By Tim Cushing
They say “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Sometimes, though, sunshine is the best RAID. When you’ve got government cockroaches (feel free to pronounce it like Tony Montana) trying to crawl all over your stuff, the best thing you can do is point all the wattage/candlepower you can on its indiscretions.
Earlier this month, ICE tried to pull some fucked up shit. It sent a subpoena — one issued by its office, not a judge — to BuzzFeed. It asked the journalists there to turn over information on their sources, apparently in hopes of closing the loop on internal investigations into leaked documents.
BuzzFeed refused. Even better, BuzzFeed posted the bullshit “request” ICE made — one that asked the site’s journalists to remain silent in the face of government overreach. The subpoena came with this request appended;
“You are requested not to disclose the existence of this summons for an indefinite period of time. Any such disclosure will impede this investigation and thereby interfere with the enforcement of federal law.”
BuzzFeed ignored this, along with the rest of the subpoena. Which it should. This was just internal paperwork masquerading as a government-sanctioned order. ICE has no legal right to demand information on BuzzFeed’s sources. It seems highly unlikely any court would allow this incursion on First Amendment protections. Bypassing the court by issuing its own paperwork shouldn’t be allowed. But somehow it is. Journalistic concerns know these requests are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. The problem is that not everyone knows that and degenerates like ICE are counting on people being ignorant of their Constitutional rights and protections.
BuzzFeed knows what the government can and can’t do without judicial blessing. So it published its refusal along with ICE’s faux “demand” it remain silent about the agency’s attempted Constitutional bypass. In response to its garbage being made public domain, ICE has rescinded its attempt to turn confidential sources into government witnesses/prosecution targets.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Wednesday that it would not enforce a subpoena issued last week demanding BuzzFeed News identify its sources, a retreat from its earlier, stunning attempt to interfere with a news outlet operating under the protections of the First Amendment.
By “won’t,” ICE means “can’t.” It would be the rare judge that would approve of ICE violating long-held First Amendment protections for journalists and their sources. Even if they found a compliant judicial pawn, any challenge by BuzzFeed would see this bogus subpoena tossed onto the trash heap of ICE’s trash history by the next judge down the line.
The government cannot do this. And the government knows this. That ICE even tried indicates it’s been huffing whatever the Trump administration has been shoving into its paper bags. Just because the outgoing Prez has a hard-on for booting brown people out of the country doesn’t change the Constitutional calculus.