Justice Department limits federal government's ability to obtain journalist communications secretly

The change comes after it was discovered the DOJ secretly obtained journalists' records under Trump.
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Merrick Garland.
Merrick Garland at confirmation hearing February 22, 2021, Washington, DC.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Justice Department on Monday issued new guidelines that limit the federal government's ability to obtain journalists' communications secretly.

"The United States has, of course, an important national interest in protecting national security information against unauthorized disclosure," Attorney general Merrick Garland wrote in a memo announcing the new guidelines, according to the Associated Press.

The guidelines prohibit federal investigators from obtaining journalists' records, including phone and electric communications. It also prohibits the federal government from compelling testimony from journalists.

The new guidelines come after the White House announced on June 5 that it would change its policy towards journalists. The change comes after discovering that the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump had secretly obtained the records of journalists from CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

The only circumstances the government can obtain records is if the journalist is a target of a criminal investigation, is an agent of a foreign power, or if obtaining the information could prevent death or bodily harm, according to NBC News.