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Professor Hannah Bloch-Wehba Quoted by The Intercept on FISA Warrants to Spy on Journalists

Professor Hannah Bloch-Wehba

September 20, 2018

A Sept. 17 article in The Intercept exploring Department of Justice efforts to monitor journalists in the U.S. quotes Professor Hannah Bloch-Wehba.

The article cites the release of FBI memos from 2015 that lay out an application process through which the attorney general can seek court approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor journalists or media outlets.

The memos were released as part of a lawsuit filed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Knight First Amendment Institute seeking Trump administration rules for when and how the government can spy on journalists, according to the article.  

While some observers voiced surprise, Bloch-Wehba said that the most likely instances for surveillance would involve reporters who are working for an organization such as RT, the state-funded Russian television network and anyone speaking with those journalists.

“The reporters are probably conscious they are subject to surveillance, but their sources might not be,” Bloch-Wehba said.

Some advocates for press freedom have voiced alarm that the Trump administration may have loosened the rules laid out in the 2015 memos, the article said.

Bloch-Wehba said that while the government would face fewer hurdles through traditional law enforcement tools than FISA orders, the media has grounds for unease.

“One concern would be evidence wandering,” she said. “They could learn something about a journalist’s source and then they go back and use ordinary methods to get the same information.”

Bloch-Wehba studies the intersection of civil liberties and cyber issues.