Exclusive: Feds confiscate investigative reporter’s confidential files during raid
Posted By Alex Pappas On 1:51 AM 10/25/2013 In | No Comments
A veteran Washington D.C. investigative journalist says the Department of Homeland Security confiscated a stack of her confidential files during a raid of her home in August — leading her to fear that a number of her sources inside the federal government have now been exposed.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, journalist Audrey Hudson revealed that the Department of Homeland Security and Maryland State Police were involved in a predawn raid of her Shady Side, Md. home on Aug. 6. Hudson is a former Washington Times reporter and current freelance reporter.
A search warrant obtained by TheDC indicates that the August raid allowed law enforcement to search for firearms inside her home.
The document notes that her husband, Paul Flanagan, was found guilty in 1986 to resisting arrest in Prince George’s County. The warrant called for police to search the residence they share and seize all weapons and ammunition because he is prohibited under the law from possessing firearms.
But without Hudson’s knowledge, the agents also confiscated a batch of documents that contained information about sources inside the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, she said.
Outraged over the seizure, Hudson is now speaking out. She said no subpoena for the notes was presented during the raid and argues the confiscation was outside of the search warrant’s parameter.
“They took my notes without my knowledge and without legal authority to do so,” Hudson said this week. “The search warrant they presented said nothing about walking out of here with a single sheet of paper.”
She provided TheDC with a photo showing the stack of file folders in a bag marked “evidence/property.”
On Thursday, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police declined to address any specifics about the search.
“Due to the ongoing criminal investigation and the potential for pending criminal charges at the state and/or federal level, the Maryland State Police will not discuss specific information about this investigation at this time,” spokesman Greg Shipley said in a statement to TheDC.
At about 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 6, Hudson said officers dressed in full body armor presented a search warrant to enter the home she shares on the bay with her husband. She estimates that at least seven officers took part in the raid.
After the search began, Hudson said she was asked by an investigator with the Coast Guard Investigative Service if she was the same Audrey Hudson who had written a series of critical stories about air marshals for The Washington Times over the last decade. The Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security.
Hudson said that investigator, Miguel Bosch, identified himself as a former air marshal official.
But it wasn’t until a month later, on Sept. 10, that Hudson was informed by Bosch that five files including her handwritten and typed notes from interviews with numerous confidential sources and other documents had been taken during the raid.
“In particular, the files included notes that were used to expose how the Federal Air Marshal Service had lied to Congress about the number of airline flights there were actually protecting against another terrorist attack,” Hudson wrote in a summary about the raid provided to TheDC.
Recalling the experience during an interview this week, Hudson said: “When they called and told me about it, I just about had a heart attack.”
She said she asked Bosch why they took the files. He responded that they needed to run them by TSA to make sure it was “legitimate” for her to have them.
“‘Legitimate’ for me to have my own notes?” she said incredulously on Wednesday.
Asked how many sources she thinks may have been exposed, Hudson said: “A lot. More than one. There were a lot of names in those files.”
“This guy basically came in here and took my anonymous sources and turned them over — took my whistle-blowers — and turned it over to the agency they were blowing the whistle on,” Hudson said. “And these guys still work there.”
The Daily Caller reached Bosch on his cell phone on Thursday. “Before I talk to you, I’m probably going to have to run this by our legal department,” he said.
Carlos Díaz, the chief of media relations for the Coast Guard, said in a statement that the Coast Guard Investigative Service was asked to participate in the raid because the search involved a Coast Guard employee. Flanagan is an ordinance technician for the Coast Guard in Baltimore.
Díaz explained that the files were taken because they found official government papers, which Hudson had obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“During the course of the search, the CGIS agent discovered government documents labeled FOUO – For Official Use Only (FOUO) – and LES – Law Enforcement Sensitive. The files that contained these documents were cataloged on the search warrant inventory and taken from the premises,” Díaz said.
“The documents were reviewed with the source agency and determined to be obtained properly through the Freedom of Information Act,” he said.
Diaz said Flanagan was notified that the documents were cleared and he later picked them up after signing for the files.
But Hudson doesn’t buy the explanation: “That explains the one file they took but does not explain why they took four other files with my handwritten and typed interview notes with confidential sources, that I staked my reputation as a journalist to protect under the auspices of the First Amendment of the Constitution,” she said.
Hudson said she and her husband knew something was up in February when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wanted to talk about a purchase Flanagan made about five years ago.
The court documents note that ATF investigators asked Flanagan if he obtained “possible machine gun parts from a Swedish National.” Flanagan responded that he once purchased a potato gun but threw it away because it didn’t work.
In July, according to the documents, Bosch interviewed several of Flanagan’s Coast Guard colleagues, who said Flanagan spoke often about being a “firearms collector.”
“One party that was interviewed remembered distinctly about Flanagan advising he had recently purchased a Bersa .380 handgun, and observed pictures of firearms similar to AK-47 semi-automatic rifles which were identified by Flanagan as being his,” the court documents state.
The documents also note that Victor Hodgin, the trooper in the criminal investigation division of the Maryland State Police whose name is on the search warrant, accessed Flanagan’s Facebook account in his investigation.
“Records maintained by www.Facebook.com will allow him to further implicate Paul Roland Flanagan in the illegal possession [of] firearms,” he wrote.
Exclusive: Feds confiscate investigative reporter’s confidential files during raid
Hodgin didn’t return a voicemail left on his phone. Shipley, the spokesman with the Maryland State Police, said the “evidence and information developed during this investigation is currently under review by both the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office.”
“A determination will be made by officials in these offices regarding the state and or federal charges that may be placed as a result of this investigation,” he said.
Hudson told TheDC that the couple had a run-in with the Maryland State Police about six years ago. “A neighbor complained on New Years Eve about one of us shooting a gun off the pier here,” she said. “We live right on the bay.”
Hudson said the police gave them a slap on the wrist then. “They knew then we had these guns,” she said. “If this was a problem — that he wasn’t supposed to be around them — they should’ve told us then.”
During the raid, the officers also went after Hudson’s three pistols and three long guns, which she obtained legally.
“I’m a Kentucky girl,” she said. “I come kitchen trained, and firearm ready. I grew up with guns and I’ve always been around guns.”
Hudson has been a reporter in Washington, D.C. for nearly 15 years and was nominated twice by The Washington Times for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a freelancer for Newsmax and the Colorado Observer.
While at the Times, Hudson reported extensively on the air marshal program — specifically about whether Homeland Security officials had lied to Congress and reported protecting more flights than they really were. Using her sources inside the government, Hudson has also reported for years about possible terrorist “dry-runs” on airplanes.
Unlike some other reporters whose sources have been targeted in recent years by the government, Hudson said none of the information she had was classified or given to her by someone who broke the law.
“None of the documents were classified,” she said. “There were no laws broken in me obtaining these files.”
Hudson said she wants to let her sources know that they may have been exposed.
“Part of the reason I’m coming forward with this is I’m scared to contact them,” she said. “I’m terrified to contact them. … I’ve got to let these guys know somehow.”
But hey this President supports transparency and whistleblowers right?!