Did you click on a USA Today story about two FBI agents who were murdered in Florida this past February 2? If you did, the FBI wanted to know who you are.
Why? Who knows for sure? But this we do know:
Last April, the FBI issued a subpoena to USA Today asking for the IP addresses and phone numbers of anyone who clicked on a breaking news article about two FBI agents, Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger, who were murdered by 55-year-old David Huber in Sunrise, FL.
Huber was suspected of possessing child porn. As a team of FBI agents approached his front door to carry out a search warrant in a “violent crimes against children” case, Huber monitored them through his door camera and then ambushed the agents with a hail of bullets as they closed in.
In addition to the two dead FBI agents, three other federal law enforcement officials were also injured. Huber, the suspect, committed suicide.
The shooting happened at around 6 am that morning and the news outlets were saturated with reports of the incident within a few short hours.
For some reason, however, the FBI only became interested in USA Today readers who clicked on the article about the shooting and even then, only within a short 35-minute window, from 8:03 pm to 8:35 pm that night.
USA Today, understandably, refused to turn the information over to the feds and on May 28, a day before the FBI deadline, the parent company of USA Today, Gannet, filed a motion to fight the subpoena.
‘A government demand for records that would identify specific individuals who read specific expressive materials, like the Subpoena at issue here, invades the First Amendment rights of both publisher and reader, and must be quashed accordingly,’ lawyers for Gannett said.
Gannett lawyers cited a Supreme Court ruling that read: “Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publications, the free press as we know it disappears.”
This past Saturday, the FBI withdrew the subpoena, saying it no longer needed readers’ private information because they found the person they were looking for through other means.
Not only should the media be concerned about such FBI intrusions, but so also should the average, news gobbling citizen. After all, it was THOSE people the FBI were really looking for, seeking their IP Addresses and phone numbers, presumably for questioning in their homes.
If the FBI had gotten their way, they could very well promote a new axiom:
“Click it. And we might visit.”