Tester: Seizing press phone records ‘flagrantly crossed the line’

Havre Daily News

by Tim Leeds

Co-sponsors new legislation to increase press protection

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Justice, expressing “serious concerns” about revelations the department seized phone records of lines assigned to The Associated Press and its journalists, and has co-sponsored legislation to increase protection of journalists.

“As reported, these actions represent a blatant violation of privacy … and directly interfere with the Constitutionally protected rights of the press to do its job free from government intrusion or direction,” Tester wrote U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “Such actions are not what Americans expect. And they’re not what Americans deserve.”

Tester wrote that he appreciates that investigations into the matter have begun, but that he requests legal justification for the actions and information on what safeguards will be in place to ensure “such blatant violations of privacy” do not occur in the future.

Tester wrote that, since the enactment of the USA PATRIOT ACT, he has seen civil liberty diminished by government actions.

“And once again, in this particular matter, it seems clear that the Department of Justice flagrantly crossed the line,” he wrote. “Such ill-advised actions create distrust in the American people.”

Tester also announced he is co-sponsoring legislation, a “media shield law,” to increase protections for journalists and prevent them from having to reveal their confidential sources unless exposure is in the public interest.