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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  • identicon
    Steven, 8 Jun 2010 @ 5:37pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2010 @ 5:45pm

      Re: That legalese has more holes than a colander

      No one said the AG is a criminal. Just that he's really stupid.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 8 Jun 2010 @ 6:25pm

        Re: Re: That legalese has more holes than a colander

        "No one said the AG is a criminal."

        No, he's saying that the 'request' is bogus and should be treated as such (of course, you'll likely get hit with the court hammer since the AG has little accountability.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Sean T Henry (profile), 8 Jun 2010 @ 8:40pm

      Re: That legalese has more holes than a colander

      Thats why services should only have the address on one page and on that page states that any and all correspondence is subject to being posted in said web sight regardless of content if you do not want it posted do not sent it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustSomeGuy, 8 Jun 2010 @ 6:50pm

    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,
    JSG.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Transbot9, 8 Jun 2010 @ 8:42pm

    I wonder...

    What if someone got one of these ridicules supoenas, and then just kept pleading the fifth instead of handing over information?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ven, 9 Jun 2010 @ 10:57am

      Re: I wonder...

      The fifth is meant to protect the accused, the person receiving the subpoena would be a material witness or similar and not protected by the fifth to the degree the accused is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rob, 8 Jun 2010 @ 9:08pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2010 @ 10:07pm

      Re: So what's your point?

      "so what's the issue?"

      I think the attempted coverup is the issue here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 9 Jun 2010 @ 2:13am

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2010 @ 10:03pm

    "A judge approved the subpoena"

    No judge approved the subpoena. You didn't even read the article (actually I got caught for doing that before, lol).

    "I'd like an expert opinion."

    It doesn't take an expert to read the article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andrea Raquel, 9 Jun 2010 @ 12:40am

    LOLWROTFATPMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    All I can do is laugh and RT!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2010 @ 4:45am

    PA AG

    I'm voting against the corrupt rectal flambe this fall.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Transbot9, 9 Jun 2010 @ 5:41pm

    Re: I wonder...

    Ah, but that doesn't answer my question on what would happen. Court fines, a trial to receive information? Being charged as a conspirator (which would bring the 5th into effect)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ethel Lean (profile), 9 Jun 2010 @ 7:03pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2010 @ 6:52am

    Is it even legal to try to prevent the subpoena being revealed to the account holder? The account holder would have standing to try to quash the subpoena. Surely that comes with the legal right to be notified of it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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