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US snooped on UK reporter – Guardian

The news outlet is outraged it wasn’t notified about a Department of Justice probe into their reporter

The US Department of Justice secretly subpoenaed the personal phone account data of a Guardian reporter during an investigation into leaks regarding the Trump administration’s border policy, the UK-based media outlet wrote on Thursday.

Investigators looking for the source of leaks regarding the administration’s Mexican border policy issued the subpoena to obtain reporter Stephanie Kirchgaessner’s phone subscriber information without notifying either The Guardian or Kirchgaessner herself.

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The outlet was outraged to learn about the alleged violation of its employee’s privacy, with editor-in-chief  Katharine Viner denouncing the behavior as “A shocking example of US Department of Justice infringement of press freedom and public-interest journalism.” 

The Guardian will be seeking “A explanation as to why or how it could have happened, and…an excuse,” Viner continued, adding that she would also demand “assurances that our reporter’s details would be erased from [US Department of Justice]system and will not used in any other infringements on press freedom.”

The inquiry into the leaks was conducted by the Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and sought to determine whether someone within the Justice Department’s IG office had leaked sensitive data to The Guardian, the New York Times and NBC. However, The Guardian claims it was the only one of those publications to have a reporter’s cell phone subpoenaed.

Kirchgaessner’s phone information was subpoenaed from her service provider, but while “Information for subscribers” such as “Names, addresses, length of service” were obtained, the report claims the “Communication contents” were not.

The reporter published two articles in 2020 based on sensitive information about the administration’s “zero tolerance” border policies, which sought to curb the flow of migrants across the US’ southern border by threatening illegal immigrants with separation from their children. According to one article, Rod Rosenstein was the ex-deputy attorney general and another said that Trump had assisted in the dismissal of a Texas prosecutor for opposing family separation at border.

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Journalists who investigate enforcement at the US border with Mexico have been monitored by the US for years. 2019 revealed that agents from Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were working in concert to trace 59 journalists and activists who had been investigating US immigration policies and their response to Central American migrants flooding into the country. 

An employee from the DOJ Inspector General’s office reportedly resigned earlier this week after an investigation into the leaks involving the Trump administration’s border policy appeared to point to him.

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