Efforts to confiscate reporters’ records are “extraordinary measures, not standard investigative practices.” the regulations statewhich allows prosecutors to take such steps only with the highest consent, when all other means have been exhausted and after negotiations with the reporter or the news agency concerned.
The regulations only make an exception to this prior information requirement if “the Attorney General establishes for compelling reasons that such negotiations or notifications represent a clear and significant threat to the integrity of the investigation, serious damage to national security or present” an immediate one Risk of death or serious physical injury. “
The Justice Department apparently told the magistrate that the imposition of a gag order against Google was justified because – as the judge wrote – “There is reason to believe that the notification of the existence of this order will seriously jeopardize the ongoing investigation, including its disclosure of goals “. an opportunity to destroy or manipulate evidence. “
It is not clear how the prosecutors brought this case, given the existence of the leak investigation and its subject matter – which apparently related to James B. Comey Jr., the former F.B.I. Director, and a document stolen by Russian hackers was already public knowledge; The Times had reported on it almost a year earlier. On Saturday, David McCraw, a top attorney for the newspaper, said he would ask the judge to unseal the records prosecutors argued in support of the classified order.
During the transition to the Biden administration, at least one official wrote in a memo for the new Biden team that the Comey leak investigation that led to the attempt to confiscate reporters’ email records, according to one with the Matter.
After Mr. Biden took office, the administration placed key acting officials in the department while awaiting the Senate’s approval of the presidential candidates. Monty Wilkinson, a professional civil servant, became assistant attorney general.
Mr Wilkinson was still in that capacity on March 3 when a related professional attorney Tejpal Chawla agreed to Google’s request to notify someone from The Times under a contract the two companies agreed to call Google The. took over the Times’ email system.