Section On ‘Press Freedom’ Removed From DOJ Internal Manual

(L-R) Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill  June 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. The intelligence and security officials testified about re-authorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is the law the NSA uses to track emails and phone calls of non-US citizens.
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In an effort to overhaul its internal manual for federal prosecutors, the Department of Justice recently removed sections on the “need for free press and public trial” among several other edits, Buzzfeed News reported Sunday.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein led the charge to update the manual, which traditionally provides policies and guidance on DOJ legal work, and hadn’t seen a major update since 1997, according to Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed tracked the online changes to the manual through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

In the manual’s “media contacts policy” section, a subsection titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” was deleted. According to Buzzfeed’s review of the manual, that section, which has been in the manual since 1988, said:

“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.”

Parts of the rest of the media contacts section was edited to include new language about determining whether to release information to the public, including weighing the “right of the public to have access to information” with other factors, according to Buzzfeed.

The manual also includes new sections about topics that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been vocal about— including the illegality of sharing classified information and reporting any media contacts about DOJ related matters.

Read Buzzfeed’s full report here. 

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