Justice Department Pulls Back on Anti-Trump Website Warrant

Justice Department Pulls Back on Anti-Trump Website Warrant

Five people who visited a web site that helped organize Inauguration Day protests are attempting to oppose a search warrant requiring the site's hosting company, DreamHost, to turn over identifying information about visitors.

So, they went ahead with the warrant and requested all information relating to the website, including details of its owners and IP logs of millions of visitors.

Earlier this month, the DOJ presented DreamHost with a warrant for info on dates and times DisruptJ20.org was accessed by users, as well as "contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people", without any real explanation for why. "This Warrant has nothing to do with that right", claimed the DoJ in a statement.

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DreamHost, the web hosting provider that was hit with the request, has been fighting back against what it characterised as an over-broad warrant that would have forced the company to hand over "all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors". "That's all we asked them to do in the first place, honestly", DreamHost wrote in a blog post.

Monday, the nonprofit activist group Public Citizen, calling the warrant a "witch hunt", sought to intervene in the case on behalf of five anonymous people who it said had no connection to the protests but whose identities would be outed by the warrant.

But prosecutors wrote Tuesday that "what the government did not know when it obtained the warrant - what it could not have reasonably known - was the extent of visitor data maintained by DreamHost that extends beyond the government's singular locus in this case".

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The revised warrant now specifically seeks data stored on Dreamhost for the website from July 1, 2016, through Inauguration Day on January 20, as well as communications and other evidence related to the planning and carrying out of crimes committed during the Inauguration.

A hearing is set for Thursday in D.C. Superior Court.

DreamHost characterized the DOJ's decision as a victory. "Intrusion into the privacy of so many individuals who viewed the anti-Trump protest site anonymously should not be enforced without a highly exacting showing of the government's need for that information". And it is fair to assume that despite unprecedented recent efforts by the White House to impose itself on the Department of Justice's traditional autonomy, we have yet to reach the point where the DoJ is using its extraordinary powers to gather political intelligence on the Trump Administration's political opponents.

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