Associated Press president and CEO Gary Pruitt told CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday that the DOJ’s secret seizure of two months of phone records was “unconstitutional.”
In his first television appearance since the subpoena was revealed, Pruitt, who worked as a First Amendment lawyer earlier in his career, blasted the Justice Department, saying the First Amendment rights of the AP had been violated.
“And so now they possess the phone records of thousands– thousands of news gathering phone calls of the Associated Press, and they are required to narrow– under their own rules, they are required to narrow these– this request as narrowly as possible, so as to not tread upon the– the First Amendment. And, yet, they had a broad sweeping collection, and they did it secretly. The rules require them to come to us first but in this case, they didn’t, claiming an exception saying that if they had, it would have posed a substantial threat to their investigation.”
Because the seizure of phone records, which included calls to and from cell phones, home phones and office phones belonging to AP and its reporters, was done without the organization being notified, Pruitt said DOJ violated the Constitution. The AP had only been notified after the fact via a letter from the Washington, D.C. U.S. District Attorney.
“I don’t know what their motive is, but I can tell you their actions are unconstitutional. We don’t question their right to conduct these sort of investigations. We just think they went about it the wrong way. So sweeping, so secretively, so abusively, and harassingly and over broad that it constitutes that it– that it is an unconstitutional act.”
Correction: We incorrectly had an IRS reference in the first graph and have since corrected it.