The Washington Times and one of its former reporters are suing the Department of Homeland Security for seizing reporting materials during an August raid during which federal authorities used a search warrant for an unrelated matter.
According to the newspaper,
federal agents took materials from reporter Audrey Hudson's home office, including notes, memos, and confidential sources about a series investigative stories she had written about problems inside the Homeland Security Department's Federal Air Marshal Service.
The search warrant authorized the seizure only of evidence related to guns and a potato launcher allegedly possessed by her husband, Paul Flanagan.
At the time of the raid, one agent specifically asked Hudson whether she was the reporter who wrote the stories about the Air Marshal Service.
The Times wants the federal court to force the agency to return the materials, and the court filing argues that the seizure violated Hudson's and the newspaper's Fourth and First Amendment rights.
"There was no basis for the law enforcement officers to open and inspect the file folders during the search, much less to seize the contents," the newspaper argues in its filing.
The Times said it has "substantial reason to believe that the information contained in the five file folders seized from Hudson's home office has been disseminated to or within multiple federal agencies," and is asking permission to take testimony from an agent who attended the raid to investigate how widely the documents were distributed.
Hudson wrote a series of articles between 2005 and 2009 that were critical of the Homeland Security Department, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Air Marshal Service. The reports ultimately led to a congressional investigation into operational failures within the agencies.
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