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Fishbowl Five with John Solomon

Washington Times Editor John Solomon finds himself in the midst of a widening scandal this week involving the potential government harassment of one of TWT‘s former reporters, Audrey Hudson. Hudson and TWT both sued the Department of Homeland Security last Thursday over what they claim was an unconstitutional seizure of confidential documents during a raid on Hudson’s house by Maryland and Federal authorities. The raid was ostensibly aimed at confiscating illegal firearms owned by Hudson’s husband, Paul Flanagan. But somehow, a Department of Homeland Security agent, Miguel Bosch, also ended up seizing some of Hudson’s personal documents, including notes on stories she had written that contained sensitive information, like the names and numbers of sources.

Now Solomon and Hudson want to know why Bosch took the documents in the first place, what he did with them, and who he showed them to. They see the raid and the confiscated documents as yet another example -along with the AP phone tapping scandal and the persecution of Fox’s James Rosen -of the federal government cracking down on reporters to try to get at their sources. FishbowlDC talked with John Solomon over the weekend about the case and got him to answer some questions for the Fishbowl Five. FishbowlDC also reached out to Audrey Hudson for an interview, but were told via a representative that her lawyers recommended against talking to the press at the moment. For more information about the raid and the lawsuit, check out TWT‘s story here.

John Solomon, thanks for talking with us. So why did Maryland State Police and DHS go into Audrey Hudson’s house in the first place?

Thanks for your interest in the story! As far as we can tell –from Audrey and the law enforcement records –they had some questions about gun ownership in the house, and wanted to check what weapons were in the house, and a search warrant specified what evidence they were looking for.  In the process of executing that, they seemed to diverge from the guidance or authority of the search warrant, went into Audrey’s office, and grabbed a set of reporting files that specifically dealt with a series of stories that we had at The Washington Times a few years ago that exposed problems within DHS-specifically its Federal Air Marshall Service. At the time, Audrey didn’t even know they had been taken. She didn’t learn till a month later when they began returning her materials that they had held them for a month and, we later learned, went through them and read them. And so what started as a routine law enforcement matter has somehow turned into a First Amendment concern for us.

So you think the raid was a pretense to get access to those documents?

As a reporter, you try never to make presumptions beyond the facts. What we know is that when the Homeland Security agent got to the home, one of the first things he did was say “Are you the same Audrey Hudson who wrote those stories about the Federal Air Marshals?” So whether he figured it out when he got there, whether he knew that in advance, we don’t know. But when she confirmed that she was, that should have immediately kicked in the First Amendment concerns over reporter privileges. If anything, they should have been more sensitive about what they grabbed from the house that wasn’t covered by the warrant. We have no argument with the Maryland State Police or the DHS doing legitimate law enforcement work, but once they knew they were in a reporter’s home, the idea of going and grabbing those files, to us, is offensive. We want to know: Do they have copies? Have they gleaned any information from them? And have they used them in any way to harm sources, or infringe on the First Amendment further then they already have? That’s the purpose of the law suit.

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You Know It’s Just a TV Show Right?

Claire Danes could not be reached for comment.

Ha! Seriously though folks, The Washington Times, along with former reporter Audrey Hudson, really is suing DHS. Here are the best ‘graphs from the story:

The newspaper alleged that federal agents accompanying Maryland State Police on the raid took materials from Ms. Hudson’s office that were not covered by the search warrant that authorized the collection solely of evidence about guns and a potato launcher allegedly possessed by her husband, Paul Flanagan.

The seized materials included documents the newspaper had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act as well as notes and memos that identified confidential sources from a series of investigative stories that exposed problems inside the Homeland Security Department’s Federal Air Marshal Service.

Wait, a potato launcher? Read the whole thing here.

White House Press Corps Snaps Over Photo Ban

The White House Correspondents Association has had enough. And so have just about every other media outlet in America. WHCA and more than 40 other news orgs sent a letter today to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to protest the banning of photographers from some White House events. The Obama White House has said in the past that photographers would not be allowed to take pictures of “private” events, but has often released photos of those same events taken by White House photographer Pete Souza. In the letter, the media groups accused the White House of trying to replace “photojournalism with visual press releases.”

From the letter:

As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government. To be clear, we are talking about Presidential activities of a fundamentally public nature. To be equally clear, we are not talking about open access to the residence or to areas restricted, for example, for national security purposes.

They go on to list seven examples in 2013 where press photographers were denied access to events and instead were issued “official” photographs. The events include a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and an event where the whole Obama family met Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, a person they describe as being “of great public interest.”

Full letter after the jump.

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Bloomberg Layoffs in DC

As one of the biggest round of layoffs in Bloomberg LP’s history makes itself felt across the country, sources tell FishbowlDC that less than half a dozen DC-based jobs were affected.

We have also learned that as part of the restructure, Bloomberg’s DC operation will become the editing hub for their Projects team under Robert Blau, and could see growth in the future.

Talkingbiznews.com reports that investigative reporter Elliot Blair Smith and Congressional reporter Tim Homan are among those who have been let go.

When contacted by FishbowlDC, a Bloomberg spokesperson declined to comment.

Are you being affected by the Bloomberg layoffs? If so, let us know at fishbowldc@mediabistro.com or leave us an anonymous tip.

This story was updated at 3:12 to reflect new information received by FishbowlDC. 

So You Think You Can FOIA?

I can haz government records?

I can haz government records?

We’ve all been there: You spend all night on your F.O.I.A. request -cross every “t”, dot every “i”, spray a little cologne on the pages, put the whole thing in a nice plastic binder -and then ship it all off the next morning, only to wait weeks and weeks and weeks for some record custodian to deny you based on some bulls#!t technicality. Then your whole editorial schedule is blown, and you’ve got nothing to write, so you end up cranking out some casually sexist drivel just to meet your blog post quota for the day, and then someone on Twitter makes you feel bad about yourself, .

SUCKS.

If only there were some workshop you could attend that would teach you “how to submit effective government Freedom of Information Act requests that quickly get results.”

Oh, well, guess what, my friends?? I didn’t put the last part of that previous sentence in quotes for nothing! There IS such a workshop! And it’s being hosted in two scintillating parts by the National Press Club on Monday November 18 and Monday December 2 from 6:30 to 8:00 for the low, low price of $15 per class ($25 for both) for members!

Hot damn, what a deal!

The class is being taught by FOIA Research Center founder Lisette Garcia, and participants will “review case studies and learn how to overcome standard objections raised by U.S. records custodians at local, state, and federal levels. The first session will deal with initial requests, while the follow-up session will focus on appeals.”

Sure, it doesn’t sound as sexy as a Drone Summit, but it does seem more useful. And less deadly.

 

 

Oh Great, Now the First Amendment’s Gone Too…

Supreme CourtAnyone who’s been in DC long enough is intimately familiar with the government’s efforts to eradicate the Second Amendment. Eminently reasonable human and originator of sensible policy solutions Wayne LaPierre has made that obvious to anyone within shouting range (And you wonder why we don’t go to the Capital Grille anymore….)

But of course, us media types don’t much care about that because 1) we all have very limp and slender wrists that are incapable of wielding weapons anyway and 2) it’s likely that we would be the victims of more gun violence, if there were more guns, because we make people very angry.

But now the government has gone too far! They’re going after Our Precious -The First Amendment! Goddamnit, that’s the whole reason we have a briefing room in the White House! That’s the whole reason we have a Planet Hollywood DC Newseum!

The Evil Government Culprits this time are the Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. Together they have, according to Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman, essentially eradicated the wall between individual actions of protected free speech and so-called “coordinated” actions with terrorists to actually abet or incite violence.

The case in question is that of Tarek Mehanna, a hapless idiot who attempted to Lawrence-of-Arabia his way to a jihad camp in Yemen, and upon failing miserably, decided to instead translate jihadi propaganda and upload it to the Internet. In some jujitsu-esque twist of logic, the Courts have ruled that this independent act of translation and uploading -which normally would be protected free speech -is actually terrorism because, you know, 9-11 and such.

The whole story is interesting but complicated, and your editor is too hungover to really explain it very well. Just read it for yourself. And weep. And then drink. More.

FBDC Poll: Government Surveillance Crimping Reporters’ Style?

Uncle Sam SpayThe PEN American Center has released a new report saying that surveillance by the NSA and other government agencies has had a chilling effect on American journalism. The report says that 28% of journalists have curtailed or avoided social media activities, 24% have avoided discussing certain topics in email or over the phone, and 16% have avoided writing or talking about a certain subject.

Has the specter of government surveillance impacted your reporting at all?

GMA’s Robach Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

Amy-RobachAmy Robach of ABC News’ Good Morning America revealed today that she has breast cancer after taking an on-air mammogram earlier this year to encourage other women to do the same. In a piece Monday, Robach, a 40 year old mother of five, explains that like many women, she put off getting a mammogram for too long and only did because fellow GMA host Robin Roberts encouraged her to do so. Roberts is a survivor of breast cancer herself.

On November 14th, Robach will undergo a bilateral mastectomy, followed by reconstructive surgery. A spokesperson for GMA could not say how long Robach would be off the air following her surgery, saying only that “she will take as long as she needs to recover.”

For more, check out the article at TVNewser, here.

Rand Paul Plagiarizes, So What?

sticky bandits

Everyone’s in a tizzy about Rand Paul’s cut-and-paste problem, the most recent example of which was reported yesterday. But is it really that big of a deal? At least one victim of the long lost Sticky Bandit doesn’t seem to mind. Dan Stewart, at The Week, whose writing on mandatory sentencing was lifted and included in Paul’s infamous Washington Time‘s column, has an interesting take:

I’m indifferent to being plagiarized because today’s media environment has changed what it means to have ownership of a piece of writing. Once your words are published online, they become part of the currency of the internet. They can be freely woven into others’ articles, quoted at length, or tweeted without context. None of us can afford to be that sensitive about how others use or abuse our work.

Of course, not everyone shares his view. The Washington Times has announced that it is nixing Paul’s weekly column.

Author Readies Ezra Klein for Sainthood

images-3On Sunday, the NYT ran a dialogue among readers on “The Rise of Incivility.” Online of course. People are jackasses online – didn’t you know? And lately cyberbullying has been in the forefront of peoples’ minds as some teens are tragically turning to suicide for relief.

Enter the so-called expert in the dialogue: Mitch Horowitz, who apparently hasn’t heard of Google. If he had, he might have a clue what he’s talking about. Instead, he’s just the author of the the forthcoming One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life. And someone who thinks WaPo‘s Ezra Klein is the epitome of “good humor and adult responses within the political discussion.”

Oh really?

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