2011-06-13 "FBI Adds 'Prominent Bloggers' to Members of the Press; Changes to an operations guide would count some bloggers as media, making them subject to the same rules of investigation" by Jill Duffy from "PC Magazine"
A change at the Federal Bureau of Investigation will likely classify, and therefore protect, some bloggers as members of the press. Bloggers would have to be considered "prominent" to qualify, although it's unclear how their prominence will be measured and what benchmark they'll have to meet.
This new look at bloggers is part of larger changes taking place at the FBI, as the organization revises and clarifies a 2008 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, The New York Times reports [http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/us/13fbi.html?hp]. The majority of the revisions give more power to the FBI's 14,000 agents, letting them search databases for names with less red tape and look through the trash of a potential suspect.
The Times notes that the most drastic changes in the operations guide relate to "assessments," which are the lowest category of investigations at the bureau.
Adding bloggers to the document acknowledges that the Internet has altered whom we defined as members of the media, and as much as that sounds like a good thing, the FBI is very fuzzy about the details.
The FBI treats media professionals, in its guidelines, with extra care and added supervision to make sure their free speech rights are protected. Prominent bloggers, while sometimes employed by a traditional media business, can also be independent or unpaid. The new guidelines would take the same extra precautions with prominent bloggers that are afforded to media professionals, but not low-profile bloggers—and without a clear demarcation between the two groups.
While the public should stay informed about these changes, it's worth noting that these are all internal revisions to the bureau's own guidelines, not driven by court decisions or public policy.