Feds Seize Washington Times Reporter’s Records With Search Warrant from Unrelated Criminal Investigation

Washington Times reporter Audrey Hudson, who had been exposing problems in the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Air Marshal Service, said her home was raided by Maryland state police and federal agents, including at least one agent from Homeland’s Coast Guard, in the early pre-dawn hours of August 6. They took her private notes and government documents which she obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

091231_wash_times_218At approximately 4:30 am agents arrived in full body armor, and confiscated several small arms along with the documents. The raid for firearms seems to be over and incident that took place nearly 20 years ago, according to the Washington Times.

According to the Washington Times:

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The documents, some which chronicled her sources and her work at the Times about problems inside the Homeland Security Department, were seized under a warrant to search for unregistered firearms and a “potato gun” suspected of belonging to her husband, Paul Flanagan, a Coast Guard employee. Mr. Flanagan has not been charged with any wrongdoing since the raid.

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The warrant, obtained by the Times, offered no specific permission to seize reporting notes or files.

The Washington Times said Friday it is preparing legal action to fight what it called an unwarranted intrusion on the First Amendment.

Maryland state police would not comment on the raid, except to say “evidence and information developed during this investigation is currently under review by both the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office and the United States’ Attorney’s Office,” and that a determination has yet to be made on any charges.

However, the US Coast Guard did confirm that it seized and reviewed Hudson’s documents.

Capt. Tony Hahn, a Coast Guard spokesman, said they were involved because Mrs. Hudson’s husband is a Coast Guard employee. He said that during the search “the CGIS agent discovered government documents labeled ‘FOUO’ — For Official Use Only and ‘LES’ — Law Enforcement Sensitive.”

“The files that contained these documents were cataloged on the search warrant inventory and taken from the premises,” he said. “The documents were reviewed with the source agency and determined to be obtained properly through the Freedom of Information Act.”

The Coast Guard also said it did nothing wrong.

Oh yeah? Let’s just review a little something the Coast Guard takes an oath to uphold and defend. It’s part of the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Additionally, one wonders why there was a search warrant for unregistered firearms and a potato gun. Was there criminal activity that led to this? Who provided the oath or affirmation and the probable cause for obtaining a warrant? This has yet to be discovered.

However, the Times are preparing to take legal action against what they call an unwarranted intrusion on the First Amendment.

“While we appreciate law enforcement’s right to investigate legitimate concerns, there is no reason for agents to use an unrelated gun case to seize the First Amendment protected materials of a reporter,” Times Editor John Solomon said. “This violates the very premise of a free press, and it raises additional concerns when one of the seizing agencies was a frequent target of the reporter’s work.

He went on to deal with the issue of the Fourth Amendment.

“Homeland’s conduct in seizing privileged reporter’s notes and Freedom of Information Act documents raises serious Fourth Amendment issues, and our lawyers are preparing an appropriate legal response,” he said.

The concern of Hudson and the Times is over going after legally obtained information that was not a part of the search warrant. Hudson claims that she had “a box full of [Department of Defense] notes,” which were left untouched. She also says that having the agents rifle through her personal belongings was traumatizing.

“Protecting confidential sources is a part of my honor and hits me at my ethical core,” said Mrs. Hudson. “To have someone steal my source information and know it could impact people’s careers, is disgusting, a massive overreach. This kind of conduct is intimidation clearly aimed at silencing a vigorous press.”

Even more disturbing is the fact that Coast Guard investigator Miguel Bosch, who worked at the Federal Air Marshal Service from April 2001 through November 2007. He specifically asked Hudson, during the raid, if she was the one that wrote the March 2005 article, which revealed that air marshals were protecting less than 10 percent of domestic and international flights during the month of December 2004. Hudson also revealed that the number of flights Homeland Security officials were providing to Congress was higher than the actual number of marshals it employed.

So far, no charges have been filed against Mr. Flanagan or Mrs. Hudson.

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