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OverREACTing: Dissecting the Gizmodo Warrant

Apr 28, 2010, 21:33 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Matt Zimmerman)

"Federal and California law both protect reporters against police searches aimed at uncovering confidential sources or seizing other information developed during newsgathering activities. Yet on Friday, agents with the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) executed a search warrant at Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home, searching for evidence related to Gizmodo's scoop on what appears to be a pre-release version of Apple's next iPhone model. The warrant does not reveal whether Chen himself is considered a criminal suspect, or what alleged crime the police are investigating, but Chen was not arrested. All of his computers and hard drives (among other materials) were seized for further search and analysis.

"Under California and federal law, this warrant should never have issued. First, California Penal Code Section 1524(g) provides that "[n]o warrant shall issue for any item or items described in Section 1070 of the Evidence Code." Section 1070 is California's reporter's shield provision (which has since been elevated to Article I, § 2(b) of the California Constitution). The items covered by the reporter's shield protections include unpublished information, such as "all notes, outtakes, photographs, tapes or other data of whatever sort," if that information was "obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving or processing of information for communication to the public."

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