The FBI is requesting information regarding readers of a Feb. 2 story describing a gunfight between a guy suspected of holding child pornography and two FBI agents, in which two agents were murdered.
According to the Daily Mail, the FBI wants the phone numbers and IP addresses of every user who clicked on the story between 8:03 p.m. and 8.38 p.m. that day.
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The FBI’s subpoena does not state why the information is needed, only that it will help with the investigation of the incident, in which David Huber, 55, committed suicide after agents Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger were slain and three others were injured.
The gunfight at Huber’s Fort Lauderdale apartment occurred at 6 a.m., well before the FBI’s interest window and more than three hours before the news was ever published.
According to Politico, the subpoena does not request the names of anyone who viewed the report.
Gannett’s newspaper, USA Today, is fighting back.
According to Politico, lawyers said in their response that “a government demand for records that would identify specific individuals who read specific expressive materials, like the Subpoena at issue here, infringes on the First Amendment rights of both publisher and reader, and must be quashed accordingly.”
According to the Daily Mail, the lawyers argued that the reference to “a federal criminal inquiry” does not “possible justify such an abridgment of free speech.”
The FBI has made no comment on the subpoena or the scope of the inquiry, which is still ongoing after Huber’s death.
According to The Washington Post, USA Today publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth issued a statement indicating the newspaper will continue to fight the subpoena.
“Forcing us to reveal who reads what on our websites to the government is a blatant infringement of the First Amendment,” she said.
“The FBI’s demand requests private information about our journalism’s readers. To protect the essential relationship and trust between USA Today readers and our journalists, we have requested the court to dismiss the subpoena.”
She pointed out that the subpoena goes against Justice Department policy, which typically asks for records connected to an inquiry through a collaborative method rather than a demand.
“The subpoena also violates the Justice Department’s own standards about the limited instances in which subpoenas to the press media can be issued,” she added.