ICE Withdraws Demand For Journalists' Sources After Having Its Unconstitutional Demand Outed By BuzzFeed

from the government-is-kindly-invited-to-go-fuck-itself dept

They say "sunshine is the best disinfectant." Sometimes, though, sunshine is the best RAID. When you've got government cockroaches (feel free to pronounce it like Tony Montana) trying to crawl all over your stuff, the best thing you can do is point all the wattage/candlepower you can on its indiscretions.

Earlier this month, ICE tried to pull some fucked up shit. It sent a subpoena -- one issued by its office, not a judge -- to BuzzFeed. It asked the journalists there to turn over information on their sources, apparently in hopes of closing the loop on internal investigations into leaked documents.

BuzzFeed refused. Even better, BuzzFeed posted the bullshit "request" ICE made -- one that asked the site's journalists to remain silent in the face of government overreach. The subpoena came with this request appended;

“You are requested not to disclose the existence of this summons for an indefinite period of time. Any such disclosure will impede this investigation and thereby interfere with the enforcement of federal law.”

BuzzFeed ignored this, along with the rest of the subpoena. Which it should. This was just internal paperwork masquerading as a government-sanctioned order. ICE has no legal right to demand information on BuzzFeed's sources. It seems highly unlikely any court would allow this incursion on First Amendment protections. Bypassing the court by issuing its own paperwork shouldn't be allowed. But somehow it is. Journalistic concerns know these requests are worth less than the paper they're printed on. The problem is that not everyone knows that and degenerates like ICE are counting on people being ignorant of their Constitutional rights and protections.

BuzzFeed knows what the government can and can't do without judicial blessing. So it published its refusal along with ICE's faux "demand" it remain silent about the agency's attempted Constitutional bypass. In response to its garbage being made public domain, ICE has rescinded its attempt to turn confidential sources into government witnesses/prosecution targets.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Wednesday that it would not enforce a subpoena issued last week demanding BuzzFeed News identify its sources, a retreat from its earlier, stunning attempt to interfere with a news outlet operating under the protections of the First Amendment.

By "won't," ICE means "can't." It would be the rare judge that would approve of ICE violating long-held First Amendment protections for journalists and their sources. Even if they found a compliant judicial pawn, any challenge by BuzzFeed would see this bogus subpoena tossed onto the trash heap of ICE's trash history by the next judge down the line.

The government cannot do this. And the government knows this. That ICE even tried indicates it's been huffing whatever the Trump administration has been shoving into its paper bags. Just because the outgoing Prez has a hard-on for booting brown people out of the country doesn't change the Constitutional calculus.

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Filed Under: dhs, ice, journalism, protecting sources, sources, subpoena
Companies: buzzfeed


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2020 @ 4:41am

    ICE is like the scammers that send invoices to companies hoping they’ll just pay it without validating it against a PO.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nathan F (profile), 11 Dec 2020 @ 4:52am

    So. The next question is, will a federal court call ICE in front of it and ask them why they are issuing "subpoenas" that are for all intents and purposes counterfeits?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2020 @ 7:44am

      Re:

      very unclear if ICE actually issued something that pretended to be an official/legal "subpoena".
      Sounds more like ICE sent a strong "Demand" letter without threats of criminal legal penalties for non-compliance.

      But if ICE did send a phony subpoena, BuzzFeed has an iron clad case to file in Federal Court.

      The "courts" do nothing without a formal complaint filed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Nathan F (profile), 11 Dec 2020 @ 8:05am

        Re: Re:

        The "courts" do nothing without a formal complaint filed.

        After two hundred years I would have figured the courts would have figured out that "giving a bad actor enough leeway to hang themselves with when we FINALLY decide to come down on them" isn't working so well.

        Our government is supposed to be a three part system to keep one from overreaching but that doesn't work if one branch is passive and just sits around waiting for someone to complain. When the executive or legislative branch does something that they are expressly not allowed to do or is self evidently against the constitution, the courts need to exercise their power of judging the law and tell them to stop that shit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Dec 2020 @ 12:14pm

        It's not a good sign for the society...

        ...if everyone needs a lawyer to be able to tell them what is a legitimate subpoena and what is a strongly-worded demand letter.

        Maybe we need a mandate that government nastygrams specify This is not a subpoena or court order.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 11 Dec 2020 @ 8:48am

      Re:

      That's not how courts work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Nathan F (profile), 11 Dec 2020 @ 9:27am

        Re: Re:

        And so the other two branches go running around like headless chickens doing close to whatever they want while the judges just sit back and go "its not my problem.. yet"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 11 Dec 2020 @ 5:41am

    This just in...

    ICE announces to rename themselves The American Gestapo (Co-sponsored by the PATRIOT act).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ninja, 11 Dec 2020 @ 8:42am

    Try to subvert the Constitution until it works out. ICE motto.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    grumbles, 11 Dec 2020 @ 9:22am

    I think citizens should start issuing "subpoenas" to ICE.

    "By the authority invested in me (e.i., I have none), I demand ICE provide all documentation including, but not limited to, (1) Why ICE is such a fucked up dumpster fire; (2) all internal memos written since the inception of ICE; (3) a puppy. That last one is not about documentation, we just want a puppy."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Dec 2020 @ 10:20am

    'We meant to do that.'

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Wednesday that it would not enforce a subpoena issued last week demanding BuzzFeed News identify its sources, a retreat from its earlier, stunning attempt to interfere with a news outlet operating under the protections of the First Amendment.

    Gotta love how they got caught sending a bullshit demand and when called on it are trying desperately to look like they're being so very generous and withdrawing it in the hopes people won't realize that it was nothing but a bluff.

    'We're not pushing the matter not because we have no power to but because we're just so very kind and generous you see.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Crafty Coyote, 11 Dec 2020 @ 7:27pm

    I find it weird that ICE can file it's own paperwork in legalese to get untrained defendants (and they're hoping to find gullible judges) to kowtow to them. Private individuals do this and we call them "sovereign citizens" and ICE is trying to do the same

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2020 @ 5:36am

    ICE, one of the very few government agencies actually doing its job occasionally, is the one America-despising Techdirt cries about the most. We're shocked...shocked, I tell you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Dec 2020 @ 12:45pm

      ICE "actually doing its job"

      I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt Anonymous Coward and assume you are just plain unaware of the catalog of crimes against humanity committed by ICE, and why there is a not-small following that has wanted to abolish ICE even before the Defund the Police movement.

      ICE serves as an example of reasons I don't think defunding the police goes sufficiently far.

      Maybe Google abolish ICE and look up their actions regarding Kim Dotcom and unauthorized apple dealers, and then their interest in going after non-felonious immigrants and turning detention centers into disease pits by overcrowding them. And that's not getting into the prison abuse and sexual assault by ICE officers that goes uncharged.

      Maybe go outside your FOX news bubble and look this stuff up. You have the internet.

      Some of us think members of ICE should be prosecuted by the ICJ like participants of the Holocaust. Because it wasn't supposed to happen here in the United States of America.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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