Alt-Coin Trader

Department Of Justice Threatens The Internet


Grand jury subpoenas are very easy for the government to get--they are issued directly by prosecutors without any direct court oversight. Therefore, the SCA limits what those subpoenas can obtain, in contrast to a search warrant or other court order. Under the SCA's 18 U.S.C. § 2703(c)(2), grand jury subpoenas can only be used to get basic subscriber-identifying information about a target--e.g., a particular user's name, IP address, physical address or payment details--and certain types of telephone logs; any other records require a court order or a search warrant. ...

However, with the Indymedia subpoena, the government departed from the text of the law and the Justice Department's own sample subpoena by inserting this demand: "Please provide the following information pursuant to [18 U.S.C. § 2703(c)(2)]: All IP traffic to and from" for a particular date, including "IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information."

In other words, the government was asking for the IP address of every one of's thousands of visitors on that date--the IP address of every person who read any news story on the entire site. Not only did this request threaten every visitor's First Amendment right to read the news anonymously (particularly considering that the government could easily obtain the name and address associated with each IP address via subpoenas to the ISPs that control those IP blocks), it plainly violated the SCA's restrictions on what types of data the government could obtain using a subpoena. The subpoena was also patently overbroad, a clear fishing expedition: there's no way that the identity ofevery Indymedia reader of every Indymedia story was relevant to the crime being investigated by the grand jury in Indiana, whatever that crime may be. (EFF, op. cit., emphasis in original)

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