ICE Withdraws Demand For Journalists' Sources After Having Its Unconstitutional Demand Outed By BuzzFeed

from the government-is-kindly-invited-to-go-fuck-itself dept

They say “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Sometimes, though, sunshine is the best RAID. When you’ve got government cockroaches (feel free to pronounce it like Tony Montana) trying to crawl all over your stuff, the best thing you can do is point all the wattage/candlepower you can on its indiscretions.

Earlier this month, ICE tried to pull some fucked up shit. It sent a subpoena — one issued by its office, not a judge — to BuzzFeed. It asked the journalists there to turn over information on their sources, apparently in hopes of closing the loop on internal investigations into leaked documents.

BuzzFeed refused. Even better, BuzzFeed posted the bullshit “request” ICE made — one that asked the site’s journalists to remain silent in the face of government overreach. The subpoena came with this request appended;

“You are requested not to disclose the existence of this summons for an indefinite period of time. Any such disclosure will impede this investigation and thereby interfere with the enforcement of federal law.”

BuzzFeed ignored this, along with the rest of the subpoena. Which it should. This was just internal paperwork masquerading as a government-sanctioned order. ICE has no legal right to demand information on BuzzFeed’s sources. It seems highly unlikely any court would allow this incursion on First Amendment protections. Bypassing the court by issuing its own paperwork shouldn’t be allowed. But somehow it is. Journalistic concerns know these requests are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. The problem is that not everyone knows that and degenerates like ICE are counting on people being ignorant of their Constitutional rights and protections.

BuzzFeed knows what the government can and can’t do without judicial blessing. So it published its refusal along with ICE’s faux “demand” it remain silent about the agency’s attempted Constitutional bypass. In response to its garbage being made public domain, ICE has rescinded its attempt to turn confidential sources into government witnesses/prosecution targets.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Wednesday that it would not enforce a subpoena issued last week demanding BuzzFeed News identify its sources, a retreat from its earlier, stunning attempt to interfere with a news outlet operating under the protections of the First Amendment.

By “won’t,” ICE means “can’t.” It would be the rare judge that would approve of ICE violating long-held First Amendment protections for journalists and their sources. Even if they found a compliant judicial pawn, any challenge by BuzzFeed would see this bogus subpoena tossed onto the trash heap of ICE’s trash history by the next judge down the line.

The government cannot do this. And the government knows this. That ICE even tried indicates it’s been huffing whatever the Trump administration has been shoving into its paper bags. Just because the outgoing Prez has a hard-on for booting brown people out of the country doesn’t change the Constitutional calculus.

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Comments on “ICE Withdraws Demand For Journalists' Sources After Having Its Unconstitutional Demand Outed By BuzzFeed”

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16 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

very unclear if ICE actually issued something that pretended to be an official/legal "subpoena".
Sounds more like ICE sent a strong "Demand" letter without threats of criminal legal penalties for non-compliance.

But if ICE did send a phony subpoena, BuzzFeed has an iron clad case to file in Federal Court.

The "courts" do nothing without a formal complaint filed.

Nathan F (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The "courts" do nothing without a formal complaint filed.

After two hundred years I would have figured the courts would have figured out that "giving a bad actor enough leeway to hang themselves with when we FINALLY decide to come down on them" isn’t working so well.

Our government is supposed to be a three part system to keep one from overreaching but that doesn’t work if one branch is passive and just sits around waiting for someone to complain. When the executive or legislative branch does something that they are expressly not allowed to do or is self evidently against the constitution, the courts need to exercise their power of judging the law and tell them to stop that shit.

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
grumbles says:

I think citizens should start issuing "subpoenas" to ICE.

"By the authority invested in me (e.i., I have none), I demand ICE provide all documentation including, but not limited to, (1) Why ICE is such a fucked up dumpster fire; (2) all internal memos written since the inception of ICE; (3) a puppy. That last one is not about documentation, we just want a puppy."

That One Guy (profile) says:

'We meant to do that.'

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Wednesday that it would not enforce a subpoena issued last week demanding BuzzFeed News identify its sources, a retreat from its earlier, stunning attempt to interfere with a news outlet operating under the protections of the First Amendment.

Gotta love how they got caught sending a bullshit demand and when called on it are trying desperately to look like they’re being so very generous and withdrawing it in the hopes people won’t realize that it was nothing but a bluff.

‘We’re not pushing the matter not because we have no power to but because we’re just so very kind and generous you see.’

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: ICE "actually doing its job"

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt Anonymous Coward and assume you are just plain unaware of the catalog of crimes against humanity committed by ICE, and why there is a not-small following that has wanted to abolish ICE even before the Defund the Police movement.

ICE serves as an example of reasons I don’t think defunding the police goes sufficiently far.

Maybe Google abolish ICE and look up their actions regarding Kim Dotcom and unauthorized apple dealers, and then their interest in going after non-felonious immigrants and turning detention centers into disease pits by overcrowding them. And that’s not getting into the prison abuse and sexual assault by ICE officers that goes uncharged.

Maybe go outside your FOX news bubble and look this stuff up. You have the internet.

Some of us think members of ICE should be prosecuted by the ICJ like participants of the Holocaust. Because it wasn’t supposed to happen here in the United States of America.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Subpoenas Not Issued by Courts

The original article seems to make something of the fact that the subpoena was not issued by a court. That, alone, is hardly fatal to a subpoena. I have no opinion as to whether the documents in question here were proper subpoeanas, issued for a proper case, by a suitably licensed attorney, or with any expectation of passing the “giggle” test if the recipient decided to seek a protective order.

In at least some states, attorneys can issue their own subpoeanas. They sign them “for the court” and include their bar numbers. Normally they include language such as “You are subpoenaed to appear by the following attorney, and unless excused from this subpoena by this attorney or the court, you shall respond to this subpoena as directed.”

A pro se litigant will normally either prepare one to be stamped by the Clerk of Court or will have the Clerk prepare one.

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