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Exclusive: Feds confiscate investigative reporter’s confidential files during raid

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

Hudson said that investigator, Miguel Bosch, identified himself as a former air marshal official.

But it wasn’t until a month later, on Sept. 10, that Hudson was informed by Bosch that five files including her handwritten and typed notes from interviews with numerous confidential sources and other documents had been taken during the raid.

“In particular, the files included notes that were used to expose how the Federal Air Marshal Service had lied to Congress about the number of airline flights there were actually protecting against another terrorist attack,” Hudson wrote in a summary about the raid provided to TheDC.

Recalling the experience during an interview this week, Hudson said: “When they called and told me about it, I just about had a heart attack.”

She said she asked Bosch why they took the files. He responded that they needed to run them by TSA to make sure it was “legitimate” for her to have them.

“‘Legitimate’ for me to have my own notes?” she said incredulously on Wednesday.

Asked how many sources she thinks may have been exposed, Hudson said: “A lot. More than one. There were a lot of names in those files.”

“This guy basically came in here and took my anonymous sources and turned them over — took my whistle-blowers — and turned it over to the agency they were blowing the whistle on,” Hudson said. “And these guys still work there.”

The Daily Caller reached Bosch on his cell phone on Thursday. “Before I talk to you, I’m probably going to have to run this by our legal department,” he said.

Carlos Díaz, the chief of media relations for the Coast Guard, said in a statement that the Coast Guard Investigative Service was asked to participate in the raid because the search involved a Coast Guard employee. Flanagan is an ordinance technician for the Coast Guard in Baltimore.

Díaz explained that the files were taken because they found official government papers, which Hudson had obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“During the course of the search, the CGIS agent discovered government documents labeled FOUO – For Official Use Only (FOUO) – and LES – Law Enforcement Sensitive. The files that contained these documents were cataloged on the search warrant inventory and taken from the premises,” Díaz said.

“The documents were reviewed with the source agency and determined to be obtained properly through the Freedom of Information Act,” he said.

Diaz said Flanagan was notified that the documents were cleared and he later picked them up after signing for the files.

But Hudson doesn’t buy the explanation: “That explains the one file they took but does not explain why they took four other files with my handwritten and typed interview notes with confidential sources, that I staked my reputation as a journalist to protect under the auspices of the First Amendment of the Constitution,” she said.

Hudson said she and her husband knew something was up in February when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wanted to talk about a purchase Flanagan made about five years ago.

The court documents note that ATF investigators asked Flanagan if he obtained “possible machine gun parts from a Swedish National.” Flanagan responded that he once purchased a potato gun but threw it away because it didn’t work.

In July, according to the documents, Bosch interviewed several of Flanagan’s Coast Guard colleagues, who said Flanagan spoke often about being a “firearms collector.”

“One party that was interviewed remembered distinctly about Flanagan advising he had recently purchased a Bersa .380 handgun, and observed pictures of firearms similar to AK-47 semi-automatic rifles which were identified by Flanagan as being his,” the court documents state.