CNBC is reporting that Judge Clifford Cretan, who approved the original search warrant which led to the raid on Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen’s house, is releasing the warrant itself. It’s an easy decision to make; Wired already released the name of the person who sold the iPhone to Gizmodo, and most of the details are extremely public knowledge. So what does the warrant show?
First, it shows that Apple did indeed call the San Mateo police department to report the iPhone stolen and request an investigation, which was the catalyst for this whole disaster. The case was turned over to REACT, the state’s high-tech crimes unit, to investigate.
But more importantly, it explicitly refers to Brian Hogan, the person who found and sold the iPhone, as a suspect, while Jason Chen is not referred to as a suspect. It also (for the last time, people) calls Gizmodo an “Internet based magazine,” which, along with both common sense and the opinions of legal experts, should put to rest the ridiculous idea that there’s somehow a debate over whether bloggers count as journalists under California’s journalist protection Shield Law. It’s been proven through precedent in O’Grady vs. Superior Court, for one thing.
The warrant does seem to ignore the problem that Chen works from home, thus making his home an extension of his office, which in the case of a journalist is under certain legal protections.
The warrant shows that investigators searched Chen’s home looking for information on Brian Hogan, rather than treating Chen, Gizmodo, or Gawker Media (Gizmodo’s parent company) as a suspect. This could prove a major roadblock for the investigation–there are very strict rules regarding the treatment of a journalist’s source, especially in the ways investigators can and cannot go through the journalist to get to that source. A lot of this may come down to whether the iPhone is treated as stolen property or information, but a lot of it won’t–without a criminal case against Gizmodo, everything found and seized from Chen’s house may well be thrown out.
Check out our interview with trade secrets expert Lawrence J. Siskind here for more insight on the legal implications of the case.