Friday, 20 May 2022

Biden administration issued subpoena for details of Guardian reporter’s phone

Biden administration issued subpoena for details of Guardian reporter’s phone


Biden administration issued subpoena for details of Guardian reporter’s phone

The subpoena that was used by the US justice department to obtain details of a Guardian reporter's phone account, as part of a leak inquiry, was issued by the Biden administration within the opening weeks of Joe Biden's presidency.

In a statement to the Guardian, the inspector general's office of the justice department confirmed that the subpoena was issued in February 2021 - shortly after Biden entered the White House. The action was taken in an effort to divine the identity of an alleged leaker, who was suspected of divulging to news outlets details of an inquiry into the previous Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents at the southern US border.

On Thursday, it emerged that the DoJ had secretly used a subpoena to confirm the phone number of Stephanie Kirchgaessner, the Guardian's investigations correspondent. She had been the author of two reports in 2020 that revealed sensitive aspects of the child separation policy, including that Donald Trump's then deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, had given the green light for children of any age to be removed from their parents.

It was unclear at that point which administration had been responsible for issuing the subpoena, as the leak inquiry had straddled both the Trump and Biden administrations. Now the inspector general's office of the DoJ has clarified that the move was made under the Biden administration.

Stephanie Logan, spokesperson for the inspector general's office which acts as the DoJ's internal watchdog and which was conducting the child separation inquiry, told the Guardian that the subpoena had been issued in February 2021 in compliance with "the requirements of the Justice Manual".

Logan stressed that "the subpoena did not request, and investigators did not receive, the content of communications to or from the account holder's phone number" or any other other details of the phone account.

The disclosure of the use of a subpoena to confirm a Guardian reporter's phone number in a case that involved no national security concerns or classified information provoked strong criticism. The Guardian's editor-in-chief Katharine Viner called the DoJ's action "an egregious example of infringement on press freedom and public interest journalism".

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