Prosecutor subpoenas videotape of break-in at animal laboratory from newspaper editor

Judge orders The Western Front to turn over footage

WASHINGTON -- A Superior Court judge ordered the editor\nof Western Washington University's student newspaper to turn over\na videotape of a break-in at the university's animal research\nlaboratory in November.

Erin Becker, editor of The Western Front, said the newspaper\nis not going to appeal the judge's decision. Following the ruling,\nthe staff learned that the Animal Liberation Front, an animal\nrights group that says it made the tape and claims credit for\nthe break-in, sent out an e-mail message declaring, "All\nseized documents and video shot will be made public."

"Although the [Western] Front feels it should not\nbe used as an extension of law enforcement in investigative matters,\nthe ALF e-mail makes it clear to us that there is no intention\nof confidentiality," Becker said in a press release.

According to Becker, KIRO Eyewitness News in Seattle sent her\nthe tape of the break-in after another editor requested it from\nthe station. The ALF had sent the tape to the television news\nstation.

Becker said she was subpoenaed to appear in court after she\nfailed to turn over the tape to the university police. She said\nshe refused to give police the tape because they never made any\nattempt to obtain it from the ALF itself before approaching The\nWestern Front and KIRO-TV, which also received a subpoena.

But according to Becker, the judge ruled that The Western\nFront had not established a confidential relationship with\nthe source, leaving the tape unprotected by any privilege.

Although The Western Front ultimately decided to release\nthe videotape, Becker said it was important for the newspaper\nto fight for the right to the materials and information it collects.\n

"It's not that we're protecting the ALF," she said.\n"We just wanted to put up a fight, saying that any time that\na situation arises where there's information that we've gathered-no\nmatter how we got it-we shouldn't be required to just immediately\nturn it [over] to the police. If it has to go to a court and have\nthe proper analysis done there, at least that's more fair than\njust being told that we have to do it or threatened with an order"

reports, Winter 1999-2000