CBS News is facing accusations that it seized computers, files, and records — “including information on privileged sources” — that belong to reporter Catherine Herridge.

Last week, CBS News terminated Herridge’s employment as part of a layoff impacting fewer than two dozen employees at CBS News. Her surprise termination sent shockwaves through Washington because Herridge is a respected, award-winning journalist with a storied career. She is seen as a bastion of “old school” journalism, covering major topics the legacy media often ignores.

So how could she end up on the chopping block?


But the story doesn’t end there. According to law professor Jonathan Turley, who spoke with sources at CBS News, executives did something “unusual” after handing Herridge her pink slip.

“CBS officials took the unusual step of seizing her files, computers and records, including information on privileged sources,” Turley wrote in a new essay.

“The network grabbed Herridge’s notes and files and informed her that it would decide what, if anything, would be turned over to her,” he explained. “The files likely contain confidential material from both her stints at Fox and CBS. Those records, it suggests, are presumptively the property of CBS News.”

If true, it’s a strange departure from routine practices for laid off employees — and “nothing short of shocking,” Turley added.

“Journalists are generally allowed to leave with their files. Under the standard contract, including the one at CBS, journalists agree that they will make files available to the network if needed in future litigation,” he explained.

“That presupposes that they will retain control of their files. Such files are crucial for reporters, who use past contacts and work in pursuing new stories with other outlets or who cap their careers with personal memoirs.”

Not only do Herridge’s files contain information she accumulated while working at CBS News, but they also contained records from her 23-year tenure at Fox News.

The problem at the center of the allegation is obvious: journalists abide by a strict ethical obligation to maintain confidentiality with sources.

These agreements are made between a reporter and their source — not a reporter, their source, and the reporter’s employer. Confidentiality ethics are important to Herridge — and she even appears willing to go to jail to protect her sources.

Turley even spoke with Herridge’s union representative, who confirmed the union has approached CBS officials over this “very unusual” situation.