Reporters Committee on Press Freedom Files Amicus Supporting FFFF

On Sunday, 03 November 2019, the Reporters Committee on Press Freedom released an article [HERE] outlining their read on the case against us. They see the overreach and concern to journalists being posed by Fullerton’s read on the law.

“The prior restraint sought here is, of course, concerning. But this is the first case we’re aware of where the computer crime laws have been misused so brazenly against members of the news media. First, the conduct alleged — accessing publicly available documents over the public internet — is clearly not hacking. A court finding that accessing publicly available documents over the public internet constitutes hacking would pose serious concerns for data journalists.”

Two days later, 05 Nov, the same day the City Council voted 4-1 to continue the lawsuit against this blog and two of your humble friends, the RCPF filed an amicus brief supporting us in our appeals court effort to overturn the Temporary Restraining Order issued against us.

You can read the entire RCFP Amicus Brief [HERE]. Some highlights are as follows.

The allegations:

“The essence of the City’s allegations in this case is that bloggers reporting on newsworthy matters of clear public interest (namely, potential government misconduct) violated federal and state hacking laws by accessing information that was made available online by the City to all the world. The City claims it is entitled not only to an extraordinary prior restraint on publication but also damages, in part for claims against the City for breach of confidentiality caused by the City’s own cybersecurity lapses.”

This was not hacking:

“If Amicus’s reading of the declaration of the City’s information technology expert is correct, one did not even need a username or password to access files in the Dropbox account maintained by the City, in which it commingled allegedly sensitive and privileged information with material that it affirmatively invited public records requesters to download.”

The theft from a “house” analogy doesn’t work:

“A public website, including the Dropbox account here, is not like a “house.” When an entity chooses to make information available to the public on the internet, without a technical access restriction like a password, that information can legally be accessed by anyone.”

VPNs/TOR are industry practice:

“It is true that the use of a VPN and Tor serves to protect user anonymity, and that “even some journalists routinely use” them. Id. Indeed, the use of such services is not only commonplace among journalists—it is a recommended industry practice.”

“Everyone should be using encrypted services and applications to protect their communications. In fact, in 2017, the American Bar Association’s Committee on Ethics and Legal Responsibility recommended that lawyers use “high level encryption” or other “strong protective measures” to protect sensitive client information.”

Read the whole thing, it’s worth it. We’ll bring more updates as they happen.

Fullerton City Council Transparency Watch Your Wallet

19 thoughts on “Reporters Committee on Press Freedom Files Amicus Supporting FFFF

    1. As hinted yesterday, we received an anonymous piece of correspondence with a copy of the separation agreement between “Lieutenant” Kathryn Hamel and the City of Fullerton.

      It is quite an interesting read. We aren’t the only outlet to receive this so we’re curious to see what coverage, if any, this receives in the press.

      From what we have gathered Officer Hamel had at least two internal affairs investigations into her actions. It is alleged that one of them was for giving false statements.

      These internal investigations were dropped as a condition of this settlement specifically to avoid disclosure under the law known as SB1421.

      To quote the agreement (bold emphasis added, caps lock in original):

      “The City will revise its Notice of Intent to Discipline Hamel to remove allegations relating to dishonesty, deceit, untruthfulness, false or misleading statements, ethics or maliciousness. The Interim Police Chief will place a notice in the file indicating that, pursuant to settlement, all charges against Hamel, including charges relating to dishonesty, deceit, untruthfulness, false or misleading statements, ethics or maliciousness were never resolved or proven because there was no Skelly hearing or opportunity for appeal and, accordingly, are not sustained.

    2. Fullerton VS FFFF – Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of FFFF National press freedom organization waded into the First Amendment fight in Fullerton after an Orange County Superior Court judge barred a Fullerton blog and two residents from publishing secret city hall documents. Finally hits media– Voice of O C
      FULLERTON RECORDS LAWSUIT
      Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press Supports Local Blogger’s Lawsuit Against Fullerton Over Secret City Hall Documents- https://voiceofoc.org/tag/fullerton-records-lawsuit.

          1. When he thought he could get away with it he voted with Flory and Fitzgerald. When the light came on he got religion.

  1. Those who can, do. Those who can’t go to work in City government, especially Fullerton.

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