- The Department of Justice removed details of policies dealing with press freedom, racial gerrymandering, and prosecutorial authority in its manual as part of a recent review, Buzzfeed News reported.
- This is the department’s first major review of the manual since 1997.
- Some affected sections are issues Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump have stressed in the past.
The Department of Justice overhauled its policy manual, and edited sections detailing press freedom and leaking confidential information, Buzzfeed News reported on Sunday.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered the first major review of the US Attorneys’ Manual since 1997 “to identify redundant sections and language, areas that required greater clarity, and any content that needed to be added to help Department attorneys perform core prosecutorial functions,” department spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement to Buzzfeed.
The manual contains policies and procedures to inform Justice Department work across every possible legal area, but is not an “exhaustive list” of rights, laws or principles, Prior said. Attorneys and prosecutors across the country use the manual as a guidebook for proper protocol and behaviour.
Sections cut include “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” as well as references to the department’s past efforts to combat racial gerrymandering, and cautions over prosecutorial power were edited down, according to Buzzfeed’s examination of the old manual.
New sections in the manual include “Respect for Religious Liberty” and “Principles of Religious Liberty” that inform prosecutors to alert senior officials if a case involving religious liberty arises, and to follow an official memo Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined in October, which President Donald Trump has also emphasised.
The changes in the department’s dealing with press also include an outline of protections for whistleblowers who report concerns directly to the department instead of going to the press first, according to Buzzfeed.
While the Justice Department had existing procedures to protect confidential information and deal with the press, the edits to the manual put them in official writing in the handbook all officials are supposed to follow.
Prior told Buzzfeed the manual’s review was to get rid of redundant or outdated language, references, and policies to ensure it would be a useful resource for officials.
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