Stackhouse v. Colorado

November 18, 2015

James Stackhouse, a criminal defendant appealing his conviction, is seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of “[w]hether a criminal defendant’s inadvertent failure to object to a courtroom closure is an ‘intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right’ that affirmatively waives his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial, or is instead a forfeiture, which does not wholly foreclose appellate review.” In an amicus brief in support of the importance of open court proceedings, the Reporters Committee that the nearly identical First and Sixth Amendment rights of access to judicial proceedings require trial courts to independently examine whether closure is warranted, regardless of whether the defendant objects.

FAA misses deadline for integration of civil drones into National Airspace Systems

Jennevieve Fong | News | October 16, 2015
October 16, 2015

The Federal Aviation Association missed their Sept. 30, 2015 deadline, mandated by Congress in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, for the full integration of civil drones into the National Airspace System, leaving unresolved the issue of how and when the news media might be able to use drones in newsgathering.

According to NBC News, an FAA spokesperson stated final regulations for drones should be in place “late next spring.”

“We have been consistent in saying that we're going to move as quickly as possible,” the FAA spokesperson said to NBC News. “But the integration of unmanned aircraft into the nation's airspace is going to have to proceed on an incremental basis.”

Comments on DHS FOIA Regulations

September 25, 2015

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press submitted comments regarding the proposed updates to the Department of Homeland Security's FOIA regulations. 

Davis v. United States

August 27, 2015

Davis is challenging the constitutionality of a provision of the Stored Communications Act that permits law enforcement to obtain a court order to compel disclosure of historical location information by a cellular phone service provider. The en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the disclosure was not a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Davis is seeking a writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court. The compelled disclosure of historical location data implicates important First and Fourth Amendment rights. Location data can reveal sensitive, private information, including information about associational and expressive activities that are protected by the First Amendment. Fourth Amendment protections must be applied with particular rigor when First Amendment rights are at stake.

PCLOB 12333 Comment

June 16, 2015

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) solicited public comments regarding the counterterrorism programs conducted by the Intelligence Community pursuant to Executive Order 12333.The Reporters Committee argued that PCLOB should make public more information about the programs that are in place under E.O. 12333, both because uncertainty regarding surveillance results in an unconstitutional chilling effect on journalists and reporters, and because the surveillance programs themselves may infringe on constitutional rights.

Federal anti-SLAPP bill introduced in the House

Kimberly Chow | Libel | News | May 15, 2015
May 15, 2015

A federal anti-SLAPP bill with bipartisan co-sponsors was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. The SPEAK FREE Act, introduced Wednesday by Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., is seen as an important step toward nationwide protection against meritless suits that chill speech.

Effort to reauthorize USA PATRIOT Act lacks basic safeguards for First Amendment rights

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Commentary | April 22, 2015
April 22, 2015

Last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a new, fast-tracked bill to reauthorize Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Section 215, which allows the government to collect "tangible things" relevant to an authorized terrorism investigation, is set to expire on June 1, 2015. Senator McConnell's bill would extend the provision through 2020.

Reporters Committee attorneys represent Alan Morrison in suit seeking justification for CIA rendition program

Freedom of Information | Commentary | March 24, 2015
March 24, 2015

Adam Marshall and Hannah Bloch-Wehba

Alan Morrison, a dean and constitutional law professor at the George Washington University Law School, has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency for access to records detailing the legal justification for rendition and extraordinary rendition programs conducted by the United States. Attorneys at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are representing Morrison pro bono.

For many years, the United States has sought to bring criminal suspects to the United States for prosecution without using extradition procedures, a practice referred to as rendition. After September 11, 2001, the CIA began a program of so-called “extraordinary rendition.” Under that program, detainees would be transferred into the custody of third-party nations, or to secretly-operated prisons known as “black sites,” for detention and interrogation.

In hearing, Lynch says critical FOIA evalution of U.S. Attorney's office was "helpful"

Sade Hale | Freedom of Information | News | January 30, 2015
January 30, 2015

Issues of compliance with the Freedom of Information Act received some attention during Loretta Lynch's eight-hour confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

Lynch said she will work with Congress to improve public access to open records, and described the Freedom of Information Act as "an important tool for the American people."

But Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas asked Lynch about "critical comments" made in a FOIA management evaluation of the U.S. Attorney's office of the Eastern District of New York, where Lynch was in charge.

FBI failed to disclose violations of surveillance statute, watchdog report shows

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Commentary | January 14, 2015
January 14, 2015

Yesterday, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (OIG) released its 2012 report on Activities Under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 for the first time. When the report was originally issued, it was classified and not disclosed to the public. The report, in redacted form, was released in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by The New York Times, and reveals that the FBI failed to report that it illegally collected information on individuals inside the United States.