas issued or charges made against journalists, and he committed not to put journalists in jail for reporting the news. These practices were all continued by Attorney General Lynch.

In light of the importance of these guidelines, I write to seek additional information on the Department's review of these policies. I am particularly concerned about any potential action to weaken the existing protections for journalists in light of our previous exchanges before the Judiciary Committee this year. At the same time, you acknowledged in your confirmation hearing that "there is a broadly recognized and proper deference to the news media" within the Department with respect to protections for journalists, and it is my hope that that same appreciation for the media's role is seriously considered as part of the Department's current effort.

Accordingly, I respectfully request that you provide responses to the following questions:

What is the process by which the Department of Justice is reviewing its policies concerning media subpoenas? Which Department officials are involved in the review?
Are other government officials from the White House or elsewhere in the Administration involved in this review? If so, which official(s) are involved?
When do you expect the review process to be completed?
Is the Department consulting with outside organizations, including organizations representing journalists, as part of this effort? If so, which organizations?
Will you commit to providing an update on any decisions made as part of this process to the Senate Judiciary Committee?
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to your response.