Search warrants

United States v. Microsoft

January 18, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 40 media organizations submitted an amici brief in support of Microsoft in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court addressing whether the government can use a search warrant to obtain data stored by Microsoft overseas. The brief urges the Court to consider how its ruling in this case could impact journalists, emphasizing that cloud-based products and email are critical to journalists and that effective newsgathering relies on the security of these tools. The brief also argues that allowing the U.S. government to use a warrant to obtain data stored anywhere in the world could embolden countries that are hostile toward the news media to demand access to electronic information belonging to journalists.

United States v. Davis

November 17, 2014

A panel of Eleventh Circuit judges held that the Fourth Amendment applies to requests for historical cell site location information. Prosecutors obtained over two months' worth of historical location information from a cell phone provider using a court order issued under the Stored Communications Act, which permits a court to order a service provider to turn over subscriber records but does not require a finding of probable cause that a crime has been committed. The Eleventh Circuit granted rehearing en banc, and the Reporters Committee filed a brief in support of the defendant's position. The Fourth Amendment question in the case, the Reporters Committee argued, is inextricably linked to First Amendment questions. Warrantless acquisition of cell phone location data is concerning because a record of where one goes, and for how long, lays bare the processes of investigative reporting and threatens to reveal confidential sources and methods.

Riley v. Calif.; U.S. v. Wurie

March 10, 2014

The Reporters Committee joined an amicus brief in two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court examining the issue of warrantless searches of the cell phones of arrested suspects. In this brief, written by attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine, we argued that Fourth Amendment law must acknowledge the role that smart phones play in modern society and particularly with journalists, and the information is clearly of a personal nature sufficient to demand that officers obtain a search warrant before examining the records on such phones.

Judge unseals records in Holmes case; hearing Wed. will determine if reporter must testify about source

Lilly Chapa | Secret Courts | News | April 5, 2013
April 5, 2013

The new judge presiding over the James Holmes trial unsealed the highly coveted search and arrest warrants in the case on Thursday, providing the media with new details about the high-profile Colorado movie theater shooting.

Judiciary Committee approves "overdue" e-mail privacy bill

Lilly Chapa | Privacy | News | December 3, 2012
December 3, 2012

The Senate Judiciary Committee Friday unanimously approved a “very overdue” bill that would require law enforcement officials to get a warrant before accessing e-mail messages, updating a dated privacy law.

The proposed amendments are historic and will create a consistent method for handling government access to online communications, said Sophia Cope, director of government affairs at the Newspaper Association of America. But the measure likely won’t go to the Senate this year, forcing the process to start over again next year, she said.

Google's latest transparency report shows government surveillance on the rise in U.S.

Lilly Chapa | Privacy | News | November 19, 2012
November 19, 2012

Paula Broadwell isn’t the only person whose Gmail messages were read by government officials – Google received almost 8,000 e-mail access requests from U.S. state and federal governments in the past six months, according to the latest Google Transparency Report.

Google fully or partially granted 90 percent of the requests made by federal, state and local U.S. governments, according to the report. The requests by stateside governments account for more than a third of requests worldwide.

Appeals court tightens public access to search warrants

Rob Tricchinelli | Secret Courts | News | September 13, 2012
September 13, 2012

A federal appellate court held last week that there is no First Amendment right for the media to access police and court documents filed in connection with search warrant proceedings.

Judge denies request to unseal Bernie Fine search warrants

Kristen Rasmussen | Secret Courts | Feature | December 22, 2011
December 22, 2011

Affidavits for search warrants for the home, office, locker and safe deposit boxes of an ex-college basketball coach accused of sexual abuse will remain shielded from public view, at least for now, after a federal judge denied four New York-based media organizations’ requests to unseal the documents.

Eight year Howling Pig litigation ends in $425K settlement

Chris Healy | Libel | Feature | December 14, 2011
December 14, 2011

Students doctored a photo of a professor for a satirical magazine.

Access right applies to post-investigation search warrants

Kristen Rasmussen | Secret Courts | Feature | October 4, 2011
October 4, 2011

The public has a right to view materials filed in support of search warrant applications once an investigation is over, a federal appeals court recently held, adding that the right of access is infringed when the material is sealed because of general concerns that it may be posted online.