At least four prominent journalism organizations are willing to meet with AG Eric Holder to discuss press subpoena policy, but not if the meeting is held off the record. Associated Press, New York Times, CNN and Huffington Post will be non-participants under those conditions.
Said Jill Abramson of NYT, “We will not be attending the session at DOJ. It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time.”
AP’s Madigan White expressed similar sentiments, saying, “We believe the meeting should be on the record and we have said that to the Attorney General’s office. If it is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend. If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter. We would expect AP attorneys to be included in any planned meetings between the Attorney General’s office and media lawyers on the legal specifics.”
The administration is attempting to assure the journalism community that it holds the First Amendment in high regard and is not systematically infringing on the rights of the press, and to explain its need to balance that priority with others involved with national security and protecting US intelligence interests.
RBR-TVBR observation: It doesn’t take a grizzled veteran reporter to see that the administration’s effort to reassure the press, not to mention the vast majority of Americans, is falling short.
We have seen it argued by former high-ranking government officials who have held responsibility for national security that the administration’s actions were justified as it sought to determine the source of certain information leaks in the specific cases that ignited the current controversy.
However, the administration would go a long way toward reassuring us all if it explains its rationales and subpoena criteria in public. In other words, we don’t need to know specifics, but we do need to know the generalities.
Allowing reports on meetings with the journalists who are directly affected would likely do that, and we believe the decision to keep such matters off the record is ill-considered and will likely only compound the problem the administration already faces on this issue.