Tell Eric Holder: Stop your attack on the First Amendment

Sign the petition

The petition reads:

“Attorney General Holder: Your department’s seizure of two months worth of the Associated Press’ phone records amounts to nothing less than an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment. But sadly, this indiscriminate surveillance of journalists is part of a larger pattern within your department to go after whistleblowers without consideration of the vital role a free press plays in our democracy.

We join the Associated Press in calling on you to return the records you seized and to destroy any copies you have made. In addition, we call on you to end your dangerous war on whistleblowers.”

background:

Tell Eric Holder: Stop your attack on the First Amendment

It was recently revealed that the Department of Justice secretly seized two months of telephone records of a large number of Associated Press reporters.

This unprecedented, indiscriminate surveillance of journalists is an attack on the First Amendment that will have a chilling effect on the ability of these journalists and others to function as a free press.

And unfortunately, it is only the most recent case of overreach by the Justice Department in its overzealous pursuit of whistleblowers.

Tell Attorney General Eric Holder: Stop attacking the First Amendment and end your war on whistleblowers.

While the Department of Justice ostensibly wanted the information as part of an investigation into leaked information about a foiled terrorism plot, the wholesale dragnet of call records for over 20 different phone and fax lines used by Associate Press reporters explicitly violates the written policies that govern DOJ access to such records.

As the Associated Press explains:

[According to the Department of Justice guidelines a] subpoena to the media must be “as narrowly drawn as possible” and “should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period,” according to the rules.

The reason for these constraints, the department says, is to avoid actions that “might impair the news gathering function” because the government recognizes that “freedom of the press can be no broader than the freedom of reporters to investigate and report the news.”

Yet despite implicit recognition of the vital role a free press plays in our society, the Department of Justice under Eric Holder has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to criminally prosecute more whistleblowers than all other previous Attorneys General combined.

The result is a climate of fear for those who know that the government is hiding inconvenient facts from the public. And that makes it much more difficult for investigative reporters to do their job.

Without whistleblowers and a free press, there is little to check the government’s ability to manipulate the population through excessive secrecy and selective leaking.

So attacking the functioning of a free press is both dangerous and undemocratic. It is also absolutely unacceptable and Attorney General Holder must take corrective action immediately.

Tell Attorney General Eric Holder: Stop attacking the First Amendment and end your war on whistleblowers.

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