Magistrate Judge Shoots Down Government's Attempt To Gag Yahoo Indefinitely Over Grand Jury Subpoenas
from the checked-and-balanced dept
California judge Paul Grewal continues to hold up his end of the “Magistrates’ Revolt.” Grewal was the magistrate who shot down the government’s open-ended request to grab every email in a person’s Gmail account and sort through them at its leisure. He was actually the second magistrate to shoot down this request. The government went “judge shopping” after Judge John Facciola told it the scope of the request needed to be narrowed considerably before he would even think about granting it. The government decided it still wanted all the email and traveled across the country to see Judge Grewal… who told them to GTFO without even giving the feds the option to rewrite the request.
Grewal is once again siding with the public and acting as a check against government overreach.
Law enforcement cannot indefinitely forbid Yahoo Inc from revealing a grand jury subpoena that seeks subscriber account information, a U.S. judge ruled, because doing so would violate the company’s free speech rights.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in San Jose, California on Thursday wrote that the government’s request would prohibit Yahoo from disclosing the subpoena, even years after the grand jury concluded its probe. The court order does not disclose the target of the federal investigation.
“In an era of increasing public demand for transparency about the extent of government demands for data from providers like Yahoo!, this cannot stand,” Grewal wrote.
Yahoo has had its fill of government secrecy. It spent a long time fighting both broad subscriber data requests from the NSA and their accompanying 25-year gag orders. Its ardent defense of its subscribers against broad government requests would still be under seal, but thanks to recently declassified documents, it has been able to address the subject publicly — nearly 18 years before the gag order would have “aged off.”
The DOJ again wants to maintain its subpoena secrecy, hoping to keep internet platforms like Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook from discussing grand jury subpoenas until… well, it’s not entirely clear there’s really an ending date.
Instead of asking that Yahoo be gagged for 60 or 90 days, the government asked that the company be gagged until further order of the court.
Grewal’s rejection points out that the government feels entitled to indefinite gag orders, but has yet to offer any reasons why it should have its wishes granted.
The government did not demonstrate why such an indefinite request was necessary, Grewal wrote.
Judge Grewal has sent the government back to perform a rewrite — either providing justification for its ridiculous demands, or to request something less illogical, like a finite gag order. The government has availed itself of many judicial rubber stamps over the years, but it looks like it’s still running into resistance on both coasts: Paul Grewal in California and John Facciola in Washington D.C.
The ACLU has also been engaged in this fight against government secrecy since early last year, bringing more attention and legal expertise to an issue that hasn’t achieved the terminal velocity of mainstream media attention. It’s a bit more trench warfare, pitting magistrate judges and amicus briefs against the DOJ’s assumption that it should have whatever it asks for, because terrorism, drugs, grand juries or whatever.