Image: Celeste Weingartner/used with permission.
In the latest disquieting indications the government intends to kill dissent, the Department of Justice has insisted a web hosting provider fork over information on 1.3 million visitors to a protest website — but the web host has pushed back for months, refusing to capitulate to demands the company contends violate the Constitution.
DreamHost wrote in a blog post Monday, “At the center of the requests is disruptj20.org, a website that organized participants of political protests against the current United States administration. While we have no insight into the affidavit for the search warrant (those records are sealed), the DOJ has recently asked DreamHost to provide all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors.”
According to the company, beyond the IP addresses of 1.3 million visitors to the site, the DOJ seeks “contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website. (Our customer has also been notified of the pending warrant on the account.)
“That 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.”
Indeed, as news of the troubling request went viral late yesterday, questions pertaining to who, exactly, the DOJ intended to target, spread like wildfire — after all, any curious parties could have visited the protest website: people who disagreed with its premise, journalists, law enforcement, parents, planners, store owners, anyone.
“In essence,” Chris Ghazarian, general counsel for DreamHost, said in a statement, “the Search Warrant not only aims to identify the political dissidents of the current administration, but attempts to identify and understand what content each of these dissidents viewed on the website.”
Seeking to identify subscribers to the Disrupt J20 site, The Hill reports, the Justice Department wants users’ “names, addresses, telephone numbers and other identifiers, e-mail addresses, business information, the length of service (including start date), means and source of payment for services (including any credit card or bank account number), and information about any domain name registration.”
DreamHost — which originally sought to constrain the warrant from its current broad scope — and the Electronic Frontier Foundation continue trying to thwart the efforts of the so-called Justice Department in court, with a hearing set for August 18 in Washington D.C.’s Superior Court.
Why the government balked at DreamHost’s reasonable request to trim the warrant to a more constitutionally-agreeable size remains a mystery; but, as the EFF notes,
“No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible. But the Fourth Amendment was designed to prohibit fishing expeditions like this. Those concerns are especially relevant here, where DOJ is investigating a website that served as a hub for the planning and exercise of First Amendment-protected activities.”
Indeed, as the U.S. government — under the leadership of a succession of presidents since the attacks of 9/11 — continues attempting to eliminate the clamorous sound of dissent, that dissension only seems to grow louder and larger.
With President Trump thus far having ditched his swamp-draining plan for policies favorable to the political and corporate elite in the United States, the hopes many had for a leader previously uninvolved in politics have fallen hard to the wayside.
If Americans’ private, personal information can be scrutinized by the State for simply visiting a website, the future of free speech, internet privacy, and, yes, the Fourth Amendment should perhaps be deemed endangered freedoms.
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Contributed by Claire Bernish of The Daily Sheeple.