The San Francisco Police Department executed search warrants for the home and office of San Francisco-based freelance journalist Bryan Carmody on May 10 as part of a criminal investigation into the leak of a confidential police report that had been provided to Carmody by a confidential source. During the raid, police seized electronic devices, notes and documents — including a copy of the report — belonging to Carmody.
The report revealed details of the Feb. 22 death of San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi. Two weeks prior to the search, police officers from the San Francisco Police Department asked Carmody who had provided him with a copy of the report. Carmody declined to identify his confidential source. An FBI spokesperson confirmed that while agents did not participate in the execution of the warrant, they were present and interviewed Carmody.
“Reporters rely on confidential sources to inform the public, and state and federal laws and regulations exist to protect reporters from being forced to disclose the identity of those sources. Any search targeting a journalist’s confidential material is a particularly egregious affront to First Amendment rights and should be investigated thoroughly,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Mr. Carmody’s devices and work product should be returned immediately.”
Gabe Rottman, director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project, who tracks federal leak investigations and prosecutions for the Reporters Committee, added:
“Although this is a state matter, the Justice Department’s news media guidelines require attorney general approval before the DOJ can subject a journalist to questioning for conduct arising out of newsgathering. It will be essential to determine if those guidelines were followed in this case, given the FBI interviewed Mr. Carmody during the search.”