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Journalists Await New DOJ Guidelines For Leak Probes

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The Obama administration's policies towards journalists are about to re-enter the news, as Attorney General Eric Holder prepares to give President Obama a report outlining new guidelines for surveillance of the press.

The Justice Department's controversial handling of leak investigations became a huge story in May and early June, as the news that investigators had seized Associated Press phone records and labeled Fox News reporter James Rosen a "co-conspirator" in a leak case sent shockwaves through the media. But, thanks to the passage of time and, especially, to the arrival of the Edward Snowden story, the journalism scandal has died down somewhat.

On Friday, though, Holder is due to deliver his report to Obama. In a piece on Thursday night, Politico's Josh Gerstein outlined the contours of what Holder is expected to suggest:

Current DOJ policy requires the approval of the attorney general when prosecutors seek to force testimony from a reporter or obtain a journalist's "telephone toll records." Holder's report is expected to formally broaden that to cover reporters' e-mails and other records.

The report is also expected to require more internal approvals for such requests, including from Justice's public affairs office. That has been a customary practice at DOJ for years, but was not rigorously followed in some cases during the George W. Bush Administration or in the recent case involving the AP.

It remains to be seen what exactly the report contains, and how media organizations will react.

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