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Judge orders Catherine Herridge to reveal sources for stories on FBI, Chinese American scientist

The scientist has already deposed 18 current and former government employees but she has been unable to confirm the sources for the story.

Published: August 7, 2023 8:40am

Updated: August 7, 2023 10:20am

A federal judge ordered CBS News senior correspondent Catherine Herridge to reveal her sources for a series of stories about the FBI's investigation of a Chinese American scientist back when she worked for Fox News.

The order last week from U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington D.C. comes after scientist Yanping Chen filed a lawsuit against the FBI, claiming that the agency violated the privacy act by improperly leaking information about her.

While working at Fox News in 2017, Herridge used a confidential source or sources to obtain material about the federal counterintelligence probe of Chen. 

The Fox series focused on Chen, who was associated with China's People's Liberation Army and is president of the taxpayer-funded University of Management and Technology in Rosslyn, Va. Chen's husband, J. Davidson Frame, is dean of the university. The FBI raided the school twice in 2012, but even after the raids, it still received more than $6 million from the Defense Department.

As part of her case against the FBI, Chen subpoenaed Herridge and Fox in an attempt to reveal the source(s) for the articles. Both Fox and Herridige fought the move by arguing that the judge should quash the subpoenas because the press is protected under the First Amendment.

"The Court recognizes both the vital importance of a free press and the critical role that confidential sources play in the work of investigative journalists like Herridge," Cooper, an Obama appointee, wrote in his ruling. "... Chen’s need for the requested evidence overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege in this case."

The judge limited Chen's deposition subpoena to only include non-privileged matters related to the Privacy Act claim, but Chen's document subpoena was deferred. 

Chen has already deposed 18 current and former government employees, including four FBI employees, and obtained 22 government declarations, but she has been unable to confirm the sources for the Fox story, according to court documents.

The ruling is raising concerns about protections for the press.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Director Gabe Rottman told CNN: "While the Privacy Act provides essential protections for the public, using it to breach reporter-source confidentiality poses significant risks to a free press."

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