Freedom of press prevailsFor standing up for freedom and being willing to sit in a jail they get my Hero Award of the week.
Attack on 'New Times' was a danger to us all
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas did the right thing on Friday by revoking a subpoena that was an egregious abuse of prosecutorial discretion, violating not only freedom of the press but the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Arizonans.
Chillingly, however, it took the willingness of two courageous newspaper publishers, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, to go to jail in order for this abuse of government power and its wholesale violation of privacy rights to come to light.
Media Executives Arrested in PhoenixWhoa, that sounds bad, they 'revealed grand jury secrets!'
Two executives from Village Voice Media — a company that owns a number of alternative weeklies including The Village Voice, The LA Weekly and The Phoenix Times — were arrested Thursday night in Phoenix on charges that a story published earlier in the day in The Phoenix New Times revealed grand jury secrets.
Until you look below the lede. The GJ 'secret' they exposed was the text of the subpoenas that a special prosecutor served them.
The scope is astounding. Here is a copy of the subpoena (pdf.)
Some of the low lights:
All documents, records, email, notes, images ... meetings, discussions, conversations, communications between or among reporters, editors, employees or other staff members ... all internet web site information for the Phoenix New Times internet site related to the web pages [...]It gets so much worse:
Sheriff Joe's Real Estate Game
Stick It To 'Em
Joe Strikes Back
[...] The information should include, but not be limited to: The Internet Protocol addresses of any and all visitors to each page of [the above.]
The grand jury subpoena also demands Web site profiles of anyone and everyone who visited New Times online over the past two and a half years, not merely readers who viewed articles on the sheriff.And that's when Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin decided they needed to protect not just their reporters, not just their sources, but the privacy of everyone who'd accessed their newspaper's website. And all they released of the secret grand jury proceedings was the warrant asking for this material.
The subpoena demands: "Any and all documents containing a compilation of aggregate information about the Phoenix New Times Web site created or prepared from January 1, 2004 to the present, including but not limited to :
A) which pages visitors access or visit on the Phoenix New Times website;
B) the total number of visitors to the Phoenix New Times website;
C) information obtained from 'cookies,' including, but not limited to, authentication, tracking, and maintaining specific information about users (site preferences, contents of electronic shopping carts, etc.);
D) the Internet Protocol address of anyone that accesses the Phoenix New Times website from January 1, 2004 to the present;
E) the domain name of anyone that has accessed the Phoenix New Times website from January 1, 2004 to the present;
F) the website a user visited prior to coming to the Phoenix New Times website;"
What kicked this whole feud off a few years ago was the newspaper discovering that Sheriff Joke managed to buy over a million dollars worth of commercial property on his sheriff's salary and then attempted to hide the transactions by removing them from the public record because he's a 'law enforcement officer.'
The law he abused was meant to protect cops home addresses' from criminal retribution, not public knowledge of crooked business deals. The newspaper was just doing their job in exposing public corruption. But these days you get fired and/or arrested for that.
Jeebus, we need folks like this in Washington DC! (Umm, I meant, the publishers, editors and reporters, not the sheriff and prosecutor ... we already have enough of those.)
p.s. Here's a bit o' history about Sheriff Joke.