The Justice Department withdrew an FBI subpoena for USA Today records that would identify the readers of a February article about a Florida shooting that killed two agents and injured three others, according to USA Today.
The FBI last month filed a motion in federal district court in Washington DC demanding records including IP addresses and other identifying information “for computers and other electronic devices" that clicked on the article during a 35-minute time period in February, arguing it was related to their criminal investigation.
The newspaper’s parent company Gannett fought the subpoena, arguing that the FBI “has filed to demonstrate compliance” with rules regarding press freedom.
The article and the investigation are focused on David Huber, a child pornography suspect who shot five FBI agents in February before killing himself.
FBI withdraws motion:
The FBI ultimately withdrew its motion after USA Today reported on it last week.
The Justice Department told USA Today that it withdrew the motion after finding their target through other means.
"The government's own guidelines require the FBI to pursue alternative sources before subpoenaing a newspaper," said Charles Tobin, who represents Gannett. "This is a reminder of why that restraint makes perfect sense."
DOJ under fire for targeting press:
The DOJ withdrew its subpoena on the same day that it announced it would no longer seek reporters’ phone records in leak investigations.
The announcement came after it was reported that the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump secretly obtained the phone records of reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN to identify leakers.
"Going forward, consistent with the President's direction, this Department of Justice – in a change to its longstanding practice – will not seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media doing their jobs," Justice Department spokesman Anthon Coley said in a statement.