Media & Communications Law

Leaker tells New York Times about off-the-record meeting on handling leak probes

Attorney General Eric Holder held an off-the-record meeting with journalists on Thursday to discuss possible changes in how the Justice Department handles investigations of reporters.

The meeting follows a controversy over the department’s seizure of reporter phone records as part of its investigations into leaks of secret government information. What happened at the closed-door meeting on Thursday? “An adviser familiar with the deliberations” leaked details to the New York Times.

The newspaper did not send a representative to the meeting because it objected to the off-the-record condition. The unnamed adviser told the Times that Holder is considering tightening the standard for when officials may seek records from news organizations without prior notice. He is also considering requiring high-level review of proposed subpoenas for reporter emails, an expansion of the phone-records review requirement.

Three journalists who attended the meeting on Thursday spoke afterward to other reporters outside Justice Department headquarters, Reuters reports. Gerald Seib, Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, summarized his take on the meeting. “There was a commitment to change the department’s guidelines for handling cases such as these and a renewed commitment to support a federal shield law for journalists,” he said.

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