PA AG's Twitter Subpoena Also Told Twitter It Couldn't Reveal Subpoena's Existence

from the gag-clause dept

Back in May, we wrote about how Pennsylvania Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate), Tom Corbett, had sent a subpoena to Twitter demanding the identity of an online critic, who he believed to be a former state employee who had been convicted and was facing sentencing in a political corruption scandal. While Corbett dropped the subpoena after the guy was sentenced (and there was widespread criticism of his actions), the legal community continues to scold him for his actions. A recent article highlights that not only did he send the subpoena, but the coverletter of the subpoena ordered Twitter not to reveal the existence of the subpoena — even to the account holder. In fact, it told Twitter that if it wanted to reveal the existence of the subpoena to anyone, it first had to contact the Attorney General’s office, so that it could seek an order prohibiting revealing the subpoena:

“Should you decide that you wish to disclose the existence of this subpoena and its contents to anyone, including the account holder, it is requested that you contact the deputy attorney general named on your subpoena and so advise him or her before any disclosure so he or she can determine whether or not to seek a court order from the supervising judge prohibiting disclosures under section 4549(d) of the Investigating Grand Jury Act, 42 Pa. C.S. 4549 (d).”

So not only was he seeking to out an anonymous critic, he wanted to make sure no one — least of all the guy who’s identity was at stake — was able to know about it.

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Companies: twitter

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Comments on “PA AG's Twitter Subpoena Also Told Twitter It Couldn't Reveal Subpoena's Existence”

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Steven says:

That legalese has more holes than a colander

Since the AG was so courteous as to request it that way, rather than to just go to the judge and get the court order in question, I believe my response would be something similar to “get bent” followed by a notification to the account holder. “Please let us know beforehand so we can get a court order to block it” doesn’t make it criminal to do that.

JustSomeGuy says:

Here's my proposed response

Hey, Sh*tForBrains.

Thank you for telescoping the fact that you haven’t yet obtained such an order preventing me from publishing. Here’s some copy that I sent to the account holder,the NYTimes and 100 of the top-rated blogs on the internet.

Please be assured that, if you do actually get off your fat a** and obtain such an order, I will do everything within my power to convince those people to not use that copy in future.

Yours insincerely,

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: So what's your point?

I read this blog a lot but I’m not a lawyer. A judge approved the subpoena so what’s the issue? Is someone doing something wrong? If you’re going to post it, please spell out what the problem is. Oh, I can guess but I don’t want to guess. I’d like an expert opinion.

We explained it in the original post. Abusing the power of your office to unmask anonymous critics is highly questionable and an abuse of power.

To then try to cover it up and tell third parties they cannot discuss a subpoena is quite troubling, don’t you think?

Ethel Lean (profile) says:

Corbett is well-known as a rights usurper

Starting with the “Constitution is a living document,” to lend himself enough rope to hang others, to his
Hitler-esque contempt for the first amendment, to his claim that he keeps a separate cell phone for campaigning for Governor while in office as PA AG, the man is a hypocrite and a tyrant waiting to happen.

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