A photographer from Indiana, who took pictures of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, is suing the House Jan. 6 Committee after it issued a subpoena for her telephone records.
Amy Harris, a freelance photojournalist, argues the subpoena violates her First Amendment rights. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and Time magazine.
The House committee issued a subpoena for Harris’ cellphone provider, Verizon, last month. The subpoena requests Harris’ phone records, including texts, calls and other means of communication made between Nov. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31.
The lawsuit claims that during that timeframe, Harris was using her personal cellphone on a project documenting far-right extremist group the Proud Boys and their leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio. Harris claims that turning over these records to the House Select Committee would not only intrude on her privacy but also forces her to reveal confidential sources.
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“The subpoena violates the core protections afforded to journalists pursuant to the First Amendment,” the lawsuit reads. “Furthermore, it seeks to undermine these fundamental protections without affording Harris fair notice and an opportunity to challenge its legality by demanding the records be turned over just two weeks after the subpoena was issued.”
Top officials who have been subpoenaed include Mark Meadows, former chief of staff for President Trump, and senior Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.
In December 2020, Harris began covering the Proud Boys and Tarrio after meeting him in the fall, according to court documents.
On Jan. 4, Harris traveled to Washington as part of her coverage of the far-right extremist group and its members. Shortly afterward, however, Tarrio was arrested upon entering from Florida on one misdemeanor charge and later, two felony counts of possession of high-capacity ammunition feeding devices which were discovered after his arrest.
A couple of days later, Harris then went downtown to cover various “Stop the Steal” rallies as a part of her Proud Boys coverage. She was already outside the Capitol when she found herself in a crowd pushing toward the building.
The attack on the Capitol was in response to former President Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him.
At one point, Harris said she lost her phone and did not have it while she was documenting the attack. Her photos were later published in the Washington Post, Cincinnati Enquirer, Gothamist, TheGuardian and Press and Journal in Scotland.
Harris later retrieved her phone from the Hyatt Hotel in D.C. after a member of the Proud Boys found it and dropped it off, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims the subpoena violates the First Amendment, along with the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment and the right to privacy in the Fourth Amendment.
“The information sought by the Verizon subpoena is expansive and invasive,” the lawsuit says. “Harris has a reasonable expectationof privacy in her personal cellphone data.”
Harris is not the only one suing the committee. Meadows is suing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the members of the Jan. 6 committee.
Meadows is asking the U.S. District Court of D.C. to invalidate the subpoenas he’s received from the committee. He argues that the committee “acts absent any valid legislative power and threatens to violate longstanding principles of executive privilege and immunity that are of constitutional origin and dimension.”
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