Turmoil at CBS — Catherine Herridge’s Firing Escalates as Network Seizes Files that May Expose Confidential Sources: Report

CBS reportedly seized files from Catherine Herridge, the network’s recently laid-off senior investigative correspondent. This action included materials that may reveal information about confidential sources, according to an article by Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Chair of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, in The Hill.

Catherine Herridge, an Emmy-winning and nominated reporter known for her work on national security and intelligence, was among the 800 employees Paramount Global laid off in a bid to streamline operations amid financial strain. Her firing has since escalated into a broader controversy.

In his article titledCBS faces uproar after seizing investigative journalist’s files,” Turley sheds light on the concerns that have emerged within the journalistic community at CBS.

Herridge’s colleagues are reportedly alarmed by the company’s unprecedented steps to take possession of her work materials, including sensitive information on sources promised confidentiality.

“There is trouble brewing at Black Rock, the headquarters of CBS, after the firing of Catherine Herridge, an acclaimed investigative reporter. Many of us were shocked after Herridge was included in layoffs this month, but those concerns have increased after CBS officials took the unusual step of seizing her files, computers and records, including information on privileged sources.”

The seizure of Herridge’s files, which span her impressive career at both CBS and previously at Fox News, has sent a “chilling signal” through the ranks, suggesting a potential crackdown on journalistic freedom and source protection.

Turley wrote:

” position of CBS has alarmed many, including the union, as an attack on free press principles by one of the nation’s most esteemed press organizations.

I have spoken confidentially with current and former CBS employees who have stated that they could not recall the company ever taking such a step before. One former CBS journalist said that many employees “are confused why [Herridge] was laid off, as one of the correspondents who broke news regularly and did a lot of original reporting.”

That has led to concerns about the source of the pressure. He added that he had never seen a seizure of records from a departing journalist, and that the move had sent a “chilling signal” in the ranks of CBS.

A former CBS manager, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he had “never heard of anything like this.” He attested to the fact that, in past departures, journalists took all of their files and office contents. Indeed, the company would box up everything from cups to post-its for departing reporters. He said the holding of the material was “outrageous” and clearly endangered confidential sources.”

The move has led to speculation about the motives behind the seizure, with some suggesting that it could be a response to Herridge’s recent investigative work, which has been critical of the Biden regime.

Turley, who has known Herridge for years, expressed shock at the handling of the situation, highlighting the potential breach of trust between journalists and their sources. He pointed out that traditionally, journalists are permitted to retain their files, which are critical for their ongoing work and the preservation of source confidentiality.

Turley wrote:

“These files may contain sources who were given confidentiality by Herridge. The company is suggesting that the privilege of confidentiality (and the material) rest ultimately with CBS. As a threshold matter, that cannot be the case with regard to files that were generated during Herridge’s long stint with Fox News. Yet CBS appears to be retaining those files, too.

When sources accept confidentiality assurances, it is an understanding that rests with the reporter. It is a matter of trust that can take a long time to establish on a personal level between a reporter and a source.

It is certainly understood that the network stands behind that pledge. However, most sources understand that their identity and information will be kept protected by the reporter and only disclosed to a select group of editors or colleagues when necessary. It is the reporter who implicitly promises to go to jail to protect confidentiality — and many have done so. Such agreements are less likely to occur if sources are told that any number of unnamed individuals, including non-journalists, could have access or custody of these files.”

A source within the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) confirmed to Turley that the union is extremely concerned about CBS’s actions and is considering all available options to address the issue.

It can be recalled that in August, the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Christopher Cooper, ordered Herridge to sit down for a sworn deposition regarding a confidential source she used for a 2017 story she covered on a Department of Defense-funded school that was at the center of federal investigations over Chinese military ties while she was at Fox News.

The judge ordered Herridge to turn over her source(s) in response to a lawsuit that was filed by Chinese-American scientist Yanping Chen against the FBI. Chen subpoenaed Herridge in an effort to find out who her sources were.

Herridge argued she should not be forced to disclose her source because of her First Amendment rights.

Judge Cooper, an Obama appointee, disagreed and forced Herridge to unmask her source.

“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 wrote in the ruling in August. “But applying the binding case law of this Circuit, the Court concludes that Chen’s need for the requested evidence overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege in this case.”

Herridge refused to disclose her source during the deposition and faced contempt charges and potential jail time, The Epoch Times reported.

“With contempt proceedings now teed up, one of two outcomes appears likely: either Herridge will be held in contempt in the near future and can immediately appeal that order, or, as sometimes occurs in these cases, the sources may release Herridge from the privilege rather than watch her undergo the consequences of contempt,” Judge Cooper wrote in an order.

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