FBI subpoenas records of readers of USA Today story; Publisher fights back

Wess Haubrich

USA TodayNew York Post

The subpoena involves a specific 35-minute window on who read an article regarding a shooting that killed two FBI agents and wounded three.

Newspaper giant Gannett is fighting to quash a subpoena served by the FBI to try and determine the IP addresses of those who read a story about a shooting in Fort Lauderdale, FL that left two Bureau agents dead and three wounded.

Gannett is, understandably, citing the First Amendment as reason not to comply. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The subpoena seeks the “IP addresses, and associated dates, times, time zones, user agent strings, communication ports, telephone or instrument numbers (including MAC addresses, Electronic Serial Numbers (‘ESN’), Mobile Electronic Identity Numbers (‘MEIN’), Mobile Equipment Identifier (‘MEID’), Mobile Identification Number (‘MIN’), Subscriber Identity Modules (‘SIM’), Mobile Subscriber Integrated Services Digital Network Number (‘MSISDN’), International Mobile Subscriber Identifiers (‘IMSI’), or International Mobile Equipment Identities (‘IMEI’), for computers or other electronic devices that accessed” the story between 8:03 PM and 8:38 PM on the day of the shootings. The subpoena is signed by a senior Bureau agent in Maryland.

The Bureau says the info sought “relates to a federal criminal investigation” – though it is unclear how exactly. While none of the requested information are names (if indeed USA Today even has such info on its readers), the info requested could easily lead to names and identities.

Gannett’s lawyers have served a motion in federal court to quash the subpoena that further notes how the FBI violated the Justice Department’s own rules regarding this sort of thing. “The FBI has failed to demonstrate compliance with the United States Attorney General’s regulations for subpoenas to the press – regulations that President Biden himself recently pledged the Administration would follow.” Read the full nine-page motion to quash here.

Read the administrative subpoena and Gannett’s fiery reply here.

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Former editor, now dogged-maverick journalist and researcher covering the crime beat. I examine the weird, absurd, and downright infamous in American crime both here and at Real Monsters podcast. Contact: wess@realmonsters.live


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