Armed agents seize records of reporter, Washington Times prepares legal action

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It was not until roughly a month later, Ms. Hudson said, when she was notified that the agents had quietly seized five files from her private office — including handwritten and typed notes from interviews with numerous confidential sources related to her exclusive reporting on the Air Marshals Service.

The search warrant for the raid, issued to Maryland State Trooper Victor Hodgin by a district court judge, made no reference to the documents. A copy obtained by The Times indicates that the search was to be narrowly focused on the pursuit of “firearms” and their “accessories and/or parts,” as well as any communications that that might be found in Ms. Hudson and Mr. Flanagan’s home related to “the acquisition of firearms or accessories.”

David W. Fischer, a private lawyer contacted by the couple, said the raid is a potential violation of Ms. Hudson’s constitutional rights.

“Obviously, the warrant is about a gun, nothing about reporters’ notes,” he said. “It would be a blatant constitutional violation to take that stuff if the search warrant didn’t specifically say so.”

“This is a situation where they picked very specifically through her stuff and took documents that the Coast Guard, or the Department of Homeland Security, would be very interested in,” he added.

The raid could constitute illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment — and the fact that the materials were related to her work as a reporter could violate First Amendment freedom of the press protections.

Once the documents had been “cleared,” Homeland Security decided to return the documents to Mr. Flanagan and Ms. Hudson, Capt. Hahn said.

The Coast Guard, like the Federal Air Marshals Service, is an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

A Reporter’s Word

What concerns Ms. Hudson and The Times is the fact that private reporting documents were seized during the search being conducted on totally unrelated grounds.

While Mr. Flanagan has a police record from the mid-1980s related to the unlawful possession of firearms, including automatic weapons, Ms. Hudson fears her private documents may have been the real target of the search.

“They tore my office apart more than any other room in my house,” she said, adding that agents did not take other potentially non-TSA-related documents from the office.

“I had a box full of [Department of Defense] notes,” she said. “They didn’t touch those.”

Some of the files included notes that she had used to expose how the Federal Air Marshals Service lied to Congress during the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks about the number of airline flights that the service was protecting against another terrorist attack.

An article written by Ms. Hudson for The Times in March 2005 revealed how air marshals were protecting less than 10 percent of domestic and international flights during the month of December 2004, and that the number of flights Homeland Security officials were providing to Congress was higher than the actual number of marshals it employed.

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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