Live Event: Media Leak Investigations and the First Amendment

Update: Watch the video on demand.

Earlier this month, reports emerged that, under the Trump administration, the U.S. Justice Department sought the phone and email records of several reporters. The record seizures did not contain the content of the messages, but showed who contacted whom and when. None of the reporters who were targeted knew that the government had taken their information, let alone why. Those that knew about the record seizures were forced to stay silent due to gag orders. Unable to find the information it was looking for, the Justice Department abandoned its mission and announced that it plans to change its policies governing media leak investigations.

Join the  First Amendment Coalition and the First Amendment Watch on Wednesday, July 13 at 11 a.m. PT/ 2 p.m. ET for a conversation with Ellen Nakashima, a reporter for The Washington PostCharlie Savage, a reporter for The New York Times, and  Gabe Rottman, director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press. We will discuss the history of media leak investigations, the Espionage Act, First Amendment protections for confidential sources, and current efforts to tighten policies regarding when and how federal investigators can seize journalists’ contact records.

 FAC Executive Director David Synder will moderate the panel discussion, along with Soraya Ferdman, First Amendment Watch staff writer.


Ellen Nakashima is a national security reporter for The Washington Post. She covers cybersecurity counterterrorism and intelligence issues. She has probed Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and contacts between aides to President Trump and Russian officialswork which led her and her colleagues to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2018. She was part of another team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2014 for reporting on the hidden scope of government surveillance and its policy implications. Nakashima was one of the three reporters from the Post who had their phone records seized by the Trump Justice Department as part of a 2020 leak investigation. Read Nakashima’s full bio here.

Charlie Savage is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Washington correspondent for The New York Times. He has written about national security, presidential powers, government surveillance, leak investigations, and the military. Savage has written more than a dozen articles about the Trump Department of Justice’s efforts to seize the communication records of journalists at the TimesWashington Post, and CNN. He has also covered the Biden administration’s response to the seizure scandal, and efforts to reform policies on media leak investigations. Read Savage’s full bio here.

Gabe Rottman is an attorney and the Director of the Reporters Committee’s Technology and Press Freedom Project, where he works extensively on “leak law.” While at the Reporter’s Committee, Rottman has co-authored two amicus briefs on behalf of journalistic sources facing charges under the Espionage Act for alleged leaks, produced a public database of Espionage Act cases, and co-authored an essay on Lawfare Blog that, among other things, argued for stronger protections for journalists in leak investigations. Read Rottman’s full bio here