WASHINGTON — The CEO of the Associated Press told an audience Wednesday that the Department of Justice has succeeded in muzzling government employees from talking to AP reporters in the weeks since the seizure of AP phone records was revealed.
“What I learned from our journalists should alarm everyone in this room and I think should alarm everyone in this country. The actions of the DOJ against AP are already having an impact beyond the specifics of this particular case,” AP CEO Gary Pruitt told an audience at the National Press Club. “Some of our longtime trusted sources have become nervous and anxious about talking to us, even about stories that aren’t about national security. In some cases, government employees that we once checked in with regularly will no longer speak to us by phone, and some are reluctant to meet in person.”
After it was made public that the Justice Department took AP Washington bureau phone records as part of the Obama administration’s aggressive anti-leak operation, Pruitt said the fear among potential sources has spread to reporters from other outlets.
“I can tell you that this chilling effect is not just at AP, it’s happening at other news organizations as well,” he said. “Journalists from other news organizations have personally told me it has intimidated sources from speaking to them.”
Pruitt said he believes government officials are happy to see the process of newsgathering become more difficult in Washington.
“The government may love this. I suspect that they do,” he said. “But beware the government that loves secrecy too much.”
During a question-and-answer session after his speech, Pruitt said he did not believe the Obama administration has had a different relationship with the press than past administrations, but he said that the Obama administration’s aggressive attempts to prosecute leakers have put the administration’s view of the press front and center.