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Invalid Warrant Used in Raid on Iphone Reporter's Home

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Police raided the house of an editor for Gizmodo on Friday and seized computers and other equipment. The raid was part of an investigation into the leak of a prototype iPhone that the site obtained for a blockbuster story last week. Now, a legal expert has raised questions about the legality of the warrant used in the raid.

On Friday, officers from California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team in San Mateo, California, appeared at the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen while he was not there and broke open the front door.

Chen and his wife discovered the officers when they returned from dinner around 9:45 that evening. According to an account he posted online, Chen noticed his garage door was partly open, and when he tried to open it completely, officers came out and told him they had a warrant to search the premises. The warrant had been signed just hours earlier, at 7:00 p.m., by a San Mateo County Superior Court judge. It allowed the police to search Chen, his residence and any vehicle in his control.

The officers were in the process of cataloging the items they had already taken from the premises and told Chen they had been in his home a “few hours already." According to California law, a search warrant may be served between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. unless otherwise authorized.

The officers told Chen he could request reimbursement for the damage to his front door.

Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Chen is protected from a warrant by both state and federal laws.

The federal Privacy Protection Act prohibits the government from seizing materials from journalists and others who possess material for the purpose of communicating to the public. The government cannot seize material from the journalist even if it's investigating whether the person who possesses the material committed a crime.

Instead, investigators need to obtain a subpoena, which would allow the reporter or media outlet to challenge the request and segregate information that is not relevant to the investigation.

“Congress was contemplating a situation where someone might claim that the journalist was committing a crime [in order to seize materials from them]," Granick says.

California state law also provides protections to prevent journalists from being forced to disclose sources or unpublished information related to their work.

“California law is crystal clear that bloggers are journalists, too," she says.

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