Tim Burke needs your help.

News is something which somebody wants suppressed: all the rest is advertising. —William Randolph Hearst

On May 8th, 2023, FBI agents raided the home and newsroom of journalist Tim Burke and his wife, Tampa City Council member Lynn Hurtak. They seized phones, computers, hard drives, notebooks, transcripts of his conversations with confidential sources, and his entire digital newsroom—as well as Lynn's home and campaign computers. [Update, 5/2/2024: The affidavit filed to justify seizing Tim's newsroom has been unsealed. Read it here.] These items have yet to be returned. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has proceeded to indict Tim on accusations of conspiracy, "hacking," and "wiretapping." Throughout his career, Tim has engaged in journalism that challenges powerful people and organizations. Until this situation is resolved, he will be unable to return full-time to his work of conducting journalism and training others in its practices. He is fortunate to have excellent attorneys defending his First Amendment rights, but those attorneys need to be paid. Your donation goes directly toward helping to offset the enormous costs of his defense. A trusted third party has been selected to administer the fund. Kevin Gosztola, a journalist who has written for The Nation, wrote that the indictment of Burke for revealing the Fox News content means that the Department of Justice is “sending a clear signal to the news media that prosecutors will not hesitate to aid a powerful or influential corporation in suppressing investigative journalism.” As the FPF has also pointed out, confiscating Burke’s computers, cellphone, and other reporting equipment amounts to a form of “prior restraint,” since he would lose any unpublished material, notes, or other communications stored on those devices, regardless of whether they relate to any alleged crime.

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Learn more about Tim's case

Ars Technica, March 11, 2024: Using a published demo password to get a list of URLs, which anyone could have used a software program to guess and access, isn’t that big of a deal. What was a big deal is that Burke’s research embarrassed Fox News. But that’s what journalists are supposed to do—uncover questionable practices of powerful entities. Journalists need never ask corporations for permission to investigate or embarrass them, and the law shouldn’t encourage or force them to. Just because someone doesn’t like what a reporter does online doesn’t mean that it’s without authorization and that what he did is therefore a crime. Filing to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, March 6, 2024: The government seized Mr. Burke’s newsroom without telling the Magistrate Judge that this was what they were doing. The government seized Mr. Burke’s newsroom and more than 100Tb of data without informing the Magistrate Judge that (a) he was a journalist, (b) there was likely to be both First Amendment protected expressive materials and privileged communications with sources and other journalists, (c) the “compromised credentials” were in fact public information and not unlawfully obtained, and (d) the purportedly “hacked” materials were being broadcast unencrypted over publicly-accessible URLs, which means that there could not possibly be a reasonable expectation of privacy attached to them. Because there was no hearing under Rule 41(g), there is no evidence that the government obtained approval to seize a newsroom, or to seize materials protected under the PPA from the required DOJ officials, or that any Filter Team protocols existed. In fact, the government failed to reveal all such information from the Magistrate Judge, who could not tell the most basic information about this case. The government retains journalistic materials in a way that acts as a prior restraint on publication, and which continues to cause irreparable harm to Mr. Burke and to the public, and has done so in callous disregard for his rights as a journalist, in callous disregard for the First Amendment, and in callous disregard for the existence of various privileges recognized by the State of Florida and common experience. Rolling Stone, February 22, 2024: Rasch emphasized in that interview that Burke did not attempt to conceal his activities: “[E]ven a cursory glance tells you where the data came from, and it points right directly to Tim Burke’s IP address. Why? Because he wasn’t being secretive about this. He was going to public URLs from his own IP address. He didn’t try to conceal it. He didn’t circumvent anything. But Fox says it never authorized this, and the government went and ran with that theory.” Columbia Journalism Review, February 29, 2024: The Freedom of the Press Foundation wrote in a statement that the indictment against Burke could have “significant implications for press freedom, not only by putting digital journalists at risk of prosecution but by allowing the government to permanently seize a journalist’s computers.” Seth Stern of the FPF said that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is “a vague, ambiguous law,” and that prosecutors should not be using it as a means of “criminalizing journalists finding information online that embarrasses public figures.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation argued that vague and overbroad applications of computer crime laws threaten to “chill a wide range of First Amendment–protected activities, including reporting on matters of public interest.”

About Tim

Tim is the former Director of Video at Deadspin & The Daily Beast, and is now a freelance journalist and president of Burke Communications, a media consulting firm. He was a 2014 finalist for the Mirror Awards John M. Higgins Award for Best In-Depth/Enterprise Reporting for his work with Jack Dickey in exposing the Manti Te'o dead girlfriend hoax. He was a 2019 National Magazine Awards finalist in Video for the "extremely dangerous to our democracy" Sinclair Broadcast Group video. He is the president of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association and on the boards of trustees for Jobsite Theater and the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.