U.S. defends info request related to Inauguration Day protest

by Antonio Miles August 24, 2017, 2:32
U.S. defends info request related to Inauguration Day protest

The reply brief read, "The government has no interest in records relating to the 1.3 million IP addresses that are mentioned in DreamHost's numerous press releases and Opposition brief".

In a filing in a D.C. court this week in response to DreamHost's challenge of the warrant, DOJ says the warrant is still reasonable and proper, but says based on new information it got from DreamHost, it can be narrowed.

"Chris Ghazarian, our General Counsel, has taken issue with this particular search warrant for being a highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution".

The government argued that the "website was used in the development, planning, advertisement, and organization of a violent riot that occurred in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2017".

The web-hosting provider refused to go along with the request, which online privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation called unconstitutional and an act of "staggering overbreadth" on the government's part. "That's all we asked them to do in the first place, honestly", DreamHost said in a blog post.

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Concerns remain for the company despite this win, as there are still issues with the DOJ's request that DreamHost describes as "problematic for a number of reasons". Prosecutors defended the original warrant as valid, but wrote that they were focused on information about anyone who may have used the website to organize criminal activity - more than 200 people were arrested for rioting - and were "committed to minimizing the information that is ultimately seized".

DOJ initially demanded that DreamHost turn over almost 1.3 IP addresses on visitors to the site.

"These additional facts were unknown to the government at the time it applied for and obtained the Warrant", the DoJ filing states.

It is not interested in any information that is not relevant to ongoing criminal investigations against protestors, the DoJ claims. And it is fair to assume that despite unprecedented recent efforts by the White House to impose itself on the Department of Justice's traditional autonomy, we have yet to reach the point where the DoJ is using its extraordinary powers to gather political intelligence on the Trump Administration's political opponents. A DC Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Thursday. Despite its new limits, the warrant is still looking for info about political protests, and it seems the DoJ and DreamHost don't see eye-to-eye on the Constitutionality of that search.

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