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News Link • Privacy Rights

What Information Can The Justice Department Get From Your Phone Records?

•, By Kelsey D. Atherton
 Yesterday the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Department of Justice used subpoenas to collect telephone calling records for many of their journalists and editors. In doing so, the AP brought light to an interesting crisis at the nexus between secrecy, privacy, constitutional boundaries, and modern technology.

The relevant law for wiretapping phone communications dates back to a 1979 Supreme Court decision, which said there is a distinction in privacy between dialing a number and listening to a call; the Supreme Court narrowly limited protection to the latter.

The backstory: Last year, the AP ran an article about an al-Qaeda underwear bomb plot that relied on sensitive information given to the news service by an undisclosed source. The Department of Justice considers leaking classified information to be a national security risk. When someone leaks to the press, the department's policy is to pursue the leak, not the journalists who extracted it.

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