Feds Order News Site to Cough up User Data


Well, here's some awful news!

In a case that raises questions about online journalism and privacy rights, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day.

I totally used to use a VDT Online system

The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Web site "not to disclose the existence of this request" unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization. […]

The subpoena (PDF) from U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison in Indianapolis demanded "all IP traffic to and from" on June 25, 2008. It instructed Clair to "include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information," including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers' Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and so on. […]

Still unclear is what criminal investigation U.S. Attorney Morrison was pursuing. Last Friday, a spokeswoman initially promised a response, but Morrison sent e-mail on Monday evening saying: "We have no comment." The Justice Department in Washington, D.C. also declined to respond.?

NEXT: Doherty Talking Ayn Rand: Just Can't Get Enough....

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  1. Remember Kids, always wear a proxy.

    1. EFF Interview with Indymedia sysadmin that defied bogus subpoena

  2. If anyone comes asking, my IP addy is 256.555.0.80085.

    1. Mine’s I dare you to hack it you hooligans!

        1. Theres no place like

    2. AHA let me just flood you….oh… I see what you did >:| LOL.

  3. The good news is that once Indymedia and the EFF challenged the subpeona they DOJ backed off — but they still threatened obstruction of justice charges if Indymedia web admin revealed the subpoena’s existence.

    Then the DOJ admitted that they had no legal basis for the gag order and wouldn’t be willing to defend it in court.

    1. “Lawyers: We’re handy to have when you’re under attack by the other lawyers.”

  4. Note the date of the subpoena: January 23, 2009. So this one’s on the Hopey One.

    1. Even if it weren’t, Hopey is still commander-in-chief.

    2. Wow in less than 72 hours Obama got a prosecutor, grand jury seated and a judge to listen to and the grand jury to approve this subpoena? Sorry this is a left over case from the Bush years and the investigation actually started in 2008. It was under Obama that the subpoena was withdrawn. This is all a matter of public record.

      1. You know what? You’re right. I was born decades before Obama became President, which means he is innocent of anything that his administration does to me. It’s all someone elses’ fault.

        1. So can we stop blaming FDR for the welfare state?

      2. Yeah, it was withdrawn after a lawyer for the website sent them a letter demanding and explanation of statutory authority for them to do this, and/or a court order.

        And it was under Obama that the AG’s office refused to disclose whether Holder had given permission for the subpoena.

        1. Why would the AG disclose something that should be public record? I mean they are only public servants after all. We all know there is no valid reason to hide such information; certainly not trying to derail criticism with plausible deniability or croney protection.

          Must have been a paperwork SNAFU. Bush’s fault.

          1. Don’t care if it started under Bush’s watch… this is in the Obama admin lap, and IF Dems actually give a shit, they’ll wipe this particular case off the books AND apologize to Indymedia.

            Don’t hold your breath.

      3. Exactly!!! Perfectly put.

        1. Oh, okay – I get how this site works… earlier comment was a reply to Jamie and their “72 hours” comment. That was perfectly put.

  5. The words “chilling effect” come to mind. Just wait until the FCC gets its tenticles into the web.

  6. I have a sneaking suspicion that this was some personally or politically motivated bullshit. If it had been for “national security” or the WOD they sure as hell wouldn’t have backed down; but if it’s to investigate some political enemy, they’d back down right quick because exposure is embarrassing.

    1. Perhaps someone offended The Hopester?

  7. This should be a warning to any news/blog/opinion site to not store this identifying information, but as Agent Provacateur said, making use of a proxy is usually a good idea.

  8. It’s indymedia. They’re were probably trying to do a census of leftards.

    1. Irrelevant.

      If we let our political opponents lose their rights, we’re next, and deservedly.

      1. Yeah, but I still kind of enjoy it.

  9. Lemme guess, thought this shit was going to end under Obama.

    1. It’s good if they did think it was going to end. It means they are now getting en education–hopefully in seeing that the system is the problem–which brings them closer to us.

      The more the better.

      1. Actually I doubt anyone at indymedia was pro-Obama. They probably think he’s a tool of the corporations – for not nationalizing them entirely.

    2. That’s racist! Apologize or we’ll come over and beat the shit out of you, infidel!

      1. This comment is racist.

        1. You’re right. Arrest that hatemonger, men.

  10. Freedom isn’t Free you guys. If we don’t do this the Terrorists will win.

    1. No, it’s “Free minds and free markets aren’t free.” Stay on message, freeloaders!

  11. If we let our political opponents lose their rights, we’re next, and deservedly.


  12. The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Web site “not to disclose the existence of this request”.

    What request?

    1. Yeah, it’s hard to call it a request when it starts with YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED.

      Talk about doubleplusungood.

  13. What is Reason’s policy on keeping such info on its visitors?

    Shouldn’t it be standard procedure to delete that stuff every day? Or, is it too valuable to throw out?

    1. Some jurisdictions, like europe I believe, mandate that all ISPs (and perhaps website owners, I’m not sure) retain all records of all traffic for a certain amount of time. Thus, Reason could delete such info but it might still be obtainable from any number of so-affected ISPs in those jurisdictions.

  14. I’m withholding judgment until DOJ attempts to subpoena cable records to determine who watches Fox News. Which, after all, is neither foxy nor newsy. Or so I’m told.

    1. I was told the same thing by The Hopester.

  15. I’ve seen no speculation backed by data about what was actually happening on Indymedia around that time. I’d be interested in knowing. Have the web crawler caches already been flushed?

  16. Wait a second!

    Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers

    That’s all info identity thieves are interested in! Maybe it was somebody trying to fatten his nest egg, “under color of authority.”

  17. Wanna bet Obama’s snoops wouldn’t love to be able to do this to, say, FreeRepublic?

    I’d almost bet they would, if they could get away with it.

  18. Wanna bet Obama’s snoops wouldn’t love to be able to do this to, say, FreeRepublic?

    I’d almost bet they would, if they could get away with it.

  19. Blast and damn! Double-posted.

    Oh, well, more for the spooks to paw through…

  20. Obama: much worse than Bush.

    All you fuckers that voted for him: go take a telephone pole in every hole.

    1. No he isn’t. Bush started AfPak and Gulf War 2. Obama is a shitstorm of suck, but he has a long way to go to be as bad as Bush.

      1. Caveat: I don’t ever vote. I would have voted for whoever the LP candidate was, if voting wasn’t pointless.

      2. Give the hopester time, he will surpass Bush (and that is saying something) cap and tax, health care take over, bailout bailout bailout. All politicians are corrupt throw ALL of them out. Vote NONE OF THE ABOVE!!!!!

  21. Let me assure everyone that at we don’t store anyone’s IP address, personal information, SSN (ferchrissakes, who would?) or shoe size. We just want your opinions.

    Senior Editor

  22. Wow, Obama worse than Bush? I guess the rest of the world is right, America is full of morons – sad face.

    (I’d type a sad face but I’m afraid the conservatives won’t understand it and accuse me of typing terrorist gestures)

    1. Troll earlier Emma.
      You’re late.

    2. If this is supposed to be a troll, it’s clearly one that has been set on fire (thereby losing its regeneration ability) and is down to negative hit points. A 1st-level magic user could do a coup de grace on it.

  23. Interview with Indymedia sysadmin that defied bogus subpoena

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