[Politech] Reporters Cmte for Freedom of the Press on FBI's Adrian Lamo letters [fs]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Wed Oct 08 2003 - 23:15:48 PDT

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    From: "Gregg Leslie"
    To: "Declan McCullagh" <declan@private>
    Subject: FBI threat of subpoenas in Lamo case
    Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2003 18:53:04 -0400
    I know you've been following this, so here's an update.
    Gregg Leslie
    Legal Defense Director
    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
    1815 N. Fort Myer Dr., #900, Arlington, VA 22209
    (703) 807-2100  web: www.rcfp.org  email: [elided --DBM]
    FBI admits letters were based on error, drafts new version
             A letter from the FBI threatening journalists with possible
             obstruction of justice charges was improper, the general
             counsel's office of the bureau said; a new letter has been
             sent to reporters asking them to "voluntarily" preserve their notes.
    Oct. 8, 2003 -- Letters the FBI's New York field office sent to reporters
    directing them to preserve notes of conversations with suspected computer
    hacker Adrian Lamo were based on improper legal authority, the bureau
    admitted in follow-up letters to the reporters and to The Reporters
    Committee for Freedom of the Press.
    The FBI sent the initial letters to 13 reporters on Sept. 19 as part of its
    investigation of Lamo, according to The Associated Press. The 22-year-old,
    known by the news media as "The Homeless Hacker," allegedly broke into the
    internal computer systems of The New York Times and various other large
    corporations. He was charged last month with computer fraud and unlawful
    In response to a protest letter from the Reporters Committee questioning the
    FBI's tactics, Deputy General Counsel Patrick Kelly wrote that the statute
    used to justify the order "does not apply under the circumstances of this
    case." The statute, the Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act,
    is meant to apply to Internet Service Providers, not journalists.
    The protest letter to the FBI was also signed by the Society of Professional
    Journalists, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and the National
    Press Club.
    Yesterday, a Justice Department spokesman said FBI agent Christine Howard
    did not follow procedure when requesting records from the media. Media
    subpoenas must be cleared through internal review at the FBI and approved by
    the Attorney General's office.
    In his response to the Reporters Committee, Kelly enclosed an example of a
    new letter, dated Oct. 7, that has been sent to each reporter who was
    previously contacted by the FBI. Although the new letter retracts the threat
    of obstruction of justice charges for noncompliance with the request, it
    asks the reporters to "voluntarily take appropriate action to preserve
    relevant records and materials."
    In addition, the letter states that "FBI personnel will be in further
    communication with you to determine whether we can reach a mutual
    Department of Justice guidelines generally require federal prosecutors to
    negotiate with a reporter for access to relevant information before
    obtaining a subpoena.
    -- KM
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