Homeland Security Won't Even Admit Whether Or Not It Seized Mooo.com, Taking Down 84,000 Innocent Sites
from the transparency-in-government dept
Yesterday, I wrote about how there were many reports, starting over the weekend, claiming that Homeland Security’s inept Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) group had once again screwed up the process of seizing domains. However, this time, the mistake appeared to be on a much larger scale. While some other sites have simply assumed that Homeland Security seized the entire mooo.com domain, thereby publicly accusing 84,000 sites (nearly all of which were perfectly legitimate) of trafficking in child porn, we were at least willing to give Homeland Security the benefit of the doubt and question whether it was really involved.
Given that no one seemed to confirm that Homeland Security was involved, I figured I might as well ask. I sent off a quick email to a press contact at Homeland Security, asking a simple question: did Homeland Security seize — and then unseize — the mooo.com domain? It seemed like a simple yes or no question, and given that Homeland Security is a part of the Obama administration, which has promised the utmost transparency, I figured the least it could do was provide that simple answer. Instead, the response I got was:
“I need to refer you to DOJ for a response to your question.”
This, of course, is not true. The actions were taken by Homeland Security’s ICE group. It was Homeland Security that put out the bragging press release about seizing more domains and putting up their “this site trafficked in child porn” graphics. But it can’t even answer a simple yes or no question about a specific domain? That’s not transparency. It also seems to suggest quite strongly that DHS and ICE did, in fact, screw up royally here.
I responded to the press contact, and pointed out that there is simply no reason that Homeland Security cannot answer this question, and repeated the question, but I have not heard back. I also sent an email to the Justice Department, and have also received no response.
Lots of folks are pointing out the incredibly serious First Amendment concerns brought out by such a seizure. Of course, we’ve pointed out such concerns with all of the previous domains seized, and people said they were overblown concerns. I’m somewhat stunned that we still had people defending such seizures without any due process, when 84,000 legitimate sites might have taken down, as a result.
And, once again, if there were actual due process, involving an actual adversarial hearing, moves like this would be avoided. On top of that, if Homeland Security wanted to actually go after child pornographers by tracking them down and arresting them, rather than just seizing domains, mistakes like this would be avoided. Of course, that would involve doing real work. And that’s something that Homeland Security apparently isn’t interested in, from the special agents who have failed massively in their investigations on these various takedowns all the way to the press spokespeople who can’t even be straight with the American public when they make a massive First Amendment-violating mistake.