Bronx DA Backs Down After Sending Secret Subpoena To Unearth Anonymous Bloggers & Commenters

from the the-right-to-anonymity dept

Paul Alan Levy the lawyer from Public Citizen who defended the bloggers in this case was kind enough to write in alerting us to another job well done by Public Citizen. In this case, a NYC political blog site called Room 8 had some posts by an anonymous blogger criticizing some actions in the Bronx DA's office and the Bronx Republican Party. Not long after the posts, Room 8 received a subpoena from the DA's office not just demanding the IP address of the anonymous blogger and various anonymous commenters, but also warned them that even disclosing the subpoena could get the folks behind Room 8 in serious trouble. Luckily, Room 8 chose to fight this request, signing up the help of Levy, who convinced the DA's office to drop the subpoena and after Room 8 had to threaten the DA's office with a lawsuit of its own, it dropped the demand that the supboena be kept secret. Room 8 has a full account as well. Public Citizen also has posted links to a bunch of documents from the case.

What's still not clear is what was the purpose of the original subpoena. From the facts presented, it's easier to jump to the conclusion that it was purely political. Someone in the DA's office didn't like being criticized, and used the power of the office to try to squelch that voice (and, in fact, well before this came out, the anonymous blogger in question erased all his posts and disappeared). The folks who run Room 8 tried to determine what the actual issue was, and never received any answers. The whole thing is a bit scary, as it does show how a DA could abuse power to get info on anonymous critics simply by claiming it was a criminal investigation, without disclosing any details, and without letting the bloggers subpoenaed speak about it. Hopefully if other sites are getting bullied in this manner, they'll learn to fight back as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 8:16am

    No surprises here

    It's not at all surprising that the DA in the case is a Republican. This sort of thing (bullying and fearmongering, especially in secret) seems to be that party's stock-in-trade.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Seatec, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 8:49am

    What a pathetic post. Be carefull. You might just start believing you own words.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    bshock, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 8:55am

    abuse of power? no!

    Oh my, who could ever possibly expect to see abuse of power in Bush America?

    Honestly, guys, wouldn't it be easier to run stories about non-corrupt public officials? Granted, your site wouldn't have much content.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    James, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 9:02am

    Re: abuse of power? no!

    Just Blame Bush for everything.

    How pathetic. I bet everything that is wrong with America is Bushes or the Republicans fault.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: abuse of power? no!

    Not everything is his/their fault, just:

    the unjustified "war" in Iraq:

    http://intelligence.senate.gov/press/record.cfm?id=298775

    The gas prices:

    http://closetheenronloophole.com

    to name a couple issues. Wake up middle america, the R party is the political branch of corporate america. They hide behind "family values" and hot button issues to win votes. They only care about promoting profitability for themselves and financially interested parties. If 100% Americans used their brains when voting, the R party would never win more than ~10% of the vote.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 9:36am

    Not so fast Mikey

    If you are involved in some court case, for example as a witness, and make some defamatory and false comments about the DA involved in the same case on some anonymous inet blog, then the subpoena is warranted.
    But of course, you never know who is behind the comments before the identity is revealed
    But if it's just a criticism from some third party not having a stake in the particular court proceedings then it shoud be protected as free speech

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Rabble Rouser, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re: abuse of power? no!

    James wrote: "How pathetic. I bet everything that is wrong with America is Bushes or the Republicans fault."

    Well at least everything from the days of WWII, when his grandfather, Prescott Bush was convicted of selling to the Nazis up until the present day, with this war for oil that Bush Sr. started any way. I tend to blame Reagan for a lot myself. After all, it was Reagan who deregulated most of the trade here in the US, busted the Air Traffic Controllers' union, traded arms to Central American to raise money for the release of hostages in Iran, and refused to fund AIDS research, to mention a few things.
    Yeah, it is mostly the Republicans' fault for most of what is wrong with this country today.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Patriot, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 9:55am

    Not so fast Anonymous Coward...

    oh so I guess we should all learn spanish, hang out in our tree clubs, and eat granola bars like all the good liberals want us to do... Drill here Drill now... something Clinton should have taken into considerdation before Vetoing legislation to open ANWAR back in 1995.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Castor, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Re: abuse of power? no!

    Are you kidding, so i should vote for the Brillant Liberal Party (or should i say Donkey's Ass Party)... They are just as bad if not worse, they just want to help the poor (of course they are just making everyone poor, except them)...Plus Middle Americans have more to Fear from the Left Wing Freak Party.

    Vote Freedom, Vote Libertarian !

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re: Re: abuse of power? no!

    Rabble all i have to say is Jimmy " I can't do anything usefull so I will flop" Carter (useless and a Democrat) he pretty much set the plate for Reagan to have to deal with IRAN and all the rest, so before you get back on your pedestal: try doing just a little research and oh, i don't know, thinking

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Jolie, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 10:27am

    We should all be fucking scared

    This doesn't rise to the level of criminal subpoena, but here goes:

    I have extensive documentation about a civilian shooting death by police officers that occurred many years ago. The incident was well-covered at the time, in all forms of media, local, national and international, TV, news magazines, and local newspapers. Eventually books would be published, and the case is generally cited as the first Rodney King, although the circumstances are somewhat different.

    I observed that there was no Wikipedia entry for the person who was killed. So I wrote up a quick wikipedia entry, and listed a dozen of my cited sources. Within two hours, some do-gooder pretending to be a neutral third-party 'disputed' the relevancy, demanding that I provide citable sources, which I had done.

    Within twenty-four hours, the page and entry had been completely deleted. From the first 16 hours after I wrote the page, you could do a Google search of the dead person's name, and it was the top listing. Yet after the first 24 hours, when the page was wiped clean, there was no reference to it whatsoever in a basic Google search.

    I have no solid proof but I have reason to believe that this was completely an inside job. The case was a great embarrassment to the police department involved, and even though forty years has gone by, some are still in power and former police officers associated with the incident are now politicians holding public office.

    So it greatly troubles me that the oppression has reached this level that someone with an itchy trigger finger is going after wikipedia entries and trying to abuse the legal system in order to out the identity of anonymous critical bloggers. We should all be scared as hell.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 10:36am

    Re: No surprises here

    IOW: "My mommy told me red=bad, and I believe her."

    Give me a break. The guy is a corrupt idiot, just like many politicians, whether red or blue. Think for yourself instead of trumpeting your colors. You might get more respect.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 10:40am

    Re: We should all be fucking scared

    Fearmonger much?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    ChasW, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 10:54am

    Silly DA

    My guess would be they wanted to know if the anonymous poster was coming from inside the DA's office or something along those lines. It happens a lot nowadays.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Steve Kislock, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 11:28am

    Privacy!

    I'm just an old fart, who, wants American Not to be a Police State. This is only (?) about Pennsylvania. This from Penn Cable Network (PCN), the Cops, want a List of NAMES of everyone, that buys a Cell Phone for Cash, this the Store must supply to the Cops, state and local level.

    Are more states going to have a law like this on the books?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 11:50am

    Re: We should all be fucking scared

    I think your tinfoil hat is cutting off the circulation to your brain. How many times did you try to recreate the wiki page? How long do you expect Google to link to deleted pages, especially on a high traffic site like Wikipedia?

    If you think that some police department is monitoring wikipedia or the whole internet on an hourly basis, you'd probably find the video "Loose Change" interesting, too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    hmmm, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: abuse of power? no!

    Yeah. Your right!

    The republican's definately have a role in so many babys being aborted each year, they played a sinister role in the break up of the family, they were certainly in on the decision to make no fault divorce an easy thing to get.

    You know they strained night and day to increase taxes on everything from Gas to bubble gum.

    It's OH so easy to blame "Bush"... let me give you a lessen in Social Studies my Democrat ran Public education friend... The president is teh head of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH. He enforces the laws... he doesn't write them!

    There are 500 to 600 people who are bigger problems in washington and they are all in the legislative branch. Who DOES write the laws.

    Even if the president said he wanted something congress could still give him the proverbial middle finger.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 12:10pm

    It's not at all surprising that the DA in the case is a Republican.

    HAHA, what a hoot - those politicians really got people fooled in thinking there's a difference between Dems and Repubs. Like a Dem wouldn't do the same thing in the same circumstances - I'm sure there's plenty of it going on right now.

    Just another example - and there will be TONS more to follow, of 'public servants' abusing the systems they have in place for 'law enforcement'.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Beta, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 12:21pm

    Can anyone comment on the legality of a subpoena (a command to appear in court) including the line "DO NOT DISCLOSE THE EXISTENCE OF THIS REQUEST"? Does that line have legal force? What law (if any) would one break by disobeying it? Has anyone been punished for doing so?

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 12:44pm

    My cousin works the Bronx DA's office, wonder if it was him. Nice going man!

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Charish P., Jul 16th, 2008 @ 12:46pm

    Political Bullies

    I just read about this story this morning in the Daily News (one of the few stories worth reading in that tabloid-like paper). Honestly, I have to say that it was really made personal by Johnson (the actual politician who called for the subpeona). It was really fucking foolish considering that the subpeona had instructions not to disclose it to anyone, i.e. he didn't want anyone to know that he was---at least in my eyes---abusing his powers. It's not illegal to criticize or bash your politicians; just look at Comedy Central's "Little Bush".

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re: No surprises here

    Thanks for the advice, but I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I do, in fact, think for myself, and can see the pattern with the Republican Party. There's a pattern with the Democrats, too -- spinelessness.

    And I don't want or need your respect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Jolie, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Re: We should all be fucking scared

    The point, Einstein, was that I didn't delete the page or the content. Someone else did. I chose not to recreate it after doing a displaydns command for another reason, and finding the IP address and name of the lead police agency involved in that original case. Tell me I'm nuts. Go ahead. I decided it wasn't worth the knock on the door or being set up for something. This was an eye-opener for me. I did not believe for a minute that writing about a decades-old case of police corruption would disturb the waters. Now I know, and I'll keep my mouth shut from now on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 6:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: abuse of power? no!

    And just what is wrong with wanting to help the disadvantaged? Not all of us get the opportunities of a middle class childhood and I am sorry but being poor is often NOT the person's fault nor are all poor especially lazy. Many are just ill or have not been lucky in life. Imagine yourself with a chronic disease you inherited through no fault of your own or, worse yet, a mental illness like schizophrenia!

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Castor, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 6:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: abuse of power? no!

    You do realize that it says all "all men are created equal"
    so therefore, that means we all start the same, not end the same...It is up to you to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves, not the Governments job to help people that make a choice not to take opportunities and give them what they DO NOT deserve..I will agree that some people have more opportunities than others, but I do not and will not EVER agree that it is may job to provide people with opportunities they do not deserve nor have they worked for. Everyone has the chance to go to Harvard, not everyone deserves it, nor does everyone do everything they can to achieve it...Why should I pay for them, nobody paid for me, yet I still achieved what i did.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 7:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: We should all be fucking scared

    The cops in your town sound like the ones in mine. Negative Wikipedia articles about them have a way of disappearing too (as have some people). Check out the e-book "Smith County Justice" on Wikileaks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 9:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: abuse of power? no!

    You do realize that it says all "all men are created equal" so therefore, that means we all start the same, not end the same...
    Castor, what that means is that all persons are created with equal rights, not that everyone is identical at birth.
    I will agree that some people have more opportunities than others, but I do not and will not EVER agree that it is may job to provide people with opportunities they do not deserve nor have they worked for.
    And just what did you do to "deserve" the parents you got and the genetics you were created with? Were you like working really hard with God before you were born to make sure you picked parents with the right genetics? Is that what made you deserving and others not? And how did you avoid subsequent catastrophic disabling accidents or diseases? Was that just God protecting you because you worked so hard at being righteous? You sound to me more like someone who won the sperm lottery then trying to claim credit for his good own good fortune as a way of alleviating his guilt for being so greedy. Just because you convince yourself of your righteousness doesn't mean you're actually right.
    Everyone has the chance to go to Harvard,
    Yeah, but for some people that chance is like 0.0001%. Like everyone had a "chance" to win the sperm lottery too.
    ...nor does everyone do everything they can to achieve it...
    And many of those who do do everything they can still don't achieve it while many who don't work nearly as hard have it practically handed to them.
    Why should I pay for them, nobody paid for me, yet I still achieved what i did.
    Lucky you. Let me play God with you and I guarantee you that I could keep you from doing it again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 9:40pm

    Re: Not so fast Mikey

    If you are involved in some court case, for example as a witness, and make some defamatory and false comments about the DA involved in the same case on some anonymous inet blog, then the subpoena is warranted.
    So how do you know they made "defamatory and false" statements? I didn't read that anywhere at all in the story.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Mike Allen, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 11:49pm

    politixs

    poli= more than one
    tic = blood sucking parasite
    seriously if anyone told me not to tell any one the court, gov or lawyer the first thing il do is publish any way any how any media

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 5:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: abuse of power? no!

    > The republican's definately have a role in so many babys
    > being aborted each year, they played a sinister role in the > break up of the family, they were certainly in on the
    > decision to make no fault divorce an easy thing to get.

    If you think that "no fault divorce" is an easy thing then
    you are living in some sort of fantasy land.

    Fundies are great at deluding themselves. They can keep
    themselves ignorant and oblivious and try to subject the
    rest of us to that. This only HIDES problems, it doesn't
    solve them.

    The "Republican" notion of what a family should be is
    no improvement on what you could accuse liberals of.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 6:05am

    > And many of those who do do everything they can still
    > don't achieve it while many who don't work nearly as hard
    > have it practically handed to them.

    It ultimately doesn't matter. What separates man from beast is man's willingess to crawl out of filth he finds himself surrounded in. I didn't get Harvard handed to me on a silver platter either: boo hoo.

    Paternalism will not help people. They succeed or fail based
    on their own wits and those around them. They greater the
    social distance you start from them, the less relevant you
    are.

    At best you can stroke your own ego by trying to have some
    sort of control over someone else's life.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 1:08pm

    Re:

    They succeed or fail based on their own wits and those around them.
    I always wondered what it took to succeed at winning big at the lottery or the slots in Vegas. So now I know: Those who win deserve it because they are the wittiest.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Jolie, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: We should all be fucking scared

    Found it. I'll download and read the file.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    anonymous, Aug 7th, 2008 @ 2:11pm

    Not that it really matters but Rob Johnson the Bronx D.A. is a Democrat, not a Republican. I don't know anything about this case but I just wanted to set this part of the record straight.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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