HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut’s two U.S. senators called on the Justice Department on Tuesday to explain its seizure of telephone records of Associated Press journalists and offices, including the news cooperative’s bureau in Hartford.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats, said it was important to address the reasons for the action that they said could have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.
“I am concerned that this investigative action may fail to meet the government’s high burden when invasion of privacy and chilling effects on First Amendment rights are at risk,” Blumenthal said. “The Department of Justice must be forthcoming with the facts as soon as possible.”
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.
In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012.
The government would not say why it sought the records. AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt sent a letter of protest Monday to Attorney General Eric Holder, saying the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation.
In a statement expressing concern about the seizures, Murphy said the Justice Department’s leadership is assumed to be working steadfastly to help keep America safe.
“It’s incumbent on the Justice Department to explain why they’ve seized telephone records from reporters and editors at The Associated Press so that their actions don’t have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press,” Murphy said.
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