Almost a year ago, I posted about Audrey Hudson who suffered a DHS SWAT raid. Hudson is a journalist and, though the stated reason for the raid was her husband’s firearms, the Homeland Security storm troopers snatched all her private notes.
It wasn’t until a month later that Hudson was informed that her confidential papers had been stolen (that’s the word that should be used; not merely “taken”!). Nothing about her notes or property was included in the warrant. They told her that they saw an official TSA document and had to verify it was “legitimate” for her to have it in her possession. It was a document that she had received legally through a FOIA request. It didn’t explain why they also took several other files of her handwritten notes.
Hudson is now terrified about what might happen to the whistleblowers who trusted her to protect their identities.
Yesterday, the Daily Signal reported that DHS has now agreed to pay Hudson $50,000 as part of a settlement. In addition to the money going to Hudson, DHS must
return the seized documents, promise that no copies had been made and any notes about them would be destroyed. In addition, it provides $25,000 to the Washington Times for attorney’s fees and requires the Coast Guard Investigative Service to initiate a review of and provide training on the federal Privacy Protection Act.
Hudson’s attorney, Mark Grannis of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, hailed the settlement as a victory for press freedom.
“The government has bent over backwards to assure us that the seizure of Ms. Hudson’s notes was just an error of judgment, not part of any organized effort to identify her sources,” Grannis said. “We hope that by bringing this claim we have helped to raise awareness within the government that reporters’ notes are legally protected from seizure in all but the most exceptional cases.”
I’m glad Hudson was able to win a victory, but I still worry about the whistleblowers she was protecting. How can we be sure the government is not going to retaliate against them?