Feds took Times reporter’s notes from the po­lice ev­i­dence room

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY KEL­LAN HOW­ELL

Weeks af­ter Mary­land State Po­lice and fed­eral agents seized re­port­ing files from a for­mer Wash­ing­ton Times jour­nal­ist’s home, a Home­land Se­cu­rity agent checked the ma­te­ri­als out of the po­lice ev­i­dence room for an hour, ac­cord­ing to logs that shine new light on a case that has raised First Amend­ment con­cerns.

The cus­tody logs don’t state why the re­port­ing ma­te­ri­als were re­moved from ev­i­dence Sept. 3, about a month af­ter they were seized from reporter Au­drey Hud­son’s home dur­ing a search in an un­re­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tion of her hus­band.

But they do show that the Home­land Se­cu­rity agent checked out files and notes that morn­ing that iden­ti­fied con­fi­den­tial sources that Ms. Hud­son had in­ter­viewed dur­ing a se­ries of award-win­ning ar­ti­cles pub­lished in The Times about prob­lems in the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment’s Fed­eral Air Mar­shal Ser­vice.

Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have ac­knowl­edged that their agents seized Ms. Hud­son’s files dur­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of a search war­rant in early Au­gust ob­tained by Mary­land State Po­lice in an un­re­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tion of guns owned by her hus­band. Her hus­band has not been charged with any wrong­do­ing in the case.

Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials also have ac­knowl­edged that they briefly re­viewed the ma­te­ri­als to de­ter­mine whether they con­tained any sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, even though the search war­rant did not au­tho­rize seizure of the doc­u­ments.

The of­fi­cials have not ex­plained, how­ever, why fed­eral agents at­tended a raid that in­volved state laws or why po­lice kept re­port­ing ma­te­ri­als for more than a month that were not cov­ered by the judge’s or­der.

First Amend­ment ad­vo­cates and pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists said the rev­e­la­tions from the ev­i­dence cus­tody logs raise se­ri­ous con­cerns that con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tions were vi­o­lated.

“I think it is fair to say that this is an egre­gious af­front on the part of the law en­force­ment,” said Roger Soenksen, a pro­fes­sor of me­dia arts and de­sign at James Madi­son Univer­sity in Har­rison­burg, Va.

The Times is pre­par­ing to take le­gal ac­tion against the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment.

Ed­i­tor John Solomon said the ev­i­dence logs raise se­ri­ous con­cerns that Home­land Se­cu­rity may have tried to ex­ploit the seized doc­u­ments for in­for­ma­tion about Ms. Hud­son’s and the news­pa­per’s sources and re­port­ing meth­ods in a se­ries of ar­ti­cles that shined a light on prob­lems in­side the fed­eral depart­ment.

“It’s un­ac­cept­able for law en­force­ment to have taken th­ese records in the first place, es­pe­cially when they had noth­ing to do with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion at hand or the search war­rant,” Mr. Solomon said. “It’s even more mad­den­ing to think that fed­eral agents could sim­ply walk into the ev­i­dence room and check th­ese doc­u­ments out for their read­ing plea­sure.

“Our Found­ing Fa­thers, the Congress and the courts have long rec­og­nized the First Amend­ment safe­guards that are af­forded to a free press, and the pro­tec­tions from un­law­ful seizure that ev­ery Amer­i­can should en­joy. It seems that gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials need a re­fresher course on th­ese vi­tal free­doms,” Mr. Solomon added.

Ms. Hud­son’s home was raided by Mary­land State Po­lice at 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 6. The investigators, in­clud­ing Miguel Bosch, a fed­eral agent with the Home­land Se­cu­rity’s Coast Guard In­ves­tiga­tive Ser­vice, had a war­rant to search for un­reg­is­tered firearms and a po­tato launcher be­long­ing to Ms. Hud­son’s hus­band, Paul Flana­gan. The war­rant did not, how­ever, give investigators per­mis­sion to seize per­sonal records and doc­u­ments un­re­lated to the firearms in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The five files that were taken from Ms. Hud­son’s of­fice fil­ing cab­i­net con­tained doc­u­ments ob­tained un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act and per­sonal notes and in­for­ma­tion from con­fi­den­tial sources within the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Fed­eral Air Mar­shal Ser­vice.

Ms. Hud­son told The Times that Mr. Bosch, who had worked for the Fed­eral Air Mar­shal's Ser­vice, specif­i­cally asked her whether she was the same “Au­drey Hud­son” who wrote “The Air Mar­shal sto­ries” for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Me­dia law pro­fes­sion­als say that if law en­force­ment of­fi­cers wanted to re­view Ms. Hud­son's doc­u­ments be­fore the search, they should have done so by is­su­ing a sub­poena rather than a search war­rant.

“A sub­poena is a far greater method for investigators to use than a search war­rant. It al­lows the jour­nal­ist to search for le­gal coun­sel and turn over the ev­i­dence that is needed for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion at hand,” Mr. Soenksen said.

In a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view with The Times, Ms. Hud­son said po­lice “tore my of­fice apart more than any other room in my house” and that investigators did not take doc­u­ments that were un­re­lated to the TSA.

“I had a box full of [Depart­ment of De­fense] notes,” she said. “They didn’t touch those.”

Ms. Hud­son was not aware that the doc­u­ments had been taken un­til she was con­tacted by po­lice a month af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and was asked to pick them up at the sta­tion.

In March 2005, Ms. Hud­son au­thored a se­ries of ar­ti­cles for The Times that were crit­i­cal of the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment, the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Fed­eral Air Mar­shal Ser­vice.

Her re­port de­tailed how air mar­shals were pro­tect­ing less than 10 per­cent of flights dur­ing the month of De­cem­ber 2004. The in­for­ma­tion pub­lished by The Times led to a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Fed­eral Air Mar­shal Ser­vice.

From 2005 to 2009, Ms. Hud­son wrote sev­eral more in­ves­tiga­tive re­ports on op­er­a­tional de­fi­cien­cies within the Fed­eral Air Mar­shal Ser­vice, the TSA and the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

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