Gary Pruitt, the president and CEO of The Associated Press, slammed the Department of Justice’s controversial seizure of AP journalist phone records, calling the move “unconstitutional” on Sunday.
Pruitt also said that the DOJ’s phone record seizure has already had a profound and chilling effect on news gathering, since sources have already been more reluctant to talk to the AP without guaranteed protections.
Speaking on CBS‘s “Face the Nation,” Pruitt said that the government has no right to monitor the AP‘s news gathering practices.
“And if they restrict that apparatus … the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,” he said.
In another interview, Pruitt said that the AP had not yet decided on its next move, but confirmed that legal action against the government is a possibility.
“It’s too early to know if we’ll take legal action but I can tell you we are positively displeased and we do feel that our constitutional rights have been violated,” he said. “They’ve been secretive, they’ve been overbroad and abusive – so much so that taken together, they are unconstitutional because they violate our First Amendment rights.”
Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said that while sensitive security information being leaked to the press is indeed a problem, the focus should be on the source of the leak and not on the press, who have a constitutional right to report the news.
“What confuses me is the focus on the press, who have a constitutional right here and we depend on the press to get to the bottom of so many issues that we, as individuals, cannot,” Cornyn said.
Coryn also said that the AP phone records seizure is an example of the scandal-ridden Obama administration’s intimidation of political opponents. “It’s a culture of cover-ups and intimidation that is giving the administration so much trouble,” he opined.
Pruitt criticized the DOJ, calling the move “sweeping and broad and beyond what they needed to do.”
He also said that he objects to the “Justice Department acting on its own being the judge, jury and executioner in secret,” and promised “We’re not going to be intimidated by the abusive tactics of the Justice Department.”
[Image via: Ioannis Ioannou / Shutterstock]