U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Florida journalist indicted on allegations of conspiracy, computer fraud, wiretapping

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 21, 2024
Tampa, Florida

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
U.S. Department of Justice
Unnecessary use of force?

A portion of the indictment charging Florida-based independent journalist Tim Burke on Feb. 21, 2024, with 14 counts for allegedly violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, wiretapping and conspiracy.

February 21, 2024

Florida-based independent journalist Tim Burke was charged by the Justice Department with 14 felony counts alleging conspiracy, wiretapping and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, in an indictment unsealed on Feb. 21, 2024.

FBI agents raided Burke’s home and office in May 2023 in connection to a criminal probe into “alleged computer intrusions and intercepted communications at the Fox News Network,” according to reports at the time.

In total, federal agents seized nine computers, seven hard drives, four cellphones and four notebooks from Burke’s home and the guesthouse that serves as his office. More than nine months after the raid, only a small portion of the electronic devices and files seized by law enforcement has been returned.

The indictment, which was filed on Feb. 15 but unsealed just under a week later, alleges that Burke and an unnamed co-conspirator used “compromised credentials” to gain access to websites with the live feeds of two New York City-based media companies, and to download files and disseminate them.

Burke is charged with:

  • One count of conspiracy;
  • Six counts of accessing a protected computer without authorization;
  • Five counts of wiretapping; and
  • Two counts of disclosing communications obtained through illegal wiretapping.

Attorney Mark Rasch, who is representing Burke and who created the Justice Department’s Computer Crime Unit, denied any criminal behavior by Burke and warned that the charges could set a precedent that could make routine investigative journalism techniques a felony.

“Timothy Burke committed the crime of journalism, and that’s it. He didn’t hack anything, he didn’t steal anything, he simply reported,” Rasch told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “The analogies that the government uses about breaking in fundamentally misunderstand how the internet works and what the norms of behavior are on the internet.”

Rasch said that Burke appeared at a courthouse in Tampa on Feb. 22 for an initial hearing on the charges, and that first the raid and now the indictment have had a serious impact on the journalist.

“He’s financially ruined and professionally devastated, and it has taken an emotional toll as well,” Rasch said.

Burke did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].