Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's house raided, computers seized (updated)

Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's house raided, computers seized (updated)

Summary: The police raided the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen Friday while he wasn't home trampling all over the U.S. Constitution in the process.

SHARE:'s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) swat team raided the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen late Friday "busting down the door to serve a search warrant that suggests that the site’s role in obtaining an iPhone prototype is being investigated as a felony" according to BTL's Sam Diaz.

The warrant, approved by a San Mateo County judge, alleges that the property seized was “used as the means of committing a felony” and “tends to show that a felony has been committed or that a particular person has committed a felony.”

All the details of the raid and the equipment seizures are posted on Gizmodo. Engadget notes that this probably signals that a criminal investigation is underway by the San Mateo police department and the district attorney.

The warrant's description of property to be seized is particularly troubling.

All records and data lcoated and/or stored on any computers, hard drives, or memory storage devices, located at the listed location including digital photographs and/or video of the Apple prototype 4G iPhone, email communications pertaining to the sale of photographs of the prototype phone and/or the sale of the physical prototype 4G Apple iPhone, internet history, cache files, and/or Internet pages pertaining to searches and/or research conducted on Apple employee Gray Powell, call records, contact lists, text messages related to the sale of photographs of the prototype iPhone and/or physical prototype iPhone and indicia that identifies the owner and/or operators of the computer or electronic device.

BTL's Sam Diaz say it best, noting the judge who signed the search warrant failed to recognize that Chen is an established journalist and is thus protected under the the Constitution.

Amen to that brother!

I went through a similar case in 2006 . Apple filed suit in December 2004 against 20 unnamed "John Does" who they suspected released information about an unannounced audio hardware product (code-named "Asteroid") and was subsequently granted the right to subpoena my Web site, and AppleInsider and Think Secret who picked up the story.

In May 2006 Apple lost the case when the courts upheld the rights of online journalists to protect their confidential sources and put them on par with traditional journalists. In January 2007 the court ordered Apple to pay over $700,000 in attorney's fees associated with the case. (Here's the long version, in case you're interested.)

In Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 (1938), Chief Justice Hughes defined the press as, "every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion."

Like it or not Chen qualifies as a member of the media and is protected under Amendment I of the United States Constitution. The police should return his computer equipment and hope that he doesn't file a major civil suit against the department and the city.


Update: The EFF's Avram Piltch argues that seizure of Chen’s Computers violates state and federal law (via Daring Fireball):

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet’s leading digital rights advocacy group, has also taken a public position on the search, telling us that California’s search warrant is illegal and should never have been issued. In a phone interview this afternoon, EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick told us: “There are both federal and state laws here in California that protect reporters and journalists from search and seizure for their news gathering activities. The federal law is the Privacy Protection Act and the state law is a provision of the penal code and evidence code. It appears that both of those laws may be being violated by this search and seizure.”

Granick said that, even if Jason Chen is under investigation for receipt of stolen property, the government has no right to issue a search warrant, because California law includes exceptions for journalists who are in receipt of information from sources.

Topics: Browser, CXO, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones, Software Development

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  • The Difference

    The difference between your case and Gizmodo's is that your case
    involved knowledge, while this case involves actual physical property. I
    believe the reason Jason Chen is not protected is because Gizmodo didn't
    happen upon this prototype, they actively sought it out and paid for it,
    knowing full well that it did not belong to whoever they bought it from.
    That would be like saying that I could go and buy stolen property as long
    as I go and blog about it later. The two cases are not comparable.
    • Big differences between our cases

      My case was about a document that was leaked to me, it looked real so I posted it. It was proved to be real when Apple sent the cease and desist letter and I took it down. My case involved leaked information about a Firewire breakout box for GarageBand. Asteroid was to be a small peripheral for an extremely narrow subset of pro musicians that use Macs (it ended up getting scrapped and was never released).

      The Gawker/Gizmodo case involves openly paying $5,000 for a device believed to be the son of the Jesus phone for crying out loud! iPhones loved, cherished and revered by over 25 million adoring customers, and everyone in the planet is interested in what's coming next from Apple.

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
      • You and Sam are right on this. I hope that this costs the police department

        big time. The Judge should also be reprimanded,
        unless the police failed to tell him that that
        this involved a journalist getting a story.
        • Boy, Get Informed

          Boy, get informed about the law before showing your ignorance. Read
          my Shield Law post below.
          • It is NOT just me. The EFF looked into it as well. The police are going to

            pay big time for this.
          • LOL... Dream on...

            The law does not offer a free pass to allow
            Journalist to commit a crime... Period.

            The EFF doesn't have a pot to piss in regarding
            this case.

            You guys are so stupid.
      • "everyone in the planet is interested in what's coming next from Apple."

        Please take me off that list. Thanks.
        • Count me too. :-)

          Ram U
          • Which explains why you post on Apple threads so much. (nt)

          • Ok, you got me. :-)

            Ram U
      • Everyone may be interested - so crime is OK?

        Paparazzi often try breaking the law in an attempt to obtain photos that
        the whole world would interested in - they still get arrested.

        And why not just break into safe deposit boxes, there are many of them
        full of info that would make great stories.
  • RE: Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's house raided, computers seized

    Does his constitution and first amendment cover willfully purchasing known stolen goods? I didn't think so either. Its not about him posting, ok it is slightly that, but Gizmodo editors willfully went along with this crime.
    Loverock Davidson
    • He had not idea if it was a real Apple phone until after he could

      disassemble it. And, he notified Apple right
      away. This is about leaking trade secrets, and
      journalists are protected, nothing more. Ok,
      also about a stupid Apple engineer getting drunk
      and leaving his phone in the bar.
      • No, but...

        No, he didn't... However, he was fully aware that it was not the property of
        the seller. That makes him guilty of receiving stolen property, and the
        amount he paid makes it a felony. I'll say again as well, the first
        amendment is not a license to commit crimes just because you write
        about it after the fact. The shield law does not apply.
        • No, but, he immediately took the actions necessary to get it to the

          rightful owner, and that is a huge difference.
          You CAN receive questionable property, IF your
          intent is to give it to the rightful owner, and
          you start the process of determining and
          locating the rightful owner right away.
          • The big difference is

            returning without looking what's inside and open, dissect, announce to
            the world and then give it back. Open, dissect is ok, but announcing it to
            public about a secretly held information is a bit over and can be
            considered under public humiliation.
            Ram U
          • Not at all. Journalists are allowed to divulge ANY information they receive

            no matter how embarrassing or how humiliating or
            how damaging it might be, that is the
            constitution of our country.
          • But they can't break the law getting that information...

            If they got a free pass, then what would stop the
            media from breaking into any business, stealing
            stuff/IP, and then writing about it...
        • "lost" and "stolen" are very different concepts, legally. (n/m)

      • Yeah - you can't be sure the object you purchased was stolen..

        Until you take it apart to see it has circuit boards in it.

        It may have just had some wires and stuff, and been a mock-up.

        Then you might have paid too much for the stolen item. Or worse you
        may have been duped and maybe it wasn't stolen - oh, no, it may not
        be hot. It may legal but fake!!! What a pity!!!

        The guy who found it notified the phone manufacturer that he had a
        phone he found - yeah, that's what you do with something you find,
        you ring the manufacturer's support line.

        You'd never tell the staff in the place you found it, or hand it in for
        them to hold on to in case the owner came back.

        And you'd never take it to the police and tell them so they could try to
        contact the owner, that'd be stupid.

        Oh and that Apple engineer, he was in a bar and he dropped
        something out of his pocket and did not know, or left his phone on
        the table, he must have been really drunk, nobody who is sober or
        reasonably intelligent has ever left their phone behind by accident - so
        it's ok to take his property - he has no rights.

        @ DonnieBoy - my, my you really are very deluded aren't you?

        If you act on those thoughts you'll see yourself in front of the judge
        one day explaining that the guy who'se phone you found had no right
        to it cause he was in a bar!!