Wednesday, November 23, 2011

FCC "Goes Fishing" in Baxter Proceeding

The FCC seems to have embarked on a fishing expedition in its "first request for production of documents" as part of its enforcement proceeding against controversial ham Glenn Baxter, K1MAN. Baxter is accused of operating his station without a control operator present, of transmitting material of a commercial nature and other violations of amateur rules.

In its "first request," the FCC asks Baxter to submit, among other things, all documents that he has previously sent to, or received from, the FCC (one would think the FCC already had this material in its files - ed.); all published or unpublished documents - including drawings, cartoons and photographs, relating to amateur radio, the FCC, its staff or rules; and any documents "relating to any amateur radio transmission for which Baxter received or was promised, directly or indirectly, valuable consideration." (Apparently, the FCC is unfamiliar with the Constitution's prohibitions on unreasonable search and seizure -- no judge would authorize a search warrant for such a broad and vague collection of material -- and on compelling one to incriminate oneself. -- ed.) Baxter's reply was that the FCC would be the best place to find FCC documents, referred the FCC attorney to material on his website for some of the material, and for others, that "applicant does not have any such documents."

(Editorial comment: Regardless of whether Mr. Baxter is guilty of the alleged violations, it is the FCC's responsibility to prove the charges, and not by asking him to voluntarily hand over potentially incriminating documents. In addition, the FCC needs to act responsibly as well, and not attempt to drown Mr. Baxter in a sea of photocopying costs for an incredibly broad and vague range of papers, including unpublished material, which it defines as "not available … to anyone other than its creator.")