Groundhog
Communicate only by groundhog. (Keith Sracokic/Associated Press)

So the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of the Associated Press’s call records — or as the AP reported, “outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.”

This is just one more disincentive for ever making a phone call, ever. Nothing good happens on the phone.

“We need to talk?” We’re breaking up.

Most phone calls consist of long, awkward silences, interrupted by two people starting to talk at the same time. The best solution? Just stop talking. This is why we always send a text, as every millennial would tell you.

But seriously, this shows pretty flagrant disregard for press freedom, and while public opinion stirs and roils and we try to decide how we would like to respond to this news, here are some tips for the AP and anyone else interested in throwing the Justice Department off your trail.

  • Change the names under which your phone lines are registered to unprofessional, tricky names like “Colonel Poop,” “Goat-Lovers Hotline” and “AP Ple The Daughter Of Gwyneth Paltrow.”
  • Insist sources only communicate via semaphore or carrier pigeon. Carefully vet all pigeons.
  • Insist that if sources want to be on deep background they have to communicate with you through interpretive dance.
  • Place a lot of calls to people you dislike who aren’t involved with your stories at all, forcing the DOJ to investigate your ex-wife’s new boyfriend in depth and loom ominously over the home of Ramona, that girl who rejected you in high school.
  • Dedicate five lines exclusively to ordering pizza, but stay on the line a really long time with the pizza guy to confuse the records, asking him about his day and his thoughts on Benghazi. If ever confronted about this, say, “Of course I was talking to a source! A SOURCE OF PIZZA!” Try to high-five the investigator.
  • Make all communications via flag in the flowerpot, forcing the Watergate comparison.
  • Embed all messages inside a turducken.
  • Use office phones only to call those late-night phone operators at Live Links who are just waiting to connect with fun, single guys like you. For actual business, rely on the one remaining payphone in North America.
  • Create fake e-mail accounts for communicating with government sources and tell them to  do the same. Suggest “Richard Windsor.”

Nothing in the AP’s reporting suggested that the calls themselves were monitored, but you can never be too careful. So:

  • Conduct all conversations in Elvish or Klingon.
  • Make the first conversation with every source a dirty, kinky, awkward-to-listen-to session of 900-number-worthy phone intimacy so that no self-respecting DOJ employee would dare listen to any follow-up. Just in case, start all subsequent conversations that way too before getting to the actual information.
  • Begin all conversations by playing Justin Bieber’s “Baby” on repeat for one solid hour, then get to the call.
  • Hold a crying baby up to the mouthpiece. Alternatively, run nails down a chalkboard as you talk.
  • Place a call to someone else inside the office and just go on for three hours about your deepest personal fears and insecurities and stories from your childhood that your significant other says are “too boring for words.”
  • Skype?
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.