US Attorney General Eric Holder is reportedly set to introduce new, stricter guidelines that narrow the circumstances under which federal authorities can obtain the records of journalists. The new rules, which The New York Times says could be announced as early as today, will take effect almost immediately. According to the Times, one of these new guidelines bars the FBI "from portraying a reporter as a co-conspirator in a criminal leak as a way to get around a legal bar on secret search warrants for reporting materials." That's the precise tactic the bureau employed to obtain the records of Fox News reporter James Rosen.
The tighter limits would also make it more difficult — though "not impossible" according to the Times — to obtain phone records of journalists without first notifying the news organizations they work for. Again, the guidelines seem to come in direct response to a recent controversy; in May, the Associated Press publicly accused the Justice Department of spying on its reporters without alerting the AP for nearly a year. A Justice Department official told the Times that the guidelines are "as far as the department can go" until Congress passes broader media shield legislation.