ICE drops subpoena around BuzzFeed News story on Trump administration deportation policy

December 1, 2020

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said on Dec. 9, 2020, that it would not enforce a subpoena issued to BuzzFeed News the previous week. ICE’s subpoena had sought information BuzzFeed gathered in reporting a story on deportation policy.

BuzzFeed’s article, published on Oct. 7, divulged the contents of emails and a memo about ICE plans to implement a Trump administration policy significantly expanding fast-track deportations of undocumented immigrants. The expanded deportation policy was initially blocked in 2019 by a federal judge, but that judge’s injunction was lifted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in June 2020, allowing ICE to begin implementing the wider fast-track deportation program.

BuzzFeed publicly reported on the subpoena, issued Dec. 1, and said it sought information about emails the news organization obtained that had been sent to ICE attorneys. The subpoena demanded BuzzFeed “provide all documentation including, but not limited to: (1) date of receipt, (2) method of receipt, (3) source of document, and (4) contact information for the source of the document.” The subpoena ordered the information be turned over by Dec. 22, 2020, and requested that BuzzFeed not disclose the issuance of the subpoena.

In the article on the subpoena, BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Mark Schoofs said, "BuzzFeed News emphatically rejects any requests for information about possible sources and methods of our reporting.”

On Dec. 9, BuzzFeed reported that ICE would not be enforcing the subpoena.

ICE also issued a statement saying, “In response to the summons, the media outlet subsequently declined to provide details regarding the sources of the unauthorized disclosure of law enforcement sensitive information. At this time, ICE will not enforce the summons and will pursue the investigation through other channels.”

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

Related Incidents

FBI drops ‘unconstitutional’ subpoena for USA Today readership information

April 29, 2021
The Federal Bureau of Investigation subpoenaed Gannett Company, publisher of USA Today, on April 29, 2021, seeking information about people who had read a story the paper published about a shooting that left two FBI agents dead and three wounded. The FBI then withdrew the subpoena in early June.The subpoena sought Internet Protocol addresses and "other potentially identifying information ‘for computers or other electronic devices’” used by readers to access a Feb. 2 USA Today story headlined: “FBI identifies 2 …

Dakota Pipeline operator subpoenas Unicorn Riot over coverage of demonstrations

March 17, 2021
Unicorn Riot and its reporter Niko Georgiades were subpoenaed on March 17, 2021, by Energy Transfer LP, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, for all documents and communications relating to the nonprofit media organization’s coverage of the pipeline project.The subpoenas are part of the pipeline company’s legal effort against several environmental groups, including Greenpeace, and activists that protested against the pipeline in 2016 and 2017, according to The Intercept and other outlets.Energy Transfer demanded all documents including video and …

Dakota Pipeline operator subpoenas Unicorn Riot reporter over coverage of demonstrations

March 17, 2021
Unicorn Riot and its reporter Niko Georgiades were subpoenaed on March 17, 2021, by Energy Transfer LP, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, for all documents and communications relating to the nonprofit media organization’s coverage of the pipeline project.The subpoenas are part of the pipeline company’s legal effort against several environmental groups, including Greenpeace, and activists that protested against the pipeline in 2016 and 2017, according to The Intercept and other outlets.Energy Transfer demanded all documents including video and …

New York federal court quashes subpoena of legal news site Above the Law

February 1, 2021
Legal news site Above the Law's publisher, Breaking Media Inc., was subpoenaed on Feb. 1, 2021, amid a trade-secrets dispute between a legal recruiting firm and a former employee, but a New York federal court quashed the subpoena, saying it would be unduly burdensome to the media company.The suit was brought by legal recruiting firm MWK Recruiting Inc. against former Breaking Media employee Evan Jowers. MWK alleged Jowers "misappropriated trade secrets and breached the non-compete and non-solicitation provisions of his …
More related incidents