Nov 212009
 November 21, 2009  Surveillance

The following editorial appeared in the Providence Journal:

It may have been mere incompetence, but it is chilling that the Obama Justice Department sent a subpoena for an undeclared reason to an Internet news site,, demanding records of all traffic to that site on June 25, 2008. Even more ominously, it demanded “all other identifying information” of people who visited, including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, Social Security numbers, bank-account numbers, credit-card numbers, etc.

Finally, it issued a “gag order,” requiring the operators of the Web site of the Philadelphia-based Independent Media Center “not to disclose the existence of this request.” That is a form of government prior restraint of free speech, which is usually not permitted under the First Amendment.

When the administrator who provided space for the Web site balked, and called in a First Amendment lawyer, the Justice Department backed down and withdrew the subpoena. But it’s not explaining itself, and it is hard to tell what it was trying to do.


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