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New Federal Rules for Prosecuting Reporters

WASHINGTON (CN) - Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday revised the Department of Justice's policies on "questioning, arresting, or charging members of the news media."

In a 3-page Memorandum to all Department Employees, Holder said the revised rules are meant to "ensure the highest level of oversight when members of the [Justice] Department seek to obtain information from, or records of, a member of the news media."

Newspapers and other media organizations have widely criticized Holder and his boss, President Barack Obama, for their intense scrutiny of reporters, in what many call the harshest attitude toward investigative reporting since the Nixon administration.

The new final rule revises Justice Department regulations in 28 C.F.R. § 50.10.

"The most significant change," Holder wrote in his memo to employees, "is the elimination of the phrase 'ordinary newsgathering activities,' which has been replaced throughout with 'newsgathering activities.'"

The memo also directs prosecutors to consult the Justice Department's Policy and Statutory Enforcement Unit in its Criminal Division "when there is a question regarding whether an individual is a 'member of the news media.'"

Coincidentally or not , Holder announced the rules change as the trial of a CIA agent accused of "leaking" information to the media began in Alexandria, Va. Federal Court. New York Times reporter James Risen, who faced the prospect of jail time if he did not reveal his sources, has been excused from testifying.

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