First, some background: In July, after a torrent of criticism that the Justice Department (DOJ) was targeting reporters in the wake of the Associated Press andFox News scandals, Attorney General Eric Holder issued new guidelines for DOJthat tightened the rules for when they could secretly obtain records from reporters. Notably, the guidelines excluded National Security Letters.
This is critical because past IG reports, as well as the new one, have harshly criticized the FBI for circumventing the old media guidelines and using NSLs to gain access to reporters’ records on at least three occasions. Earlier this year Pulitzer Prize winner Barton Gellman revealed his telephone records had once been targeted by an NSL.
As the New York Times reported when the new guidelines were issued in July:
There is no change to how the F.B.I. may obtain reporters’ calling records via “national security letters,” which are exempt from the regular guidelines. A Justice spokesman said the device is “subject to an extensive oversight regime.”
What is the “extensive oversight regime”? The IG report discusses it, but the FBI has brazenly redacted the whole thing. From page 178 of the new report:
Worse, it seems the FBI has so far ignored another IG recommendation regarding the use of NSLs against reporters. From page 192 of the report: