Web hosting company DreamHost has issued a new statement today on their company website revealing that they have been served with a search warrant by the Department of Justice, which is seeking information about visitors to an anti-Trump website they host.
The targeted site is DisruptJ20.org, which is involved in anti-Trump public protests, and the demands for materially all data on the site is related to their putative involve in protests against President Trump’s inauguration in January.
This includes all data on communications and funding of the website, as well as all 1.3 million IP addresses of everyone who has ever visited the website, along with any other contact information identifying those readers of the site.
This is a virtually unprecedented public demand for data, doubly concerning since it appears the demands are based purely on the potential political beliefs of the end users because of the content they’ve read.
DreamHost is arguing that the warrant violates the 4th Amendment, and is resisting the efforts to give up this broad collection of data. The Justice Department has yet to offer any statements related to the revelation of the warrant, let alone offered any defense for trying to amass the identities of 1.3 million Americans with anti-Trump political leanings.
Making the matter public may well end up killing it off, as the warrant is such a huge overreach and such a troubling invasion of privacy that any Justice Department legal argument is sure to get skewered in the press.
Indeed, that such warrants would necessarily be an outrage to the public is a big reason why other surveillance-related warrants have tended to be issued covertly by secret courts, and why in the past the government has warned those served with such warrants from disclosing them to anyone.
The goal of such efforts is always a lot more far reaching than just the individual targets this time, despite 1.3 million people already being a pretty substantial target. Rather, the long-term goal is to create legal precedent for such demands, allowing the Justice Department to make such plainly unreasonable demands a routine matter of course, giving them endless access to the identities of potential targets.
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