A district court judge ended a two-year battle over the Steele dossier Wednesday, ruling on the side of press freedom and the online news outlet BuzzFeed.
Published in January 2017, the now well-known dossier was a 35-page collection of memos with “unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations” about President Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to court filings.
The dossier claimed at one point that Russian Internet entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev’s companies, Webzilla and XBT Holding, played a role aiding the Russian government’s effort to hack documents from Democratic Party officials.
Gubarev filed a lawsuit in February 2017 alleging his reputation had been damaged by false statements included in the dossier. In addition to BuzzFeed, Gubarev sued its author, former British spy Christopher Steele, who had turned the reports over to researchers working on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro for the Southern District of Florida held that the dossier dealt with a matter of public concern and reporting the details of an ongoing government investigation was made in the public interest.
“The press acts as the agent of the public, gathering and compiling diffuse information in the public domain. The press also provides the public with the information it needs to exercise oversight of the government and with information concerning the public welfare,” she wrote in the opinion, noting that the “fair report privilege” exists to protect the press in its watchdog efforts.
Roy Black represented BuzzFeed. Here is the order.
In other news, Magistrate Judge Reinhart has this interesting order on pen registers. The intro:
This matter came before the Court on a sealed Application by the Department of Justice,
pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 3122 and 3123, for an order directing a cellular telephone company to
install a pen register and a trap and trace device (collectively "pen-trap devices") on the cellular phone of a person suspected of being involved in violations of the federal money laundering laws ("the Application"). The undersigned rejected the Application because it requested "that the Court order the service provider identified above and any other person or entity whose assistance may facilitate execution of this Order to notify the applicant and the law enforcement agency identified above of any changes relating to the cell phone number, including changes to
subscriber information, and to provide prior notice to the applicant and the law enforcement
agencies identified above before terminating or changing service to the cell phone number." I
write to explain the basis for my finding that the relevant statutes do not authorize the Court to
impose this duty on the cellular telephone company.