ICE Sends Subpoena To BuzzFeed, Hoping To Force It To Turn Over Its Sources

from the going-nowhere-with-this-but-still-a-problem dept

Four years of Trump was more than enough time to weaponize federal agencies against journalists. The administration has routinely condemned critical press outlets as "fake news" and Trump's fervent embrace of border patrolling made it easier for the DHS and its agencies to abuse their power.

The Constitution doesn't seem to matter much to those "securing" the nation. The CBP put a bunch of journalists, activists, and immigration lawyers on a watchlist, subjecting them to additional intrusive searches at border crossings and airports. The DHS tried to top this by compiling dossiers on journalists who covered anti-police brutality protests in Oregon, as well as journalists who had published leaked DHS documents.

The assault on the Constitution continues, with another DHS component deciding the protections given to journalists aren't nearly as important as figuring out who's leaking government documents.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators issued a subpoena this week demanding BuzzFeed News identify its sources — an extraordinary attempt by the government to interfere with a news outlet acting under the protections of the First Amendment, and a move that the agency’s former chief lambasted as “embarrassing.”

[...]

The subpoena, issued on Dec. 1 by an agent with the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, concerns emails sent to ICE attorneys on a fast-track deportation program and plans to fine certain undocumented immigrants. It demands that BuzzFeed News “provide all documentation including, but not limited to: (1) date of receipt, (2) method of receipt, (3) source of document, and (4) contact information for the source of the document.”

BuzzFeed has refused to comply with this subpoena. It has also apparently ignored the gag order ICE attached to its demand for info. Not that it was much of a gag order. It "requested" BuzzFeed not disclose the contents of the subpoena but, like the subpoena itself, it's pretty much unenforceable.

A court didn't issue this request. ICE did. It can write its own subpoenas but it really can't make anyone comply without getting a court involved. And it seems unlikely ICE will get a court involved because very few courts are going to sign off on obvious First Amendment violations.

But even if it's useless, it's still a problem. ICE could try to get courts involved and turn journalists into extensions of internal investigations. It could mass mail subpoenas to as many press outlets as it can, hoping for a hit. The problematic part isn't how badly it's being done, but that it's being done at all.

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Filed Under: 1st amendment, freedom of the press, ice, intimidation, journalism, source protection, sources, subpoena
Companies: buzzfeed


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  • icon
    ECA (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 12:12pm

    Anti-

    "journalists who covered anti-police brutality protests in Oregon"

    I aint great at english, as its abit convoluted at times, but is this like Flammable and inflammable?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      thefantodayhtml (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 2:55pm

      Re: Anti-

      in this context, Anti-police brutality means " against police brutality" (i. e. anti-(policy brutality)), although the sentence structure is bit ambiguous. In theory it could potentially mean (protests about) brutality against police (i. e. anti-(police) brutality), but that would probably be written as something like anti-antipolice brutality or similar.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 3:07pm

        Officer-involved brutalty

        Yeah, we've been struggling with talking about police shootings, which sounds like the gunning down of officers. The current (awkward) go-to term is officer-involved shooting or officer-involved homicide in which the officer is the instigator.

        Language is hard.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Andrew Pam (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 4:59pm

          Re: Officer-involved brutalty

          Simple: "shootings by police". "Brutality of police". Just add a single short preposition.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Andrew Pam (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 5:01pm

          Re: Officer-involved brutalty

          "involved" is still an evasion, though. If you mean "officer instigated", say that instead of sidestepping with "involved".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          teka, 9 Dec 2020 @ 5:37am

          Re: Officer-involved brutalty

          You have to make sure the language is as passive as possible.

          "A man who had been handcuffed with his arms behind his back by police in Maryland was shot and killed inside an officer's cruiser."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 9 Dec 2020 @ 11:33am

            Re: Re: Officer-involved brutalty

            It could be even more vague though.

            "A man who had been handcuffed with his arms behind his back by police in Maryland was involved in a fatal shooting incident inside an officer's cruiser."

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 12:17pm

    Still dont know what dept is responsible for this group.

    Or the few others that have popped up.
    Considering we have over 40 policing agencies, Supposedly responsible for everything under the sun.
    Where are the corruption police and the Anti monopoly police?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 2:03pm

      The police against white collar crime

      Yeah, those are conspicuously absent. By prosecuting elite deviance (getting those responsible for things like the Subprime Mortgage Crisis or the California Power Crisis) we could save more lives, save more lost property, save more lost costs than if we captured every burglar and perpetrator of homicide combined. By orders of magnitude.

      And yet, somehow, police departments are not interested.

      But then ICE is for hire whenever a company or established industry needs someone arrested for reasons.

      I've argued the entire justice system needs to be abolished. ICE really needs to have all its members hunted down and put on trial at the ICJ for crimes against humanity (or aiding and abetting such criminals).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 12:43pm

    'They said 'no'? They can do that?'

    This is what happens when you don't tell a spoiled child/government agency 'no' often enough, they come to believe that they can do whatever they want and that everyone around them is obligated to cater to their whims no matter what those may be.

    Hopefully more people, both in the government and out start telling them 'no' going forward, because they are more than overdue to start hearing that word more often.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 9 Dec 2020 @ 6:48am

      Re: 'They said 'no'? They can do that?'

      A kindly said no and a hammer will always go much further than a strongly said no.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 8 Dec 2020 @ 12:53pm

    It sounds like the most important thing is to get the message out to journalists that they should ignore these subpoenas unless issued by a court.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 1:28pm

      Re:

      "Don't burn your sources" is not something journalists generally need to be told.

      Even if the subpoenas were legit, standard practice is you don't give up your anonymous sources, you call the legal department and ask them what your next step is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2020 @ 1:53pm

    Why not both

    The problematic part isn't how badly it's being done, but that it's being done at all.

    Personally, I have problems with both how badly it's being done and that it's being done at all. The only case when this would be acceptable is if the people in charge of harassing the journalists know it's wrong, so they are doing a bad job of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 3:59pm

    There is something abit OFF!

    And its a complaint we have already had.
    That the Cops/officers doing the deed, SHOULD know the laws.
    And Since that is an insecure idea, and they FOUND a group willing to follow a leader willing to get PAID OFF to do it.
    I HOPE most of them know the NEXT problem will be finding a JOB.

    I WOULD HOPE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 9 Dec 2020 @ 6:55am

      Re: There is something abit OFF!

      Finding a job? Please!

      Each and every one should be put on a monitoring list similar to the sexoffender one so people in their neighborhood know to watch out for them and their behavior.

      Maybe have a sign on their front yard just to be safe.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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