The Justice Department Deleted Language About Press Freedom And Racial Gerrymandering From Its Internal Manual

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, vows to crack down on government leaks at an August 2017 press briefing. Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

A subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” was removed entirely. That section, which was included in versions of the manual at least as far back as 1988, according to DOJ archives, read as follows:

“Likewise, careful weight must be given in each case to the constitutional requirements of a free press and public trials as well as the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused. Further, recognition should be given to the needs of public safety, the apprehension of fugitives, and the rights of the public to be informed on matters that can affect enactment or enforcement of public laws or the development or change of public policy.”

The updated media contacts policy includes language about balancing “the right of the public to have access to information about the Department of Justice” with other factors in deciding whether to release information. Language in a different section about the department’s preference for open court proceedings hasn’t been changed since 2008.

New sections were added to the media contacts policy. One states that it is illegal to share classified information with someone who isn’t authorized to receive it. Another directs DOJ employees to report “any contact with a member of the media about a DOJ matter.” And another outlines protections for government whistleblowers, detailing the protections in place for prosecutors if they report concerns internally.

The additions to the media contacts policy don’t feature new information — the illegality of leaking classified information is well established, as are whistleblower protections. But taken together, they echo Sessions’ and, more broadly, the Trump administration’s efforts to tamp down government leakers. —Buzzfeed

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