Reporters across The Associated Press are outraged over the Justice Department’s sweeping seizure of staff phone records and say they are fearful that such an intrusion could have a chilling effect on their relationships with confidential sources.
In conversations with POLITICO on Tuesday, several AP staffers in Washington, D.C., described feelings of anger and frustration with the DOJ and with the Obama administration in general.
“People are pretty mad — mad that government has not taken what we do seriously,” one reporter said on Tuesday. “When the news broke yesterday…people were outraged and disgusted. No one was yelling and screaming, but it was like, “Are you kidding me!?”
“People are ticked,” said another. “Everyone supports the reporters involved.”
The AP employees interviewed by POLITICO did not want to be identified because, according to several sources, at least some journalists have been asked not to speak to the press.
The chief concern about the government probe, according to many of those journalists, is that the DOJ’s intrusion will compromise their relationships with confidential sources, some of whom now fear that their private correspondence could be obtained by the federal government.
“We all know that confidential sourcing is the lifeblood of what we do, and people can’t come to us if they think they’re going to be compromised,” one reporter said. “It’s hard enough getting sources, now we’re afraid this is going to have a chilling effect.”
“I had a source today who contacted me and joked about meeting on a park bench, but he was half-serious,” the reporter continued. “How bizarre would that be in 2013?”
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt described on Monday as a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” by the Justice Department. (An AP spokesperson said the company had nothing to add to yesterday’s statement.)
But reporters have not lost their resolve. If anything, they seem to feel invigorated.
“Nobody is downtrodden,” an AP reporter told POLITICO. “We really are just pushing ahead with our jobs. It’s not like we are all sitting around watching the front office meetings fretting about how we will go forward.”