The Washington Times is preparing a lawsuit after federal agents raided the Maryland home of award-winning investigative reporter Audrey Hudson and confiscated her notes.
The agents had a warrant, but it was for unregistered firearms suspected of belonging to her husband. Only after they left did Hudson realize that some of her notes, which included interviews with confidential sources, were missing. The notes pertained to her reporting on problems within the Department of Homeland Security's federal air marshal service.
During the raid, a Homeland Security agent asked Hudson if she was the reporter who had written the air marshal stories for the Times.
"This violates the very premise of a free press."
"There is no reason for agents to use an unrelated gun case to seize the First Amendment protected materials of a reporter," says John Solomon, the conservative newspaper's editor, in the Times' own story about the incident. "This violates the very premise of a free press, and it raises additional concerns when one of the seizing agencies was a frequent target of the reporter’s work."
The Coast Guard, which orchestrated the raid, says there was no wrongdoing.
The Times says the search and seizure was unconstitutional because the warrant was specifically for firearms and communication related to the acquisition of firearms. The damage is done, however; the department had Hudson's notes for more than a month.
The case is alarming in light of the federal government's attempts to hunt down whistleblower Edward Snowden as well as the Justice Department's recent surveillance of reporters at the Associated Press.