Nat’l Press Club Protests Subpoena
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Press Club told Attorney General John Ashcroft that the Justice Department’s subpoena of an Associated Press journalist’s telephone records amounted to a threat to constitutionally guaranteed press freedoms.
``We believe such actions threaten the right of journalists to protect confidential sources and information, a cornerstone of a free press guaranteed by the First Amendment,″ the club’s president, Richard Ryan, said in a letter to Ashcroft. Dated Wednesday, the letter was circulated Friday.
The Justice Department subpoenaed AP reporter John Solomon’s home phone records while trying to identify what law enforcement officials told Solomon about a wiretap intercept a discussion by Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., of campaign donations.
The department obtained the records 10 days after a May 4 AP story ran about the wiretap in an organized crime investigation that led to guilty pleas by the operators of a Florida pizzeria.
Under Justice guidelines, such subpoenas normally are allowed only as a last resort and the targeted journalist has been notified.
In his letter, Ryan wrote that the 4,500-member National Press Club ``is concerned that the Justice Department is threatening press freedoms and loosening 30-year-old policies against going after journalists’ notes and records.″