Homeland Security Has Not Sent Us A Subpoena

from the just-an-update dept

A couple weeks ago, we wrote about a phone call (and follow up emails) we received from Homeland Security indicating an interest in sending us a subpoena, asking for any identifying information we had on a commenter. That commenter had posted a (somewhat ridiculous) comment, in response to another story, about a guy who had nearly a quarter of a million dollars taken by him by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) under civil asset forfeiture rules. The commenter, somewhat weirdly, suggested that the guy who had this money stolen might “know people” who could murder the agents who took the money. It was clearly not a threat. It was random idle speculation.

But, for whatever reason, the sister agency of CBP, called Homeland Security Investigations (HSI — which was formerly Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE), decided that it wanted to subpoena the information on the commenter. Through our lawyer, we noted that we had serious First Amendment concerns about the chilling effects this might have if even weird comments like that lead to federal law enforcement knocking on people’s doors. We explained that we were happy to look over the details, but in the absence of more information suggesting a real and legitimate threat, we were inclined to resist complying with the subpoena to protect our users. We also noted that we were publishing the info on Techdirt at the time, given a similar situation with Reason’s website came with an almost certainly unconstitutional gag order, and we wanted to explain what was happening prior to any similar order.

Some people have asked for an update on the situation and it’s this: nothing has happened. We haven’t received any subpoena at all. In fact, we’ve received no further communications at all from Homeland Security. It is possible that something is still coming, but we hope that the agents at HSI and anyone else involved with this have realized that this is not a worthwhile activity. We’ll keep you updated, should anything change.

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Comments on “Homeland Security Has Not Sent Us A Subpoena”

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Anonymous Coward says:

> We’ll keep you updated if we are permitted to, should anything change.

FTFY. Once you get a gag order, your options are
1) civil disobedience and thus contempt for disobeying
2) challenging the order in court (and telling us if and when the court rules in your favor)
3) truckling to the government and remaining silent.

Someantimalwareguy says:


What would be the point of a gag order now as all the pertinent information on the potential who, why and what have been posted for the members of this site and the general public to review,

A gag order would be nothing more than trying to close the barn door after the horse had not only gotten out but had run down the road to hang out at the neighbor’s place lol…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I doubt there is any consensus on Techdirt among “the government” or “little bureaucrats”. Most likely this has been a few guys at the CBP being uncomfortable and getting the stone rolling on a case.
After getting a legal counterclaim and news about the legal situation, the case is seen as shaky from their lawyers and either they have dropped the case or are looking at 1. ways around a subpoena 2. Better ammunition for a case.
In all instances I doubt we will be getting much more information in this case.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think you’re lying. We know you’ve been forced to drop trow and make up a story. Did they provide vaseline?

FWIW, while the feds have been known to press ridiculous gag orders on people, forcing them to state false things goes beyond anything that they’ve been known to do. I highly doubt that’s within the realm of things likely to happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, but now that you’ve claimed nothing happened so far they can theoretically send you a gag order and then you might not be able to warn us of anything. Not warning us means nothing since you didn’t tell us you were going to tell us if nothing happens within a given time frame. We would simply assume nothing happened after this post.

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