Posts Tagged ‘subpoena’


FOI Daily Dose: NY shield law blocks casino tycoon’s subpoena against Wall Street Journal

Fans of the proposed federal shield law, the Free Flow of Information Act, will be happy to hear that the New York state shield law protected a Wall Street Journal reporter’s rights to keep her email messages and notes concealed from a casino tycoon in trial court last week.

Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands Corporation wanted records from Wall Street Journal reporter Kate O’Keeffe for an article she wrote in December detailing the wrongful termination of employee Steve Jacobs, former head of Adelson’s Macau casino operations in China.

Jacobs filed a wrongful termination suit in the Nevada court in 2010, and in June 2012, he issued a court filing saying Adelson had “personally approved” a prostitution strategy on Macau properties, according to the Wall Street Journal.

After O’Keeffe published Jacobs’ story, Adelson filed a libel lawsuit Feb. 22 against O’Keeffe. Adelson’s lawyers subpoenaed The Wall Street Journal’s parent company, News Corp., asking for all the newspaper’s communications and documents with Jacobs, as well as O’Keeffe’s phone records with Jacobs since Jan. 1, 2010.

Apparently, they thought O’Keeffe’s records could serve as evidence in Adelson’s defamation suit against Jacobs, according to the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

But a four-page opinion by Judge Donna M. Mills on May 31 squashed the subpoena, saying Adelson failed to prove that the material he was seeking was highly relevant, critical to his claim and not obtainable through another reasonable method, which the state shield law requires.

Even so, the decision could be appealed to a higher New York state court, according to the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

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FOI DAILY DOSE: Alleged leaker bites back with subpoenas, Open Gov Partnership holds first big meeting

CIA leaker throws down with subpoenas for gov. employees

Ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling is tossing his own subpoenas into the mix in the court case investigating his alleged leaking of CIA information to New York Times reporter James Risen.

He is subpoenaing three current or former Senate Intelligence Committee employees, according to Politico.

Sterling’s lawyers filed a motion Monday for subpoenas of records from three committee employees, including its budget chief Lorenzo Goco. They also requested permission to subpoena official records from the Senate.

The staffers were working for the committee when Sterling complained to the panel in 2003 about the CIA’s Operation Merlin, which targeted Iran’s nuclear program and was detailed in Risen’s 2006 book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”

Sterling’s subpoenas could lead to legal conflict over whether internal Senate records are exempt from a defendant’s subpoenas.

These aren’t the first controversial subpoenas filed in the case. Risen has received three subpoenas so far, and is awaiting U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema’s decision on whether she will honor his request to quash the third.

If Sterling’s Senate subpoenas are honored, it could help bolster his defense’s argument that Senate staffers were the culprits for the leak, according to Secrecy News.

U.S. hosted Open Gov Partnership meeting

The State Department held the first major Open Government Partnership meeting Tuesday.

OGP is an international project focused on getting solid commitments from various governments to promote transparency and fight corruption, among other things.

The program could help advance the Obama administration’s plans to use technology to develop better governing methods and strengthen democracy and human rights efforts worldwide, according to the State Department’s website.

Topics at the Tuesday meeting included breakout sessions on encouraging civic participation and promoting transparency efforts. Also covered was technology that could be helpful open government tools for governments.

Scan the meeting agenda and OGP brochure for more details.

Put this one in the “win” category for international cooperation on some of the most important issues in government: being open with citizens about federal information and welcoming their participation.

– 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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FOI DAILY DOSE: NYT, WSJ reporters face fight against gov over subpoenas

News orgs file brief supporting WSJ reporter in subpoena controversy

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 46 other media organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Wall Street Journal reporter Jesse Eisinger’s motion to quash a subpoena calling for his testimony in a New York court case.

The case involves a Massachusetts couple that is suing Goldman Sachs for providing advice for a financial partnership that failed when the technology company they were dealing with collapsed under problems with financial fraud.

Eisinger (now a reporter for ProPublica and a 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner) is called to testify on how he found information about the company’s financial issues, which the couple argues Goldman Sachs should also have been able to find if they had done a thorough investigation.

A trial judge said she doubted whether Eisinger’s testimony would be relevant in the case, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

SPJ has spoken out in Eisinger’s defense as well.

Gov hanging tough in subpoena against Risen

New York Times reporter James Risen may have a tough fight in court July 7 as he fights a federal subpoena in a CIA leak case.

Government prosecutors highlighted the need for Risen’s testimony in their case against Jeffrey Sterling. The ex-CIA officer is accused of leaking information about an agency operation involving Iran’s nuclear program to Risen.

The federal government believes Risen’s input is critical to the case because the testimony of Sterling’s wife from a grand jury investigation may not be available in the trial due to spousal privilege, prosecutors said.

An intelligence officer who learned that Sterling may have been a source for Risen may be unable to testify in the trial as well due to hearsay rules, which a government brief argues makes Risen an even more important player in the case.

The New York Times’ decision not to run the story on the CIA operation (although information about it later appeared in Risen’s 2006 book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration”) may also weaken arguments for quashing the subpoena, according to Politico.

The prosecution’s brief also said that the idea of a “good leak” of information shouldn’t be entertained by the court because any unauthorized disclosure of classified data undermines the entire system.

In his motion to quash the subpoena, Risen asked the court to consider merits of the leak in terms of the public interest served by newsgathering, according to a Secrecy News blog post.

– 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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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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FOI DAILY DOSE: NYT reporter subpoenaed in CIA leak case and Wisconsin voting issues

NY TIMES REPORTER SUBPOENAED

A New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winner, James Risen, was subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice for the trial of a suspected government whistleblower.

The accused leaker, Jeffrey Sterling, was indicted in December 2010 by a federal grand jury in Virginia. He is on trial for allegedly providing national defense information to Risen that appeared in a 2006 book called “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”

No federal law exists that exempts journalists from testifying. Risen’s lawyer told The Associated Press he would attempt to have a judge override the subpoena.

The Society of Professional Journalists has, with other journalism groups and news outlets, pushed for a federal shield law in recent years. The proposed Free Flow of Information Act would protect journalists like Risen from turning over confidential sources and notes in federal cases, though there would be certain national security exceptions.

WISCONSIN

In Wisconsin, Media Trackers investigated voting practices during the April 5 election using open records requests.

From a small sample of registrations in 15 wards, Media Trackers found evidence of incomplete voter registrations and possible voter registration abuses.

Providing proof of residence for voters was a major problem uncovered by the records request. In one instance, a voter provided an acceptance letter from the University of Minnesota as a proof of residence, which wouldn’t be deemed acceptable under the guidelines by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

– 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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FOI Links: Obama’s fight against media leaks

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FOI Links: The search for military records and compliance with a subpoena

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