U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Subpoena to uncover confidential source dropped after agreement reached

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 23, 2022

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of a sworn statement filed by Fox News Senior Producer Cyd Upson in June 2022, about her coverage of an FBI investigation into a Chinese American scientist's possible foreign military ties.

May 23, 2022

An executive producer for Fox News, Cyd Upson, was subpoenaed on May 23, 2022, about coverage of a federal investigation into a Chinese American scientist that later led to a privacy lawsuit. The subpoena was ultimately withdrawn.

Fox published the investigative online articles and broadcast reports from February to June 2017. Multiple agencies were investigating the possible foreign military ties of Yanping Chen and the university she founded in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

The articles cited, and included excerpts of, materials from the investigation, such as FBI interviews, Chen’s immigration forms and photos of her in a Chinese military uniform. The six-year investigation was concluded in 2016. No charges were brought against Chen.

In December 2018, Chen sued the FBI and the departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security, arguing that investigators violated her rights under the Privacy Act when her personal information was shared with Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge.

In 2022, Chen subpoenaed Upson, Herridge, then-Senior Executive Producer Pamela K. Browne and Fox News for documents and testimony, in an attempt to uncover the confidential source behind the leak. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented each of the subpoenas here.

According to court filings reviewed by the Tracker, Upson and Browne agreed to provide sworn statements in place of documents or testimony. In exchange, Chen agreed to withdraw her subpoenas to Browne and Upson, but continued to pursue those sent to Fox and Herridge, a subsequent court filing confirmed.

In a June 30 statement, Upson declared that she was never made aware of the identity of Herridge’s confidential source or sources, and has no information that could be used to help identify them.

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