On Thursday, Politico reported that Gannett is challenging an FBI demand for information that could identify the readers of a USA Today article about a February shooting in Florida that left two FBI agents dead and three wounded. The administrative subpoena served to the media company in April specifically requests internet protocol addresses and other potentially identifying metadata for computers that accessed the story over a 35-minute period on the day of the shootings.
News of the subpoena follows several reports over the past month describing how the U.S. Department of Justice under former President Donald Trump secretly obtained the phone records of journalists at the Washington Post, CNN and the New York Times without notifying the news organizations in advance, raising questions about adherence under former Attorney General Bill Barr to the internal guidelines at DOJ that protect news organizations from legal demands from federal law enforcement officials.
Bruce D. Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, made the following statement:
“As this incident is the first we know of regarding a subpoena to a news organization authorized by President Biden’s administration, we call on the Justice Department and the FBI to immediately explain how officials applied these long-standing policies that limit when and in what manner the government can seek records from news organizations.”
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.