Nel's New Day

August 17, 2017

DOJ Warrant: ‘There Should Be an Uproar over This’

Filed under: protests — trp2011 @ 10:43 PM
Tags: , , , ,

A recent guideline to surviving an authoritarian government comes from 80 years experience in surviving Polish resistance. The first directive is “assume all communications and activities are monitored.” As the author points out, surveillance roots out dissent, builds mistrust among people, and controls the actions of the general population. It forces everyone to monitor their speech and actions as if they are being constantly watched. This scrutiny escalated after 9/11 with the PATRIOT Act, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is raising it to a level in the United States that people had not thought possible.

For many decades, almost all people in the nation considered voting to be a right easily achieved if they are eligible according to age and a few other requirements. With a restrictive 2005 Indiana law upheld by the Supreme Court, people began to understand that voting might be a privilege mostly for white, financially comfortable people. Over half the states, including almost the entire South, have limiting ID laws; many of them also have other laws restricting over 5 million eligible voters at the polls. DDT is now cutting down voting since his new voting commission has requested detailed voter registration information from all the states. In Colorado alone, at least 5,000 people, some of them who had actively assisted in the voting process, have deregistered because of DDT’s demand for their records. They express fear at what he will do with the information.

[Note that DDT’s response to people’s request for privacy is to ask, “What do they have to hide?” What a question from a man elected president who refuses to release his tax returns and hides everything else he can about his administration.]

With his strong support of white supremacists, DDT and his DOJ are upping the ante on dissenters against his administration, going far beyond widespread ridicule about respected journalists and media outlets. Initially, AG threatened to subpoena journalists and force them to give up their sources before grand juries in lieu of prison. Now information has been released that the DOJ is trying to collect complete information about 1.3 million visitors to an anti-DDT website, #DisruptJ20.org, on DreamHost, regarding protests on DDT’s inauguration day.

John Borchert, deputy chief of the Felony Major Crimes Trial Section of the Justice Department, signed the search warrant on July 12 seeking “evidence about individuals who participated, planned, organized or incited the January 20 riot.” DOJ is demanding “all information that might identify the subscribers…including names, addresses, telephone numbers and other identifiers, email addresses, business information…and source of payment for services including any credit card or bank account information.” DreamHost said that the DOJ wants “the time and date of the visit, the IP address for the visitor, the website pages viewed by the visitor (through their IP address), and even a detailed description of the software running on the visitor’s computer.

Regarding the DOJ warrant, ACLU stated:

“One of the core principles enshrined in the Fourth Amendment is a prohibition on general searches — meaning, the government cannot simply go fishing for a wide range of information in the hope that some kind of useful evidence will turn up.”

DreamHost refused, stating that the users’ information “could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.” The host already disclosed information relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation after 214 people were charged with vandalizing a car and breaking windows. DOJ now wants information about everyone who visited the site, however, not just the people who have broken laws. The warrant doesn’t say why or what will happen to the information on the 1.3 million visitors.

TechFreedom president Berin Szóka supports DreamHost’s refusal on the basis of the Fourth Amendment:

“The Founders outlawed general warrants precisely to prevent governments from harassing their political opponents en masse. If the DOJ can unmask over a million Internet users simply for visiting a website, without any further alleged connection to criminal activity, then no American is safe to use the Internet to access dissident speech. The fear of being unmasked — and subjected to harassment, or far worse — will chill the speech of millions more.”

Phishing for records of all visitors is comparable to getting search warrants for everyone in a city of 1.3 million if a criminal is suspected of residing there.

DDT is also accelerating his repression of dissent by increasing the severity of charges against the 214 protesters in Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day 2017 to a felony level that includes inciting rioting, conspiracy to riot, and destruction of property. For many of them, prosecutors have no more proof than their presence at the protest and their black clothing, but they will go to trial—next March. If they fight the charges in court and lose, they could be in prison for 70 to 80 years, just for breaking windows or perhaps nothing. When Wilbur Ross came back from Saudi Arabia, he marveled that they faced no protesters. The sentences of prison and death there for protesting could be replicated in the United States. At least 18 states consider 30-plus bills to curb protests by increasingly severe penalties for demonstrators.

U.S. customs and Border Protection tried to get Twitter records in March for an account that supposedly shared material from federal employees who disagree with DDT’s policies. After Twitter sued, DOJ dropped the request. A woman was tried in May because she involuntarily laughed during AG Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing. She was responding to Sen. Richard C. Shelby’s (R-AL) statement about Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.” The DOJ argument was that her laugh constituted “disorderly and disruptive conduct” meant to “impede, disrupt, and disturb the orderly conduct” of Congress. Last month, a judge threw out the conviction for Desiree A. Fairooz, 61, but ordered a new trial on September 1.

Robert Mercer, the billionaire who owns Breitbart and bought the presidency for DDT, also has Cambridge Analytica, the source that has profiles of 5,000 pieces of data on about 220 million voters in the U.S. and uses the information to target them through their emotions. Basically, it’s a propaganda machine. As a communications director Andy Wigmore said, “The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.” Gaining detailed information about the 1.3 million is a great addition to Analytica. These records can be used to prosecute—and persecute—anyone who opposes DDT in a highly technological redo of the Joseph McCarthy witch hunts for “political dissidents.”

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, said:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has said that forced disclosure chills speech. Visiting a website is First Amendment activity and this is quite troubling.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) told Sessions:

“When the government attempts to seize personal information, including email and physical addresses, for more than a million Americans who visited a website, it shows that the president is willing to use his Justice Department and the machinery of government to go after his political opponents.”

Even some Fox commentators don’t support DOJ’s actions. Judge Andrew Napolitano said talked about its “very serious constitutional problems.” He added that DOJ may have gone to a superior court for the warrant request, rather than a federal judge because “none of them would sign it.” Napolitano said, “There should be an uproar over this.”

DreamHost’s scheduled hearing tomorrow, August 18, in DC Superior Court has been postponed. Judge Robert E. Morin, who overturned Fairooz’s conviction, may be assigned the case some time in the future.

As Heather Heyer, the counter-protester killed by a neo-Nazi, said, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” We need to be outraged by the DOJ collecting information from protest websites.

There has been no mention of subpoenas for white supremacist websites setting up their violent actions in Charlottesville (VA) last weekend. Of course, The Daily Stormer has lost its domain name and access through U.S. hosts. Even Russia and China won’t give a home to its website. The group can go onto the dark Web, but not being indexed in popular search engines may cut down on recruiting–for a while.

 

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