Why Is The DOJ Gagging Twitter And Yahoo Concerning Grand Jury Subpoenas?

from the please-explain dept

The ACLU has jumped into a troubling legal fight, in which it appears that the DOJ has issued gag orders against Twitter and Yahoo concerning grand jury subpoenas that have been sent to both companies. This case is one we mentioned last week where magistrate judge John Facciola asked the two companies to weigh in, as he appears unconvinced that the government's request is sound. However, the whole thing is happening under seal, which the ACLU feels is inappropriate, given the importance of allowing companies to respond freely to such requests, without being gagged.

The ACLU filed a motion last night seeking to represent the public's interest in open court proceedings when the government seeks gag orders on Internet companies. We know about the three cases only because the magistrate judge pushed back on the government, inviting Yahoo and Twitter to weigh in and ordering the government to make its legal arguments public. The government appealed those orders to a district court, where the judge ordered the appeals sealed. The ACLU is now moving to intervene in the district court for the purpose of opening these gag order proceedings to public scrutiny. In a democracy, if your government is going to gag someone from speaking, it should publicly explain why.

The federal government has an awesome array of tools and technologies in its investigative arsenal, and it often goes to great lengths to shield its tactics from outside scrutiny. Not only does this secrecy prevent people from challenging surveillance used against them, but it also means that elected officials can't openly debate the underlying policies, and communities can't discuss their government's actions.

Traditionally, gag order applications are considered ex parte – meaning with only the government's argument on the record before the court. However, Magistrate Judge Facciola noted that the government's request in this case raised controversial legal questions, and so invited Twitter and Yahoo to respond. (In one case, the government withdrew its gag order application after Judge Facciola invited Twitter's participation.) He also ordered the government file public copies of its gag order applications with limited redactions.

It's good to see at least some pushback on the feds' attempt to get information and to silence companies from saying anything about it. But it's still quite troubling that they seem to assume they have near free rein to do so in the first place. Kudos to the ACLU for stepping in as well, and representing the public interest.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 8:00am

    Why Is The DOJ Gagging Twitter And Yahoo Concerning Grand Jury Subpoenas?

    Because they still can't gag everything else so they are gagging ONLY what we are seeing today.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 9:27am

    Why Is The DOJ Gagging Twitter And Yahoo Concerning Grand Jury Subpoenas?

    Because they only want to present evidence of guilt,and do not want anybody coming forward to offering evidence of innocence to the defense.

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

  3. identicon
    PRMan, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 10:10am

    Gag orders

    How are gag orders not prior restraint of free speech?

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

  4. identicon
    United States Government, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 11:02am

    Re: Gag orders


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

  5. identicon
    Jerrymiah, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 11:22am


    Yhe way the DOJ is now operating reminds me of the way the Nazis used to run their equivalent of the DOJ in the mid to late 1930s. It is run to stifle dissent, i.e. those who do not agree with the government's views. Same thing with TAFTA and TTIS. Everything with this government is run in secret. The public has no right to know. The constitution, in their minds, does not exist anymore. Same thing applies with the DCRM. The democrats have received closed to one half billion US $ from Hollywood in the last 2 elections combines. They have promised a lot of stuff to the Hollywood studios and now they are attempting to deliver with a lot of new laws in the pipeline that will give Hollywod and the stars that supported Obama, everything they are asking for. Something really needs to be changed.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 12:28pm

    ACLU has been very involved in such lawsuits lately. They're even aiding in the Lavabit case. People should be donating more to them. Same for EFF. These two organizations are just about the only ones truly fighting for our rights, now.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 8:03pm

    The worst part is that the Yahoo and Twitter user the US Government is after, probably is just a dissident and not a civilian attacking terrorist. The judge seems to be hinting that this is true. Otherwise the judge wouldn't have a problem with the gag order.

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

  8. identicon
    Pragmatic, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re:

    We've got to stop being afraid to vote third party, and we've got to stop swinging right when we're afraid.

    Anyone who thinks the Dems are all left-liberal is misguided. They're mostly center-right and the few liberals there are don't have much power.

    Start looking at the third parties that we have and consider their policies. Which ones look good to you? Now talk about them on your social media accounts.

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

  9. identicon
    ClaudeA, May 6th, 2014 @ 11:20am

    Nazi Officials In White-wash House Apply The Left Power Base Given By Left Wingers

    What more to say?

    You silly Americans wanted this Commie regime, now stop whining cause it's doing what it promised, and you drowned out sanity shouting in favor of!

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

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