While the tweetatariat was consumed in debate about Michelle Wolf’s makeup tips at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, it was reported that the Justice Department has quietly deleted references to press freedom from its manual for federal investigators.
The guide, which provides directions and priorities for federal prosecutors, has been revised for the first time since 1997. Under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ has deleted a section on racial gerrymandering and another titled “Need for Press and Free Trial,” BuzzFeed News reported on Sunday.
The deleted section, which was in the manual since at least 1988, 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.”
References to racial gerrymandering and the limits of prosecutorial power were also deleted from the manual. Additions included language warning prosecutors against leaking information and to report their media contacts.
The changes were not publicly announced, which is unusual. In January, the DOJ announced it was adding a section on “Religious Liberty,” which directed prosecutors to alert senior officials if any lawsuits were filed against the government “raising any significant question concerning religious liberty.”
Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had ordered a top-to-bottom review of the manual, but the Justice Department didn’t comment on why the specific text was removed. DOJ spokesperson Ian Prior told BuzzFeed News the manual is meant to be a “quick and ready reference” for lawyers, not “an exhaustive list of constitutional rights, statutory law, regulatory law, or generalized principles of our legal system.”