As uproar rages on over the Justice Department’s decision to secretly seize Associated Press telephone records, it has become clear the AP’s investigative journalism has established the news organization as a government target.
Two of the Associated Press reporters whose records were seized by the DOJ are members of the AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning team that revealed the New York Police Department’s secret Muslim spying program in 2011.
In a turn of events, the AP revealed on Monday that the telephone records of journalists Adam Goldman and Matt Appuzzo were among the 20 telephone lines secretly obtained by the DOJ in the government’s latest attack in its war on leaks.
Goldman and Appuzzo contributed to the AP’s 2011 investigative series that revealed a massive NYPD surveillance of the northeast’s Muslim community. It reported that authorities monitored and infiltrated various mosques, student groups, cafes, and bookstores from Westchester to New Jersey and attempted to plant a “source” in every mosque within a 250-mile radius of the city.
The surveillance — coupled with the department’s highly controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy — generated a sweeping backlash from many of the city’s minority communities and a wave of court hearings. The investigative series further de-buffed the “national security” argument when Thomas Galati, head of the city’s intelligence division, admitted in a June 2012 court testimony that during the six years of surveillance, authorities were unable to produce a single lead that linked to a terrorist plot.
Monday’s scandal places the journalists themselves at the forefront of the debates raised by their own reporting and the tedious balance between national security and privacy rights. The DOJ reportedly seized records for April and May of 2012 and included AP journalist’s home and cell phone records.
"There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of the Associated Press and its reporters," said AP president Gary Pruitt in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday.
While the DOJ did not provide a specific reason for their controversial actions, the dates of the records point to Goldman and Apuzzo’s May 2012 report that cited anonymous sources and stated that the CIA had thwarted a terrorist attack by an Al-Qaeda affiliate against a U.S.-bound airline.
Free press advocates warn that the DOJ’s dogged campaign to uncover the sources of the leaks could have an eerie effect on the integrity of the source-reporter relationship -- a dynamic that the Associated Press and other media outlets have long relied on for leads in important investigative reporting.