The publisher of USA Today is fighting a very unusual subpoena from the FBI seeking information that could identify readers of a story about a shooting in Florida earlier this year. The subpoena served on Gannett in April orders the publisher to turn over Internet addresses and cellphone information for people who read the story online during a 35-minute window on Feb. 2, reports Politico, The story about a shooting that killed two FBI agents and wounded three others was published hours after the suspect, David Lee Huber, was killed in an exchange of gunfire with agents. The agents had been trying to serve a search warrant in connection with a child pornography case.
The subpoena says it "relates to a federal criminal investigation" but does not explain the nature of the investigation or why the FBI wants to identify the readers. Lawyers for Gannett have filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that it violates both the First Amendment and Justice Department's regulations for subpoenas to the press. "A government demand for records that would identify specific individuals who read specific expressive materials, like the Subpoena at issue here, invades the First Amendment rights of both publisher and reader, and must be quashed accordingly," lawyers for Gannett wrote. (Read more FBI stories.)