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FBI seized dozens of computers, phones from Florida journalist’s home

A search warrant obtained by The Desk shows federal investigators are looking into an alleged cyber intrusion scheme involving former Deadspin editor Timothy Burke.

A search warrant obtained by The Desk shows federal investigators are looking into an alleged cyber intrusion scheme involving former Deadspin editor Timothy Burke.

Former Deadspin editor Timothy Burke (inset picture) from an undated social media image. (Graphic by The Desk)
Former Deadspin editor Timothy Burke (inset picture) from an undated social media image. (Graphic by The Desk)

Federal law enforcement agents seized nearly two dozen computers, phones and related devices from the home of Florida journalist Timothy Burke in May as part of a criminal cyber intrusion probe, according to records obtained by The Desk on Tuesday.

The records include an unredacted search warrant application and a two-page receipt for property that were connected to the raid on Burke’s home, which show investigators are probing Burke’s alleged involvement in a criminal hacking scheme and the interception of electronic communication.

The purported victim of the alleged scheme, Fox News Media, is not named in the warrant or other documents. But a letter sent by federal prosecutors in Florida to an attorney at Fox Corporation that asked the company to preserve evidence of a criminal cyberattack is related to the Burke case, according to a source familiar with the matter.

DOCUMENT: Read the search warrant and receipt for property (PDF)

The apparent attack involves one or more people accessing a computer system used by Fox News Media that contained a video library with numerous behind-the-scenes clips of Fox News shows that were not intended for broadcast, the source said. Some of those clips were later sent to Media Matters for America, who began publishing them under the franchise “Fox Leaks” in early May, as well as Vice News.

Media Matters and Vice News are not targets of the federal investigation. And prosecutors have not accused Burke of any wrongdoing. Instead, investigators say they believe Burke was “involved” in a criminal conspiracy to access a computer system without authorization and intentionally intercept electronic communications, according to the warrant.

The warrant was signed by a judge on May 4, and authorized law enforcement to search Burke’s home for evidence related to the alleged cyber intrusion. Police and federal agents were allowed to take any computers, phones or related electronics, as well as evidence related to cash, cryptocurrency or other types of payments.

The judge also allowed agents to take records related to Burke’s interactions with “companies…involved in hosting electronic streaming content,” though the specific companies were not named.

The raid was carried out on May 8, and agents left Burke’s home with nearly two dozen electronic devices, including six Apple computers, four Apple iPhones, five other personal computers and several hard drives. Investigators also took at least four notebooks, though it wasn’t clear if they contained any writing relevant to the case.

The search had an immediate effect on Burke’s ability to publish content on Twitter, though he later launched a profile on the Twitter alternative Bluesky, where his post-raid musings reached more than 2,600 followers. Last week, Burke visited an FBI field office in Florida where he was allowed to use his personal phone seized by investigators to access authorization codes needed to unlock his Twitter account. He started posting to Twitter again on Monday.

Attorneys representing Burke deny the journalist participated in any criminal hacking scheme, and said he routinely obtains videos from various sources that are available to the public if they know where to look.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).