Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are drafting a policy that would force agents to get approval from senior leaders for any attempt to gain information from reporters through administrative subpoenas, reports BuzzFeed News. The development of a new policy comes more than a year after ICE issued an administrative subpoena during the Trump administration demanding that BuzzFeed News identify its sources. The move was met with criticism from media rights organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and even former ICE leaders, who called it a blatant overreach. The agency later backed down.
The new policy, which follows a congressional directive in the most recent government funding bill, would require ICE personnel to elevate decisions about whether to issue administrative subpoenas to the news media to the “the most appropriate senior ICE official, such as the ICE Director.” The agency must make sure that its employees know of this new policy through training. “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to protecting the civil rights of all individuals including press freedoms,” said ICE spokesperson Tamara Spicer. “Based off language in the FY2022 appropriation bill, ICE is taking immediate steps to begin drafting a policy regarding the issuance of administrative subpoenas to members of the news media. The policy will elevate those decisions to the most appropriate senior agency official for review and approval and will ensure that appropriate training is provided to personnel.” Jay Tilton, a spokesperson for the Senate Appropriations Committee, said, Given the fundamental First Amendment issues involved, the committee thought it prudent to direct ICE to develop such a policy using the long-standing DOJ policy as a guidepost.”