Justice Department Issues Subpoenas To Reason To Identify Angry Anonymous Commenters

from the your-taxpayer-dollars-at-work dept

Back in 2011, as some of you may recall, we received a note from the US Marshals service, telling us that they were “investigating” a comment that had been placed on an article about a ruling by Judge Beryl Howell, who had received some criticism, given that she had previously been an RIAA lobbyist, and was now issuing rulings friendly to the legacy copyright industry. The comment in question was:

Is it time to start murdering the corrupt yet?

The guy from the US Marshals told us that he was investigating this comment and asked us to remove it (but did not ask for any information about the anonymous commenter). We found it somewhat disturbing that the US government would be asking us to delete comments, even if they, somewhat obliquely, questioned whether or not it might make sense to murder a judge (though the comment in question did not advocate such a move). We had our lawyer reach out the US Marshals, and after we told them that we would not be removing the comment, they told us that they understood our decision, and that was the last we ever heard about it.

It appears that things have gone much, much further with a similar situation with the website Reason, who we link to on a semi-regular basis. As Popehat is reporting, the DOJ has issued a grand jury subpoena to Reason seeking to identify the people behind a bunch of angry, hyperbolic comments on this post about Ross Ulbricht. As was the case with our post, some of the comments talk about killing judges, though in fairly typical internet fashion:

AgammamonI5.31.15 @ lO:47AMltt
Its judges like these that should be taken out back and shot.

AlanI5.31.15 @ 12:09PMltt
It’s judges like these that will be taken out back and shot.
FTFY.

croakerI6.1.15 @ 11:06AMltt
Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you
feed them in feet first.

Cloudbusterl6.l.15 @ 2:40PMIIt
Why do it out back? Shoot them out front, on the steps of the courthouse.

Rhywunl5.3l.15 @ 11:35AMIIt
I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman.

AlanI5.31.15 @ 12:11PMIIt
There is.

Product PlacementI5.31.15 @ 1:22PMIIt
I’d prefer a hellish place on Earth be reserved for her as well.

croakerl6.l.15 @ 11:09AMIIt
Fuck that. I don’t want to oay for that cunt’s food, housing, and medical. Send her through
the wood chipper.

The subpoena says that it’s investigating possible violations of 18 USC 875, which outlaws interstate threats. Popehat, of course, does an excellent job explaining why it is fundamentally and legally ridiculous to argue that any of these comments are “true threats” under the law.

True threat analysis always examines context. Here, the context strongly weighs in favor of hyperbole. The comments are on the Internet,  a wretched hive of scum, villainy, and gaseous smack talk. The are on a political blog, about a judicial-political story; such stories are widely known to draw such bluster. They are specifically at Reason.com, a site with excellent content but cursed with a group of commenters who think such trash talk is amusing.

The “threats” do not specify who is going to use violence, or when. They do not offer a plan, other than juvenile mouth-breathing about “wood chippers” and revolutionary firing squads. They do not contain any indication that any of the mouthy commenters has the ability to carry out a threat. Nobody in the thread reacts to them as if they are serious. They are not directed to the judge by email or on a forum she is known to frequent.

Therefore, even the one that is closest to a threat ? “It’s judges like these that will be taken out back and shot” isn’t a true threat. It lacks any of the factors that have led other courts to find that ill-wishes can be threats.

There’s much more detail in the article.

Unfortunately, he also notes that the US Attorneys’ office can probably get away with this kind of bogus fishing expedition. Despite the fact that it’s extraordinarily unlikely that anyone engaged in these comments actually broke the law, the DOJ likely just needs to show that it has a “compelling interest” in investigating the mere possibility of a threat, and Reason can be forced to hand over the information. Following that, if the DOJ is feeling particularly nasty, it can make life horrible for those commenters in question. This seems like it should raise all sorts of First Amendment alarm bells about the chilling effects it can create for anonymous speech (especially political speech), but according to Popehat’s analysis, the courts (so far) aren’t buying it.

Equally as troubling is the fact that, when Ken “Popehat” White reached out to the US Attorney’s Office with questions about this, Niketh Velamoor, the Assistant US Attorney who signed the subpoena, pretended that there might be a gag order on the subpoena, even though he likely should have known that there was no such gag order:

Mr. Velamoor was suspicious and defensive. At one point he told me that he “believed” that there was a gag order prohibiting this subpoena from being released by its recipients, and that whoever gave it to me must have violated that order, and that he would be “looking into it” and how I got it.

Such gag orders do exist. However, I note that two days earlier on June 2, 2015, Mr. Velamoor signed the cover letter on the subpoena, which contained the Department of Justice’s standard language about secrecy:

The Government hereby requests that you voluntarily refrain from disclosing the existence of the subpoena to any third party. While you are under no obligation to comply with our request, we are requesting you not to make any disclosure in order to preserve the confidentiality of the investigation and because disclosure of the existence of this investigation might interfere with and impede the investigation.

In other words, two days before he told me that he believed there was a gag order on the subpoena, Mr. Velamoor told Reason.com that it was not required to keep the subpoena secret.

Perhaps Mr. Velamoor misspoke. Perhaps Mr. Velamoor misremembered. Perhaps Mr. Velamoor didn’t secure the gag order until after he issued the subpoena.

Or perhaps Mr. Velamoor, bless his heart, was lying in an attempt to intimidate me.

It’s much easier to try to intimidate anonymous internet commenters if you can do so without having to publicly disclose your own disdain for the First Amendment in the process….

Either way, shouldn’t we take a step back and ask a simple question: is this kind of thing really what the US Attorneys should be working on? Especially in the Southern District of NY where so many high profile cases are going on all the time? At best, this is just a typical “cover your ass” situation. If the judge in Ross Ulbricht’s case actually did come to some harm, eventually it would get out that people were saying mean stuff on the internet, and the DOJ would like to be able to show that it did, in fact, investigate things, rather than ignore them. That means, most likely, nothing would ever come of this anyway in the long run. None of those commenters are likely to get charged with anything because they almost certainly didn’t do anything illegal.

But still… it’s frightening. The chilling effects are real. The Popehat article goes into these in much more detail, but in short, the US government can still cause tremendous problems for these commenters, even if everything they said is clearly protected speech. As White notes, you may think you’re just blowing off steam in making an angry comment, but that won’t stop you from being summoned to testify before a grand jury or to hire lawyers to defend yourself. Nor will it much matter should the FBI suddenly show up at your workplace, telling people there that they need to talk to you “just to clear some things up.”

Should the DOJ be investigating threats? Sure. But, at some point, someone has to have a little perspective and to understand what’s a threat and what’s just some commenters saying idiotic things online.

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Comments on “Justice Department Issues Subpoenas To Reason To Identify Angry Anonymous Commenters”

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140 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Uh yes (and nice try at a strawman!). Failure to follow up on a threat is a failure in itself. If they didn’t want to be punished, than they always have the option to, you know, NOT threaten people.

You probably would just turn the other way when it comes to Elliot Rogers or the Columbine shooters too, though.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Uh yes (and nice try at a strawman!).

Strawman. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Fallacy tip: something can’t be a strawman argument if it accurately represents your argument. Since you agree with his interpretation of your argument, it is by definition not a strawman.

And the rest of your statement is so completely stupid I’m not even going to bother trying to address it. You’re welcome for the quick lesson on fallacies, though (extra credit: find mine).

Learning is fun!

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

This appears to be an interesting variation on the high court/low court issue.

Recall that less than two weeks ago, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a guy who was blatantly threatening his ex-wife with violence because he made an utterly transparent claim that it was “just rap lyrics” and he was “expressing himself.” This despite the fact that he had never performed rap music for an audience or attempted to sell his work as a songwriter, and–according to the ex-wife at least–didn’t even listen to rap. That’s about as blatant a lie as you can possibly come up with, but he still got off the hook.

But threaten someone important, like a federal judge, even when the threats are obviously not real this time, and boy does everyone take it seriously!

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You know…you know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

– Joker

Jeff Walden (user link) says:

Re: Elonis with respect to here

Mason Wheeler, #4:

You ought to be a bit more careful what you claim to know about Elonis. The feds started filing charges after they came to his doorstep to ask him questions, at which point he deployed a knowledgeable question about whether he was being detained and had to answer questions, they said he wasn’t, so he shut his door on them. That to me suggests he really is somewhat knowledgeable about his rights, and could well have been deliberately exercising them even to extremes writing rap lyrics. And certainly there’s no requirement to have previously performed in a certain way, for a first-time performance to potentially be legitimate.

As for your last point, about “important”. That the feds started pressing charges after Elonis gave them the (perfectly legal, if “disrespectful”) brushoff, does suggest some element of retribution for contempt of authority could have been present in Elonis’s case, just as in the instant case against a sitting judge.

Was Elonis making a true threat? Dunno, but his doorstep performance does make plausible that he might have been attempting to exercise rights without meaning to make a threat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good reason to carefully structure ill wishes

Rather than wish your enemy dead (whether quickly and painlessly or in a gruesome and public fashion), wish them a long and miserable life: no job, no money, not in prison (lest they be supported at the taxpayer’s expense), bad or no home, recurring but nonfatal health problems, notable mention on all the popular watchlists (No Fly, Sex Offender, etc.), invisible to the media, shunned by their family and loved ones, and forgotten by history. It’s a better punishment, it does not involve wishing violence come to them (even in an abstract sense), and it’s far easier to argue that there is no way you could have the resources to make it happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

The government is very selective about which particular false threats of violence it investigates. Has it ever investigated threats against Snowden’s life? I’ve seen plenty. How about threats against people accused of hurting children? I’ve seen plenty of those too.

The government doesn’t care about false threats. It cares only about being challenged, and will use any excuse it can to silence that.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Then the US system is broken. Things like due process aren’t rewards for good behavior and removing them is not punishment for bad. These things are to ensure the integrity of the system itself.

If you are really taking the stance that the state should weaken the integrity of its own system because it really hates someone, then you’re arguing that the rule of law is a bad thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It’s not broken, it’s exactly how it should be. If you knowingly turn your back on the justice system, then you no longer deserve to benefit from it.

If he was really concerned with what he was doing, then he would have leaked it to the press and turned himself in. Simply lying, stealing, and fleeing just shows that he’s a coward who is only interested in ransom and blackmail.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

What ransom and blackmail? Ransom and blackmail require a threat. They require leverage. When he turned over all of his documents, what leverage does he have to threaten anyone with?

Or, looking at it from a different angle, if he was interested in ransom and blackmail, where are his terms? At what point did this “traitor” ever demand the Government do X or else he would do Y?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Matt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

It absolutely is broken, as there’s nothing but a wealth of evidence that there’s no protecting whistleblowers here in America. Snowden is a hero and he did was he had to to make the documents public. If he had stayed here the Justice system would not protect him, anymore than they protected that guy who made the video that supposedly caused sparked Benghazi.

But hey, you’re probably so stupid that you think the Duggar scandal is a big deal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Yes, if you’re going to complain about hypothetical government “spying”, then I would hope you don’t have a Apple or Google account since that would be a tad hypocritical.

And that doesn’t even get into the fact that, even if the government were doing that, THAT IS THEIR JOB. It’s their job to ensure the safety of its citizens. It’s a lot worse for a for profit company to do it to make money, yet all these hypocrites who complain always do it while logged into a Google account or from Chrome.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Not really, but they’re better than those insane statists like yourself who want to turn our country into a prison state…oh wait, it already is:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

If 3 out of 4 inmates are serving hard time for nonviolent crimes (not to mention the 700,000 innocent for failing to pay bail bonds) is not a sure sign of a broken and corrupt government then…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

“Yes, if you’re going to complain about hypothetical government “spying”, then I would hope you don’t have a Apple or Google account since that would be a tad hypocritical.”

Not even slightly. You can voluntarily give some people access to your personal information and refuse to give others the same access without any hypocrisy whatsoever. Please explain how I’m wrong.

But you ignore the big difference: in the case of spying services such as Apple and Google, you are voluntarily giving them data. In the case of the government, you are being forced to.

Equating those two things is extremely deceptive.

“if the government were doing that, THAT IS THEIR JOB.”

No, it’s not. Not at all.

“It’s their job to ensure the safety of its citizens”

To a limited degree, and even to that degree, the job of “keeping us safe” must always be second to the job of “keeping us free”. When the government spies on us all, it does neither.

LookingOverMyShoulder (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Have you even read the Constitution? It lists very specific things that are under the Federal government. All things not specifically listed are left to the states and the people. The only real qualifier for that is that the states cannot enact laws that do not follow the Constitution. Over the years the Feds have grabbed off more and more and the SCOTUS has twisted and bent the Constitution in ways it was never intended to go, so now we have this Nanny Federal Government.

VivaLaDemocracy says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Much agreed — unfortunately, it mostly comes down to this:

We are now all forced to participate in commerce. At minimum to even live on your property you have to pay the property taxes, you can’t build or repair anything without paying the permit fees, you can’t travel off your property without paying for a drivers license and vehicle registration, you can’t hunt or fish without buying a permit either. You cannot occupy public lands, and if you want to even put up a tent you have to pay a usage-fee. In some states, if you own property (cars, vehicles, boats, or ‘other assets of value’) you have to pay tax on those too.

Albeit the Federal Government was only given “INTERstate Commerce” authorities (meaning “from one state, to another”) they have declared that because things COULD be sold across states, or because the MONEY used in commerce originates from ‘federally regulated banks’ — that, they have the authority to regulate anything that could be sold.

Second, they also assert authority over things that are a matter of “public safety”. For example, you can pay a several hundred dollar “federal tax stamp” fee to own an “automatic firearm” (per firearm). The fact that a limitation (which is an “infringement”) could even be placed on firearms [given the 2nd amendment] is just plain ludicrous.

We’re all under the rule of “law and order” — if the Government doesn’t get their piece of the action (tax revenue, permit/licensing/registration fees, etc) then they’ll send armed persons to arrest you and throw you in jail. If you resist, they’ll beat you into compliance. Last time I checked this is how the mafia operations — “pay your protection money, or it’s curtains for you, kid”

Now, by conducting commerce, this means that you have income. By having income, you are subject to income taxation.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Albeit the Federal Government was only given “INTERstate Commerce” authorities (meaning “from one state, to another”) they have declared that because things COULD be sold across states, or because the MONEY used in commerce originates from ‘federally regulated banks’ — that, they have the authority to regulate anything that could be sold.

The twisting of the commerce clause is one of the great almost unrecognized travesties of constitutional law.

LookingOverMyShoulder (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Absolutely true. One could always take those customer “loyalty” cards and get a few (6-10) friends to get one as well and meet once a month or so and toss them all in a hat, draw one and use it for the month. I suppose you could do somewhat of the same thing with a shared gmail or yahoo account. It’s easy enough to set up a fake identity on Google, I did it just to see if I could. Same for whatever came after hotmail. Yeah if you’re caught you’ve violated their terms of service, but as far as I know they can’t lock you up, all they can do is shut down your account. Not so with our Federal Masters who can lock you up without even allowing you to contact an attorney.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Snowden

Snowden gave up due process the second he became a traitor and fled to China.

Your comment fails on multiple counts. Due process protects “any person”, without specifying that they must be a citizen, and without regard to what crimes they have committed or are alleged to have committed. Even if he was convicted of being a traitor and the penalty for such was immediate loss of citizenship, he would still be entitled to due process.

As for “fled to China”, when was that? He was briefly in Hong Kong for the document handover, then proceeded to Russia. He never fled to mainland China, and by my recollection, never intended to flee to Hong Kong. It was only a transition point (as Russia would have been, if the idiots at State had not revoked his passport).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Snowden

“As for “fled to China”, when was that? He was briefly in Hong Kong for the document handover, then proceeded to Russia. He never fled to mainland China, and by my recollection, never intended to flee to Hong Kong. It was only a transition point (as Russia would have been, if the idiots at State had not revoked his passport).”

LOL. Glenn Greenwald, is that you? Still spinning, huh? Transition point my foot. And it’s not like Russia is any better.

But, by all means, keep trying to defend the traitor all you like. It doesn’t make you look any better but you can still try.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Snowden

Lying to Congress is perjury.

Clapper lied to Congress. And admitted it. What justice has he faced?
What about Petraeus? I don’t see him in prison…or is that because he leaked info to his mistress? (Just pointing out what a fine, upstanding military person who cheats on his wife that he is).

Care to respond with something other than “tinfoil hat” comments?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Snowden

It’s about equal protection and treatment under the law.

If some can do things with no consequences, and others face severe consequences for same actions, how can you defend one over the other?

– Lies to Congress – nothing.
– Leaks sensitive info to his whore – nothing.
– Sparks a national debate on a spying infrastructure out of control – off with his head.

I just find it peculiar that someone would feel so strongly about one, but have absolutely no opinion on the other.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Snowden

Well, if nothing will happen then why is Snowden hiding in Russia?

Because the US is attempting to charge him under the Espionage Act, a law that effectively prevents the accused from making a valid defense of their actions.

Only a moron bets their life against the house when the house stacks the deck and only allows you to play the deuces from your hand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 Snowden

One cannot have a valid defence of their actions when there is no valid defence of their actions.

It’s a fact that he lied to obtain the job. It’s a fact that he stole classified information. It’s a fact that he ran off to a rogue country.

If he didn’t want to be charged with espionage, he could have released the information to the press and turn himself in as a whistleblower instead of being a criminal and traitor.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:14 Snowden

You Snowden disciples crack me up, acting like he’s a saint or martyr instead of a criminal who stole documents.

I regard Snowden for what he is – someone who exposed programs that two separate courts, two separate White House review boards and plenty of others have noted to be illegal and/or unconstitutional.

That sounds like the very definition of a patriot to me.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Snowden

If he didn’t want to be charged with espionage, he could have released the information to the press…

He did turn over all the information to the press.

…and turn himself in as a whistleblower instead of being a criminal and traitor.

You are making zero sense here. If he turned himself in as a “whistleblower” he would have been treated as a “criminal and traitor” just like the previous whistleblowers have been. What would have been gained by that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Snowden

“LOL. Glenn Greenwald, is that you? Still spinning, huh? Transition point my foot. And it’s not like Russia is any better.”

It’s not. Sadly, the United States revoked his passport WHILE he was in a Russian airport hoping to get onto another flight elsewhere. Thereby forcing him to remain in Russia.

So it wasn’t by his choice and his alone that he remains in Russia.

“But, by all means, keep trying to defend the traitor all you like. It doesn’t make you look any better but you can still try.”

Coming from someone who has labeled a man who has yet to see anything in the way of a trial a “traitor” that’s not saying much. You’re far worse than anyone here.

Until such time as due process of the law is followed and Edward Snowden receives a trial in which his guilt or innocence for the crime of treason is determined by a judge or jury he is INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THAT HE ISN’T. That means at present he is not a traitor and only AFTER a trial is held which determines anything beyond that can he be labeled a traitor, but only if found guilty.

LVDave (profile) says:

I wonder..

I noticed they use the word “voluntary” here.. Makes me wonder if they’re using the same definition of “voluntary” that their brothers over at the IRS use.. namely the IRS’s constant use of the term “voluntary compliance”.. Two words that really don’t belong together, but then the IRS really doesn’t belong in ANY country besides perhaps the old USSR…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Fyi, hitmen don’t make threats on the net. They’re hired guns who could give two shits less about any of this ane will drain your last life in public without a second thought – for the right price.

Look no futher than south of the border. Allow me to open your eyes to reality:

http://www.bestgore.com/tag/assassination/

So tell me statist dogs, how does any of this resemble an ‘actual’ threat to the judge in question? To the informed, it’s clearly obvious that there is none. So rest assured, in your safe bubbles, that no threat of this calibar is rampant…yet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

People like your are how kids get suspended for nibbling a gun out of a pop tart. Your display of righteous indignation combined with your childlike “he took my lunch money, I’m telling teacher” attitude makes me embarrassed for you and glad that we were able to win the second WW before you, and people like you, began the pussification of this country. Here’s a tissue, now go get your hug from mommy and let the adults have an adult discussion.

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Hoping something happens to you is not a threat.

Stating something should happen to you is not a threat.

Pointing out that your choices or behavior may result in harm coming to you is not a threat.

A threat is stating what someone will do to you, when, where, how.

See Game of Thrones for a good example of the difference.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 corrected

“Your right to free speech stops when it involves people in power.”

You do realize that this is exactly what started both the US revolution and the US civil war right?

Some say that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it while others often fail at trying to improve upon it.

Personanongrata says:

US Department of Justice (ha-ha) (sic)

This is the same Department of Justice that hasn’t prosecuted one person involved in the theft of trillions of dollars in the run-up and aftermath of the depression of 2008.

This is the same Department of Justice that would rather look forward not backward and gift US government torturing sadists and their aiders and abettors in the executive branch and congress a get out of jail free card.

This is the same Department of Justice that time and time again in courts across the land defends the indefensible and wholly unconstitutional total surveillance state created by the US government and it’s collaborating corporate cronies, paid for with our tax dollars (this is the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment: forced to pay for your own enslavement).

This is the same US Department of Justice that has prosecuted nine whistleblowers under the pernicious auspices of the Espionage Act of 1917 (nine whistleblowers is six more than all other administrations combined: congrats Noble Laureate).

Do you see a pattern?

Does it have anything to do with justice?

RealityBites says:

Re: Don't forget the Cartel Money Launderers and the DOJ treason

The DOJ (Dept of Jackass’s) let the cartel money laundering banks go free after servicing 100’s of billions of cartel money. The DOJ gives guns to the cartels and their agents are given booze and hookers by the cartels… Perhaps it is we who mistakenly think the DOJ works for us… its pretty clear who their bosses are.

Anonymous Coward says:

for granted...

Sooner or later, this false sense of world peace you all live in will crumble. Maybe 10 years from now or hunded you can all feel it comming.

Since the war on drugs is near a close, what do you think will fill its place?

Debt prsions is what we have to look forward to…the incaciration of the poor en masse. It has already begun.

Like a water damn, sooner or later it will collapse if not by hand then by time.

Eric Rasmusen says:

Brewington case--someone actually was jailed for blogging

The Indiana Brewington case last year was similar, except the blogger was not just subpoena’d, but actually convicted of a felony. Then he lost his appeal first at the appellate court and then the Indiana Supreme Court.

We need to be very afraid. Judges are not unbiased on this matter.

http://volokh.com/2013/01/22/harshly-criticizing-a-judge-or-others-for-their-past-conduct-crime/
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/01/conviction-of-blogger-who-threatened-judge-upheld/8584563/ ((contrary to the new article ,, the Supreme Court did *not* really pull back from the earlier decision– it just said, falsely, that the man’s blog comments were meant as a threat to the judge, tho there’s no indication the judge ever “heard” the supposed threat)

p123321 (profile) says:

Chilling?

“But still… it’s frightening. The chilling effects are real.”

I don’t know… I think if you look at the big picture, this looks more like government shooting itself in the foot, than anything. Both the absurd sentence for DPR, and then this over-the-top reaction to idiot comments, cannot but reduce government legitimacy (or what passes for it) in the eyes of the people. Such actions do not come without costs. When governments lose all legitimacy, they soon cease to exist. It is their life-blood, yet here they are pissing it away.

JakeRake says:

What Happens To The Commenters

So the other side of the story is what happens to the commenters. There is a process used on these people. Once their identity is known, they can be referred to political allies. Private reputation management companies and political groups monitor these folks. If they continue to say things that the political parties or powerful individuals don’t like, then they can be put into a program. Essentially, it’s a domestic psychological warfare campaign. They warn these folks, and if they don’t shut up, then they start following them around. The do weird street theater and let them know that their being watched. If they still don’t shut up then they use electronic harassment equipment on them, and they’ll do a character assassination to smear them. They’ll start a noise campaign inside their house to keep them sleep deprived, and pay people to harass them at work. There is an entire group of people who are subject to this treatment. They call themselves “targeted individuals,” and their claims are based in fact. This treatment is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment and it has a chilling effect on the First Amendment. It’s up to people who are willing to fight for freedom to research this stuff and corroborate the evidence. It’s true, and there are many crimes attached to the process.

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