Media

WaPo publisher slams 'unprecedented assault' on media by Biden DOJ

Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan slammed the Biden administration in an opinion piece published Sunday for seeking email records belonging to journalists, calling its actions an "unprecedented assault on American news organizations."

It was revealed last month that the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Trump administration had sought subpoenas to obtain records belonging to journalists from multiple news outlets, including CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

After news of the probes broke, President Biden said he would not "let that happen" in his administration.

However, on Friday, David McCraw, a lawyer representing journalists for the Times, said that the Biden administration had imposed a gag order on the reporters in order to prevent the probes from becoming public and unsuccessfully attempted to obtain their email logs.

"This escalation, on Biden's watch, represents an unprecedented assault on American news organizations and their efforts to inform the public about government wrongdoing," Ryan wrote.

Ryan added that the Post had demanded answers from the DOJ for its 2017 probe into three Post reporters, but requests for explanations have gone unanswered, calling the delay "troubling."

"Throughout U.S. history, there have been inevitable differences between news organizations seeking to shed light on government activity and government officials seeking to preserve secrecy. As a society, we have become accustomed to these tensions. For the most part, they have been constructive and good for the health of our democracy," Ryan wrote.

"However, the egregious acts by the outgoing Trump Justice Department, and the apparent doubling down on them during the Biden administration, should alarm all Americans, regardless of political persuasion," he added.

Ryan said the actions of the former administration and the subsequent "expansion" under the Biden administration posed a threat to Americans' ability to "keep powerful officials in check."

The DOJ said Saturday that it would no longer attempt to obtain reporters' private phone records when investigating leaks.

"DOJ has now completed a review to determine all instances in which the Department had pending compulsory requests from reporters in leak investigations. All reporters involved have now been notified," Anthony Coley, a DOJ spokesman, said.

Ryan said this announcement was an "encouraging step" but added that the change did not prevent the Biden administration or future administrations from engaging in the same activities.

"The inconsistency between presidential words and Justice Department deeds dictates the need for full accountability and transparency regarding the actions taken by the exiting Trump Justice Department and those of the incoming Biden administration. A full accounting should be produced and released for the American public to see," Ryan said.

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