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.