National Security

How Do Leak Investigations Work?

Selina MacLaren | News | August 8, 2017
August 8, 2017

On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced efforts to a crack down on unauthorized disclosures to the news media, citing an uptick in "leaks" investigations and a plan to revisit policies on obtaining journalists' records.  President Trump, who has routinely castigated disclosures to the news media, praised the threatened crackdown in a tweet:

Montgomery v. Risen

April 3, 2017

Defendant-Appellee James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, And Endless War, a political critique about the United States government’s response to the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. Plaintiff-Appellant Dennis Montgomery sued Risen and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing for statements made about him in the book, which suggest he is a "con artist" and "fake" who perpetuated “one of the most elaborate and dangerous hoaxes in American history” by convincing the government he developed software that could track hidden messages from terrorists in Al Jazeera broadcasts. Montgomery lost on summary judgment after the court found that he was a limited purpose public figure and that most of the statements at issue in the case amounted to opinion that is not actionable under the First Amendment.

Askins v. DHS

October 3, 2016

Plaintiffs Ray Askins and Christian Ramirez sued the Department of Homeland Security to challenge policies of Customs and Border Protection that ban photography at United States ports of entry without advanced permission from CBP. The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs, arguing that policies that restrict the news media's ability to photograph or record activity at the US border impinge upon the press's constitutionally protected rights to gather news and report on matters of public concern. We argued that photography and recording are essential elements of reporting on matters of public concern, including those that arise at the border; that strong public policy rationales underlie a First Amendment right to photograph public officials such as CBP officials; and that national security concerns do not provide a compelling interest that justifies the CBP photography policies.

Wikimedia v. NSA

February 24, 2016

Wikimedia, The Nation Magazine, and PEN American Center have joined with a group of other plaintiffs to challenge the constitutionality of "upstream" surveillance pursuant to Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment as well as the Fourth Amendment. Under this program, the government compels backbone service providers—companies that control the telecommunications equipment through which ISPs route their traffic—to provide communications sent through their equipment to the government. The District Court held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the surveillance at issue because their claims were too speculative. We argued that, because communications surveillance under Section 702 impedes confidential reporter-source relationships and newsgathering, plaintiffs have alleged a sufficient harm to establish standing to sue.

Defense Distributed v. Dep't of State

December 17, 2015

Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation are suing the Department of State regarding the unconstitutionality of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. The Reporters Committee argued in an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals (5th Cir.) that the regulations are impermissibly content-based, overbroad, and vague, and appear to criminalize routine reporting regarding defense technologies. The State Department's unfettered discretion to prosecute, coupled with the absence of judicial review, make it impossible to predict whether a reporter could be liable for violations of the regulations, which creates a deterrent effect and chills reporting, the brief argued.

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.

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.

"Citizenfour" filmmakers move to dismiss federal lawsuit

Tom Isler | Commentary | February 13, 2015
February 13, 2015

The makers of Citizenfour, the Oscar-nominated documentary film about Edward Snowden, have moved to dismiss a federal civil lawsuit that alleges they aided and abetted the “illegal and morally wrongful acts” of Snowden.

Journalists, technologists discuss encryption at conference on digital security after Snowden

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | News | November 10, 2014
November 10, 2014

Update: The complete conference video is now online.

“Edward Snowden is not a model for journalism,” James Risen said at a conference on digital security practices last Friday. “If it is, we’re going to have a lot of lawyers — and a lot of problems.”

From left to right, James Risen of The New York Times, Julia Angwin of ProPublica, Dana Priest of The Washington Post, and Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU discuss the use of encryption by journalists.