U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Subpoena to uncover confidential source dropped following sworn statement

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 14, 2022

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of a sworn statement filed by former Fox News producer Pamela K. Browne in June 2022, about her coverage of an FBI investigation into a Chinese American scientist's possible foreign military ties.

June 14, 2022

Broadcast journalist Pamela K. Browne was subpoenaed on June 14, 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 The subpoena was ultimately withdrawn.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 then-Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge.

In 2022, Chen subpoenaed Browne, Herridge, Fox Executive Producer Cyd Upson 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, Browne and Upson ultimately 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 the subpoenas to Fox and Herridge, a subsequent court filing confirmed.

In a June 30 statement, Browne 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. She also confirmed that she left her position at Fox in late 2018, and has no access to the electronic devices, phone or email address that she used to communicate about the reports.

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