October 23, 2015 — Video footage recorded by the Center for Medical Progress, an antiabortion-rights group, has been leaked despite a temporary restraining order barring its public release, Politico reports (Cook, Politico, 10/22).
Earlier this year, Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California issued a temporary restraining order against CMP after the National Abortion Federation filed a lawsuit against the organization. The order blocks CMP from releasing any of its secretly recorded video footage of NAF's annual meetings in 2014 and 2015, as well as from releasing dates of NAF's future meetings and the names and addresses of NAF members.
Separately, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena to obtain the footage, as well as footage CMP secretly recorded of Planned Parenthood officials. Orrick earlier this month said he would not block CMP from responding to the subpoena. However, a temporary restraining order barring the videos from being released was not lifted.
Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said members and staff would view the subpoenaed material in a private screening room. He said the material would not be made public "out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety and security of all individuals recorded" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/16).
The footage was obtained by Charles Johnson, editor of Got News?, a conservative website. According to Politico, the footage appeared on the site on Thursday (Politico, 10/22). Johnson allowed another individual, a hacker named Andrew Auernheimer, to take the footage from Johnson's server and share it on torrent websites.
According to the Washington Post's "Morning Mix," Johnson has been served with a legal notice from NAF that includes a copy of the restraining order. The legal notice states that Johnson and GotNews? "are bound (to abide by the restraining order) as 'persons who are in active concert or participation with' [CMP leader] David Daleiden and/or The Center for Medical Progress." Johnson and Daleiden are "friend[s] from college," the Post reports.
The notice continues, "If you make any further disclosures of material covered by the Court's [temporary restraining order], you will be potentially subject to severe legal sanctions."
According to "Morning Mix," Johnson received the video content from a source. According to Johnson, the source likely is a congressional staffer, although the source has not identified him or herself. John said the source sent him an email that included a Google Drive link to documents and video footage (Miller, "Morning Mix," Washington Post, 10/23).
A spokesperson for the Oversight Committee said the panel was unaware of the leak (Politico, 10/22). According to the "Morning Mix," if a congressional staffer leaked the footage, that person could face repercussions.
Meanwhile, some people have suggested the footage was provided by Daleiden, who could be found in contempt of court if a judge finds he did leak the footage ("Morning Mix," Washington Post, 10/23). Daleiden said he did not know who leaked the footage (Politico, 10/22).
NAF President Vicki Saporta stated that the "videos are protected by our temporary restraining order" ("Morning Mix," Washington Post, 10/23). She cited the "unprecedented number of threats against abortion providers" since CMP released the first video, noting, "Since the first video was released, there have been four arsons in Planned Parenthood clinics in different parts of the country. Just [on Wednesday] in another Planned Parenthood facility, an individual with a hatchet destroyed the inside of the clinic."
She continued, "I think Rep. Chaffetz needs to conduct a full investigation to get to the bottom of whether the leak came from Congress" (Politico, 10/22). However, she also said that, "according to published reports, the individual behind these leaks is a personal friend of ... Daleiden's, so we are not certain that it was the result of a congressional leak" ("Morning Mix," Washington Post, 10/23).