The U.S. Department of Justice just issued an embarrassing retraction of their blanket demand for the private information of millions of readers who frequented a website related to Inauguration Day protests. (embedded below)
There are over 200 defendants charged for protesting Trump’s poorly attended inauguration and its haunting, empty parade, including numerous innocent journalists, and even legal observers, whose only offense was recording the events of the day on a public street.
Department of Justice lawyers argued that they weren’t trying to pry into their critics’ private lives, but rather that they are so stunningly incompetent they submitted a deeply unconstitutional search warrant request instead.
At least now that they’ve suffered a humiliating loss in the court of public opinion, federal prosecutors hired a real systems administrator to help them make a technically intelligent request.
DOJ still wants the subscriber information; SSH, Telnet and FTP logs; databases, etc. (which would be more likely to identify admins). pic.twitter.com/fSsrRLv0aE
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) August 22, 2017
When the government wants to execute a search in a criminal case, it’s just not like surfing to Google, they first have to prove to a judge that their request conforms to all laws and serves a constitutional purpose.
The First Amendment protects the privacy necessary to receive information, for example from a library, but the government’s prior search request was so broad it didn’t even seek to exclude that category of users or make any allowance that reading a website might be a lawful activity.
Federal prosecutors accuse the website disruptj20.com of materially participating in organizing a protest, and applied for a search warrant by accusing the site of inciting a riot.
But the government’s warrant tipped off the true intent of Trump’s Justice Department; they wanted to unmask as many government critics as possible by their reading habits.
Disturbingly, that’s not even the worst legal activity remaining from Trump’s traumatic inauguration day.
One journalist, Aaron Cantu, who writes for Vice News is facing a 75-year sentence on trumped-up felony charges.
Professional photographer Alexi Wood live streamed the protest and police actions on the streets of D.C. that day, and he’s facing a 70-year sentence, but his live streams are still up on Facebook and provide a comprehensive look at the day’s events.
Horrifyingly, one journalist, a legal observer and two protesters are plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit against the police who conducted the unlawful mass arrest of protesters that day for the worst reason: police officers forced their prisoners to strip in public, stuck their fingers into their assholes as a means of using sexual assault as punishment for protesters.
It’s nice to know that the Department of Justice backtracked on its incompetently unconstitutional requests to probe protesters’ reading habits online.
But the Trump Administration’s un-American determination to violate the free speech rights of citizens criticizing their government is still nakedly on display, unless those speakers are Trump’s “fine people” carrying Nazi flags and tiki torches.
Here is the government’s court filing:
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition