A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


By Quill

AP protests FBI’s seizure of package

A package mailed between two Associated Press reporters last September was opened by government agencies last September. They then seized a copy of an 8-year-old unclassified FBI lab report without notifying the news agency or obtaining a warrant.

The package, sent via Federal Express from the AP bureau in Manila to the AP office in Washington, was seized by the Customs Service and then given to the FBI.

Doug Garrison, a spokesman for the FBI, said sensitive information was contained in the document and it should not reach the public. An AP executive, however, said the unclassified 1995 FBI report had been discussed in open court during two legal cases.

“The government had no legal right to seize the package,” said David Tomlin, assistant to the AP president.

The package was just one of several sent between Jim Gomez in Manila and John Solomon in Washington. The two reporters were collaborating on investigative stories involving terrorism.

This is the second time that the government has seized information related to Solomon’s reporting. The Justice Department, in May 2001, subpoenaed his home phone records about stories involving the investigation of then-Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.).

Marriage prompts reporter’s early return

A reporter and photographer team from the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer have been brought back from Kuwait after Tanya Biank became engaged to a major in the Army unit she was covering.

She and photographer Tracy Wilcox were following the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division in Kuwait. Military officials told her she could no longer move forward if the unit goes into combat after she became engaged to Maj. Mike Marti of the 325th. The two had been dating before he was deployed to Kuwait.

The reporting team traveled with the group to Kuwait on Feb. 15, and their last story was published from there on March 10. According to Observer editor and publisher Charles Broadwell, the paper chose to bring them home because Biank’s engaged status would compromise coverage of the 325th by the paper during the war.

The paper had plans to send another reporter and photographer to follow the group.

Media giant’s support of rally raises concerns

Many of the largest rallies in the U.S. during March have endorsed the Bush strategy against Saddam Hussein, and most of those rallies were provided courtesy of Clear Channel Worldwide Inc., the largest owner of radio stations in the nation. The move has caused ethical concerns in some legal and journalistic circles.

Clear Channel radio stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Antonio, Cincinnati and numerous other cities have sponsored such rallies, several of which were attended by up to 20,000 people. The gatherings have acted as a rebuttal to the smaller – but more numerous – anti-war rallies.

Other major media companies have confined war debate activities to reporting and commentary and have not sponsored large or small rallies as has Clear Channel.

Based in San Antonio, the broadcaster owns more than 1,200 stations in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The move breaks new and very shaky ethical ground, since most rallies have been organized and hosted by labor unions and special interest groups during the past decades.

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