Journalist fights government seizure of papers


WASHINGTON -- A free-lance journalist whose personal papers were seized by the FBI as he returned from Nicaragua has gone to court to try to bar the government from doing the same thing to others.

Edward Haase of Kansas City, Mo., was stopped on his return from Nicaragua Jan. 16 by FBI agent Joe Miranda, who said he wanted to check him for 'subversive materials.'


The agent took Haase's personal diary, five pages containing names of organizations doing work on Central America, the draft of an article he was working on and his address book.

The papers were photocopied and the originals were returned to Haase but he said he was worried that the documents and names and addresses might be passed on to the State Department or other government agencies.

In court papers, Haase said Miranda mentioned to him that it seemed he had a lot of 'contacts' and Haase said he was concerned about what the FBI wanted to do with that information.

'I am concerned because as a journalist I can no longer offer my sources of information, either in the United States or abroad, the promise of confidentiality,' said Haase, who worked with political groups sympathetic to the leftist Nicaraguan government and wrote free-lance articles.


At a hearing in February, U.S. District Judge Thomas Jackson ordered the FBI to take all its photocopies of Haase's materials and give them personally to FBI Director William Webster.

Last week it appeared the government was ready to return the materials, but attorney Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, who is representing Haase, said he was skeptical about the FBI promise that no photocopies were made available to other agencies.

He demanded additional proof that the FBI is complying with the court order not to make use of the copied materials. Ratner and the FBI are negotiating about the matter.

In addition, Ratner wants the government to promise that it will not seize the personal papers of other Americans returning from foreign countries. He argued that government agents have the right to stop smugglers and seize drugs, but has no right to rummage through people's belongings.

The government has asked that the case be dismissed. Deputy U.S. Attorney Edith Marshall argued in papers filed with the court that once Haase's materials are returned to him, he has no right to ask the government to not do the same thing again.

Marshall argued that it was 'conjectural at best' to argue that Haase might have to undergo such a search.


A hearing has been set for April 23 on the government motion to dismiss.

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