WASHINGTON — The president and chief executive officer of the Associated Press called the government’s secret seizure of two months of reporters’ phone records ‘‘unconstitutional’’ on Sunday and said the news cooperative had not ruled out legal action against the Justice Department.
Gary Pruitt, in his first television interviews since it was revealed the Justice Department subpoenaed phone records of AP reporters and editors, said the move already has had a chilling effect on journalism. Pruitt said the seizure has made sources less willing to talk to AP journalists and, in the long term, could limit Americans’ information from all news outlets.
Pruitt said on CBS’s ‘‘Face the Nation’’ that the government has no business monitoring the AP’s newsgathering activities. ‘‘And if they restrict that apparatus . . . the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,’’ he said.
In a separate interview with the AP, Pruitt said the news cooperative had not decided its next move but had not ruled out legal action against the government. He said the Justice Department’s investigation is out of control and President Obama should rein it in.
‘‘They’ve been secretive, they’ve been overbroad and abusive — so much so that taken together, they are unconstitutional because they violate our First Amendment rights,’’ he said.