- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2021

The Trump administration secretly obtained the phone and email records of CNN correspondent Barbara Starr, the network reported Thursday, the third revelation of its kind in roughly as many weeks.

CNN reported it was recently told by the Department of Justice that prosecutors had obtained phone and email records for Ms. Starr, the network’s Pentagon correspondent, covering June and July 2017.

In a May 13 letter, the Justice Department said prosecutors sought and obtained records for Ms. Starr’s work, home and cell phone numbers, as well her work and personal email accounts, CNN reported.

CNN said the letter revealed the Justice Department had obtained “toll records” for the targeted phone numbers, meaning information such as the numbers of incoming and outgoing calls and their length, not the conversations themselves.

Prosecutors also obtained “non-content information” from Ms. Starr’s email accounts, such as details about correspondence they sent and received but not the content of those messages, CNN reported.

The Justice Department did not say why it sought Ms. Starr’s phone and email records but confirmed the correspondent was never the target of any investigation, CNN said in the report.

“CNN strongly condemns the secret collection of any aspect of a journalist’s correspondence, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a statement.

“We are asking for an immediate meeting with the Justice Department for an explanation,” Mr. Zucker added.

The Washington Post reported this month that it was similarly notified recently that last year the Justice Department had obtained the phone records from 2017 for three of its journalists.

Court filings unsealed last week showed the Justice Department subpoenaed Twitter in 2020 seeking information about an anonymous user critical of Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican.

“This is a big story that just got bigger,” Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said in response to reports about the CNN correspondent Thursday.

“That a journalist from another news organization had communications records seized by the Trump Justice Department suggests that the last administration‘s efforts to intrude into reporter-source relationships and chill newsgathering is more sweeping than we originally thought,” said Mr. Brown. “The Justice Department‘s current leadership should provide a detailed explanation about what exactly happened and why, and how it plans to strengthen protections for the free flow of information to the public.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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