CPJ alarmed by U.S. Justice scrutiny of Fox News reporter

New York, May 21, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by reports of a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the newsgathering activities of a Fox News reporter, which come a week after revelations that the government seized phone records of The Associated Press.

The Washington Post revealed Sunday that an FBI agent characterized the activities of Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent James Rosen as “an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in the government’s 2010 investigation into a leak of classified information regarding North Korea. The Justice Department seized two days of Rosen’s personal emails and his phone records in building a case against Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department arms expert accused of leaking intelligence suggesting North Korea would conduct new nuclear tests, the Post said.

“U.S. government efforts to prosecute leakers by obtaining information from journalists has a chilling effect domestically and sends a terrible message to journalists around the world who are fighting to resist government intrusion,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

Investigators also pulled records of Rosen’s security badge showing his comings and goings in the State Department, the Post reported. A federal judge signed off on the search warrant sought in the May 2010 FBI affidavit, which was obtained by the Post. Rosen is not identified by name in court documents but his identity was confirmed by sources. He was also the author of a Fox News online story disclosing the government’s analysis of North Korea’s intentions, which was published the same day the classified report was produced.

In a letter sent today to Attorney General Holder and Deputy Attorney General Cole, CPJ’s board of directors protested the secret seizure of phone records of The Associated Press. The AP reported that it had received a May 10 letter from the Justice Department that said it had obtained records of all outgoing calls made in April and May 2012 from more than 20 telephone lines, including the work and personal phone numbers of AP reporters and editors as well as the news outlet’s general office lines in New York, Washington, and Connecticut. The seizure was part of a government investigation into the leak of classified information about a foiled Al-Qaeda plot that was based in Yemen, which the AP disclosed in a May 7, 2012, news report.

“We ask that the confiscated phone records be returned to the AP and that you take action to guarantee that any future efforts to obtain phone records or other information essential to newsgathering is communicated to the news organization in advance so that the action can be challenged in court as justice demands,” the letter noted.