There is a troubling story outside of Washington where journalist Audrey Hudson’s home was searched by federal agents who took documents related to stories and reportedly asked her about stories that she had written that were critical of the Federal Air Marshal program. The agents had a warrant to search for unregistered firearms and a “potato gun.” That apparently required a pre-dawn raid by armed agents of the U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland State Police and the Department of Homeland Security. Presumably, the family was believed to have a whole bushel of potatoes that were considered an arsenal.
Hudson’s husband, Paul Flanagan, was found guilty in 1986 to resisting arrest in Prince George’s County. The warrant stated that police were to search the residence and seize all weapons and ammunition because he is prohibited under the law from possessing firearms.
Hudson was called by her husband who was in the driveway in their Chesapeake home to say that they were surrounded by the officers in full body armor (which appears to also protect against potato weapons). Hudson insists that they were held by the officers as they searched for the weapons. They apparently could not find nary a potato chip.
What they did find were government documents and notes from the Hudson’s files. A Washington Times reporter, Hudson alleges that one of the agents asked if she was the same person who had written a series of stories critical of the Federal Air Marshal program in the mid-2000s. When she said that she was, she says that the officer said that “Those stories were embarrassing to the agency.” According to one report, Hudson said that investigator, Miguel Bosch, identified himself as a former air marshal official.
Even more troubling is her claim that she was not informed of the seizure of the documents. She was only told that “miscellaneous documents” were taken. When she was called by Homeland Security to pick up the documents weeks later, she realized that they had taken the government records. Such documents were not listed in the warrant and all dealt with the Federal Air Marshal stories. The newspaper is preparing a legal action.
The government insists that its agents considered the documents to be “law enforcement sensitive.” The Coast Guard also took her personal, handwritten notes and accessed her personal Facebook page.
Neither Hudson nor her husband were charged or arrested. Given the Administration’s prior surveillance of journalists and their families, it was another troubling case that warrants review. The government is citing fellow employees at the Coast Guard as implicating Flanagan from alleged statements he made referring to himself as a gun collector. Even so, it would be extremely inappropriate to use such a raid to question a reporter about negative stories and remark on the government’s displeasure with her coverage. That concern is magnified by the seizure of such documents from the home of the journalist without even asking for an explanation. The fact that the agent felt comfortable in allegedly raising the negative coverage would reflect a troubling sense of impunity by officers.