Washington Post says US secretly obtained reporters' records

The Trump Justice Department secretly seized the phone records of three Washington Post reporters who covered the federal investigation into ties between Russia and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Washington Post says US secretly obtained reporters' records

The Trump Justice Department secretly seized the phone records of three Washington Post reporters who covered the federal investigation into ties between Russia and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, the newspaper said Friday.

The disclosure sets up a new clash between the federal government and news organizations and advocates for press freedom, who regard the seizures of reporters' records as incursions into constitutionally protected newsgathering activity.

Similar actions have occurred only rarely over the past decade, including a seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors over a 2012 story that revealed a foiled bomb plot.

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In a statement published by the newspaper, Cameron Barr, the Post's acting executive editor, said: "We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists.

"The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”

The action is presumably aimed at identifying the reporters’ sources in national security stories published in the early months of Trump’s administration, as federal investigators scrutinized whether his 2016 campaign had coordinated with the Kremlin to sway the election.

The records' seizure was approved by Justice Department leadership last year. The reporters — Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Adam Entous, who has since left the Post — were notified in letters dated May 3 that the Justice Department had obtained records for their home, work or cellphone numbers.

The records sought cover the period of April 15, 2017, to July 31, 2017, according to the newspaper. Justice Department guidelines for media leak investigations mandate that such actions are to be taken only when other avenues for obtaining the information have been exhausted, and that the affected reporters are to be notified unless it's determined that it would impede the investigation or interfere with national security.

“While rare, the Department follows the established procedures within its media guidelines policy when seeking legal process to obtain telephone toll records and non-content email records from media members as part of a criminal investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of classified information,” department spokesman Marc Raimondi said in a statement.

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Donald Trump speaking at a rally for supporters.

“The targets of these investigations are not the news media recipients but rather those with access to the national defense information who provided it to the media and thus failed to protect it as lawfully required,” he added.

Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said it “raises serious First Amendment concerns” for the government to obtain records of journalists' communications.

“It is imperative that the new Justice Department leadership explain exactly when prosecutors seized these records, why it is only now notifying the Post, and on what basis the Justice Department decided to forgo the presumption of advance notification under its own guidelines when the investigation apparently involves reporting over three years in the past," Brown said in a statement.

The government also said it had received a court order to get email records from the reporters that would have shown who they had emailed and when, but that it did not obtain those records, the newspaper said.

The Post said the Justice Department did not specify the purpose of the subpoena or identify any articles at issue. But the time period covered by the subpoena includes the publication of a story that suggested that intelligence intercepts indicated that Jeff Sessions, at the time Trump's attorney general, had discussed campaign issues with Russia's then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

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Donald Trump's attorney-general William Barr.

The Justice Department under former Attorney General Eric Holder in 2015 announced revised guidelines for obtaining records from the news media during criminal leak investigations, removing language that news organisations said was ambiguous and requiring additional levels of review before a journalist could be subpoenaed.

The updated policy was a response to outrage among news organisations over Obama administration tactics seen as overly aggressive and hostile toward newsgathering.

Sessions, Holder's successor, announced in 2017 a renewed crackdown on leaks of national security information to the media.

The Trump Justice Department obtained phone records from Washington Post reporters.
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Australian permanent resident dies in India

A Sydney woman is trying to get her mother home as she grieves her father.

Australian permanent resident dies in India

An Australian permanent resident has died in India, as the country faces steep challenges with rising COVID-19 numbers.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson confirmed Australian officials remain in contact with the bereaved family but declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the man's death.

"The Australian Government is providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian permanent resident whose death was reported to our High Commission in India," the spokesperson told 9News.com.au.

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"Australia's High Commission and consulates general in India continue to assist Australians in need".

Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed the death yesterday but did not detail the circumstances surrounding the man's death.

A Sydney woman who identified herself as the man's daughter said both of her parents contracted COVID-19 in India and claimed the Australian High Commission in Delhi "did nothing more than call my mother once in a while".

"With a very heavy heart and pain I need to inform you that my father has left us, for his journey in heavens," the woman who did not want to be identified wrote on social media.

"Now all I have left is my mother, who has been abandoned by her own government in India, [with] no way to come back to her children.

"We all want to cry our hearts out, but we are saving them for when we are all together again.

In the now deleted post, she pleaded for assistance in getting her mother back to Australia.

"Please save your own humanity, by doing the right thing."

The woman told SBS her father died in a New Deli hospital three days after the Morrison government imposed a travel ban.

"[My father] got the email from the Australian government regarding the new rule and everything. He was sick, and in that condition, receiving this news really panicked him," she told SBS.

She said he had become a permanent resident more than 10 years ago and that he had not qualified to become a citizen as he travelled back and forth to manage a hotel in India.

Women mourn the death of a family member, who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP), one of the largest facilities for coronavirus disease  patients, in New Delhi, India on May 4, 2021. (Photo by Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The woman is an Australian citizen, along with her brother and mother.

This comes as India records 401,078 new cases and 4187 coronavirus related deaths in the last 24 hours.

Ms Payne extended her sympathies to the family.

"I don't think it's helpful to speculate and particularly out of respect for the family," Ms Payne told 2GB.

"I will receive further advice from our posts in India in relation to that.

People are silhouetted against multiple burning funeral pyres of patients who died of COVID-19 in New Delhi, India.

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"But most importantly let me extend my sympathy and that of the government to the family of this person, and to so many families that we know are dealing with what is an extraordinary challenge with infection rates surging over 400,000 infections a day at the moment in India.

"There are very many families dealing with this challenge."

The government is due to lift its controversial India travel ban and will start repatriating Australians this month.

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