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First Amendment

Justice Department removed a section on the 'need for free press' from prosecutors' manual

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered a top-to-bottom review of the U.S. Attorneys' Manual, a guide for federal prosecutors and other Justice Department lawyers, and the changes span everything from minor edits to entire sections being removed, BuzzFeed News reports. There is new language urging prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible, intervene in cases where religious liberties are in question, and report "any contact with a member of the media about a DOJ matter." Gone is language opposing racial gerrymandering and an entire subsection, in the manual since at least 1988, titled "Need for Free Press and Public Trial," BuzzFeed reports. It used to read:

Likewise, careful weight must be given in each case to the constitutional requirements of a free press and public trials as well as the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused. Further, recognition should be given to the needs of public safety, the apprehension of fugitives, and the rights of the public to be informed on matters that can affect enactment or enforcement of public laws or the development or change of public policy. [U.S. Attorneys' Manual, via BuzzFeed]

The new version includes language about balancing "the right of the public to have access to information about the Department of Justice" against other factors before releasing information. Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior told BuzzFeed that Rosenstein had ordered the first comprehensive review of the manual since 1997 because in that time, "policies have changed or become outdated, and leadership memos were issued without being incorporated," adding that the manual is "quick and ready reference" for lawyers, not "an exhaustive list of constitutional rights, statutory law, regulatory law, or generalized principles of our legal system." You can read more about what has changed and what hasn't at BuzzFeed News.