DOJ's secret subpoena of AP phone records broader than initially revealed
The Justice Department’s secret subpoena for AP phone records included the seizure of records for five reporters' cellphones and three home phones as well as two fax lines, a lawyer for the news organization tells NBC News.
David Schulz, the chief lawyer for the AP, said the subpoenas also covered the records for 21 phone lines in five AP office lines -- including one for a dead phone line at office in Washington that had been shut down six years ago. The phone lines at four other offices – where 100 reporters worked — were also covered by the subpoenas, Schulz said.
Although AP had given general information about the subpoenas last week, it provided new details Monday about the number of cell and home phone records as it considers possible legal action against the Justice Department.
Schultz said the subpoena for a Washington phone line that had been shut down years ago raises questions about assertions by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, in a letter last week, that the subpoenas were narrowly crafted and only issued after a "comprehensive investigation" that included over 550 interviews and reviewing tens of thousands of documents.
Cole had said in his letter to the AP that "consistent with Department policy, the supboenas were limited in both time and scope."
Schultz confirmed that the subpoenas for the phone records were secretly issued to Verizon, which turned them over to the Justice Department without any initial notice to AP. On May 10, Justice notified AP of the subpoenas in a one-sentence letter, citing department guidelines that require such notice for media phone records after 90 days.
The AP is considering filing legal action to challenge the Justice Department subpoena as overly broad and inconsistent with the department's own guidelines. On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said the secret subpoenas were "so sweeping, so secretively, so abusively and harasssingly … overbroad, that it constitutes … an unconstitutional act."
Justice Department officials did not respond to requests for comment.
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