Not Good

From CBS News, Via Matt Welch:

In a case that raises questions about online journalism and privacy rights, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day.

The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Web site "not to disclose the existence of this request" unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization...

The subpoena (PDF) from U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison in Indianapolis demanded "all IP traffic to and from" on June 25, 2008. It instructed Clair to "include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information," including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers' Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and so on.

This is remeniscent of the indimidation subpoena and later arrests at the Phoenix New Times orchestrated to stop the paper from criticizing Sheriff Joe Arpaio.


  1. Brian Dunbar:

    IANAL but .. what if you the organization in question simply deletes the data in question?

    This is not difficult: the sysadmins simply erase those logs every X hours. If you need to keep the data because you need to look at it, one can clean up the data removing significant information but leaving enough for traffic analysis.

    Going further one can imagine that you can encrypt user information so the sysadmin can't see it but it's available to the system.

    Oh, whoops: we don't keep that information, and we can't see the stuff we do keep: Sorry DOJ.

    I wonder how much trouble one's org would be in for doing this.

    And how soon we'll make a routine habit of doing this.

    Man, sure would be nice to have a government we can trust.

  2. Methinks:


    I'm no lawyer, but I'm thinking this would lead to at least an obstruction charge.

    Anyone still believe we live in a free country?

  3. Methinks:

    Oh wait, in the comments on the Reason sight they said Indymedia was threatened with obstruction charges but then the DOJ admitted it didn't have a legal leg to stand on.

    Okey dokey. So, government officially operates like the mafia. They threaten to break your kneecaps until an even bigger gorilla shows up and then they drop the bat and run like hell.

  4. Brian Dunbar:

    I’m thinking this would lead to at least an obstruction charge.

    IANL (heh)

  5. Brian Dunbar:

    (One more time without premature [return])

    I’m thinking this would lead to at least an obstruction charge.

    IANL (heh) but if you clearly announce in terms of use what traffic data is and is not kept you cannot reasonably be expected to come up with the data after the fact.

    OTOH it seems that complying with The Man is more a game of who you know and less how in compliance with the laws you are.

  6. John Moore:

    That George Bush is going to institute a tyranny any time now!

    Oh wait...