WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration Justice Department secretly obtained the 2017 phone records of a CNN correspondent, the network said Thursday in revealing the existence of another apparent leak investigation.
The revelation comes two weeks after The Washington Post disclosed that the Justice Department had last year seized phone records belonging to three current and former journalists.
CNN said the Justice Department informed Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr in a May 13 letter that it had obtained phone and email records covering a two-month period between June 1 and July 31, 2017.
“CNN strongly condemns the secret collection of any aspect of a journalist’s correspondence, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a statement published by the network. “We are asking for an immediate meeting with the Justice Department for an explanation.”
The Justice Department confirmed that the records were formally sought last year, though it did not reveal anything else about the investigation and what it might pertain to. CNN said that in the two-month period listed in the letter, Starr’s reporting included stories on Syria and Afghanistan and coverage of U.S. military options in North Korea that were being offered to President Donald Trump.
“The records at issue relate to 2017 and the legal process to seek these records was approved in 2020,” Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement. “Department leadership will soon meet with reporters to hear their concerns about recent notices and further convey Attorney General (Merrick) Garland’s staunch support of and commitment to a free and independent press.”
CNN said the letter to Starr was signed by John Demers, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s national security division, and Raj Parekh, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The letter indicated that the government sought records of Starr’s Pentagon phone extension, the CNN Pentagon booth phone number and her home and cellphone records. The government also said it had obtained “non-content information” from her emails, which would include information about the senders and recipients but not the actual content of the communications.
Eric Tucker, The Associated Press