FOI DAILY DOSE: Colo. governor’s cell phone records deemed private, NYT reporter fights subpoena in CIA leak case

Colorado governor’s cell phone records kept private

The Colorado Supreme Court may have handed public officials a new way to keep business discussions free from public scrutiny – make the calls on a private cell phone.

The court ruled Monday that former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s private cell phone records would remain private, crushing The Denver Post’s three-year fight to obtain the information.

In a 4-2 decision, the court decided that the records aren’t covered under the state public records law because Ritter paid for the phone personally with no state reimbursements and didn’t give billing statements to a state agency. He only kept the statements for payment reasons, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The Post tried to convince the court that the phone records should be public because the governor used his private cell to make calls during business hours and to discuss official issues.

This ruling could allow other public officials to keep business matters off-the-record by discussing them via private cell phones – an allowance that could cloud government transparency efforts.

NYT reporter James Risen fights subpoena

New York Times reporter James Risen and his attorneys requested Tuesday that a court quash a grand jury subpoena that would force him to testify in the case against CIA leaker Jeffrey Sterling.

The ex-CIA officer is accused of providing Risen with classified information.

Sterling allegedly provided information on CIA sabotage efforts targeting Iran’s nuclear program, which later appeared in Risen’s 2006 book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”

Risen’s attorneys argued that the subpoena represented a government effort to retaliate against the reporter for writing critically of the government and that the information sought by the subpoena was protected under the reporter’s privilege supported by the First Amendment and through federal common law.

Check out Risen’s affidavit on the issue and a response from Sterling’s attorneys also arguing against the subpoena on the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News website.

Risen’s motion to quash the subpoena is scheduled for a court hearing on July 7.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

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  • Art B.

    Unfortunately this debate has become political “correctness” run amok.
    The word “undocumented” only means someone doesn’t have any documents. It could be properly applied to someone who lost everything in a fire including their birth certificate, passport and driver’s license. Furthermore, many people who cross into this country without legal permission do have documents whether they are their own from the original country or documents they create fraudulently to enable them to appear as legal residents for the purpose of gaining employment.
    The word “alien” applies to anyone who is in this country and who is not a citizen though we usually call most of them “visitors” or “tourists.” Someone who has entered this country (or any other country) without having received official permission to do so entered the country “illegally.”
    The question of whether our immigration laws should be changed to allow more immigrants to come to the US and remain here should not be a part of the debate over which language to use when describing those who have entered this country illegally but that’s essentially what has happened with the pressure on journalists to stop using the term “illegal aliens.”
    The fact is that if someone is in this country without official permission to be here they have broken the law, may be arrested and could be deported – even if President Obama has unilaterally waived the law for many people, at least temporarily. (Whether that waiver is itself legal may yet end up in court.)


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