U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

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

Incident Details

Date of Incident
December 1, 2020
BuzzFeed News

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
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.”

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