The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) formally adopted a new policy Monday that restricts federal prosecutors from seizing the records of journalists in leak investigations.
The DOJ said in a statement that the new policy restricts the use of compulsory process to obtain information from, or records of, members of the news media acting within the scope of newsgathering activities.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the new policy, effective immediately, in a memo to DOJ leadership. The directive reverses years of department policy, The Associated Press reports.
The memo says federal prosecutors can still seize journalists’ records in some cases, including if the reporters are suspected of working for agents of a foreign power or terrorist organizations. Exceptions also include cases with imminent risks, like kidnappings or crimes against children.
Additionally, Garland reiterated his support for the durability of these policy changes.
“To further protect members of the news media in a manner that will be enduring, he asked the deputy attorney general to undertake a review process to further explain, develop, and codify the policy announced today into department regulations,” wrote the DOJ.
The attorney general also reaffirmed the department’s support for congressional legislation to protect members of the media.