The publisher of USA Today, Gannett, is reportedly resisting a legal effort by the FBI to discover who read a piece that was published by the outlet.
How we got here: USA Today published an article on February 2, 2021, about a shooting near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that left 2 FBI agents dead and three agents wounded. The story said the agents were “serving a warrant in a child exploitation case” when the culprit opened fire.
“Every day, FBI special agents put themselves in harm’s way to keep the American people safe,” Wray said. “Special Agent Alfin and Special Agent Schwartzenberger exemplified heroism today in defense of their country. The FBI will always honor their ultimate sacrifice and will be forever grateful for their bravery,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray at the time.
The subpoena: The agency in April served a subpoena to Gannett, asking the publisher to provide the FBI with information about those who opened the online article in a given period of 35 minutes on the day of the shooting, Politico reports.
The subpoena, signed by a senior FBI agent in Maryland, does not ask the publisher for the names of the readers but does demand the internet addresses and mobile phone information, which could lead to their identification.
The document claims that the information the FBI is looking for “relates to a federal criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI.”
The pushback: Gannett lawyers rejected the request in a court filing, arguing that it violates First Amendment rights.
“A government demand for records that would identify specific individuals who read specific expressive materials, like the Subpoena at issue here, invades the First Amendment rights of both publisher and reader, and must be quashed accordingly,” attorneys Charles Tobin and Maxwell Mishkin wrote on behalf of Gannett.
The legal team also accused the agency of ignoring a Justice Department policy about subpoenaing the media.
The document also pointed to recent reports that the DOJ obtained records of a CNN reporter and sought to get records from three Washington Post reporters. The lawyers noted that President Biden called the move “simply wrong.”
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.