Department Of Justice Uses Grand Jury Subpoena Power To Identify Anonymous Commenters

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

ARSTechnica:

Federal prosecutors got Ross Ulbricht thrown in prison for life for running the Silk Road online drug marketplace. Now, they’re going after people who made comments online about the judge who sentenced him.

The Department of Justice is seeking the identities of commenters at Reason.com, a libertarian website that has covered Silk Road extensively. The hunt for commenters was revealed yesterday, when the legal blog Popehat published a grand jury subpoena (PDF) that DOJ investigators gave to Reason.

“Why is the government using its vast power to identify these obnoxious asshats, and not the other tens of thousands who plague the internet?” wrote Popehat blogger Ken White. “Because these twerps mouthed off about a judge.”

On May 31, two days after Ross Ulbricht was sentenced, Reason published a blog post looking back at his plea for leniency. The post is sympathetic to Ulbricht and Silk Road, which it calls “a revolutionary website that made it easier and safer to buy and sell illegal drugs.”

There are more than 100 comments on the short Reason article, and a quick scan suggests they are universally negative. US District Judge Katherine Forrest threw the book at Ulbricht, giving him life without the possibility of parole—more than prosecutors asked for. Her sentencing speech was a full-throated defense of the drug war.

Prosecutors want “any and all identifying information” related to the following eight comments, all published shortly after the May 31 blog post went up:

  • Agammamon: Its judges like these that should be taken out back and shot.
  • Alan: It’s judges like this that will be taken out and short. FTFY.
  • croaker: Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you feed them in feet first.
  • Cloudbuster: Why do it out back? Shoot them out front, on the steps of the courthouse.
  • Rhywun: I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman.
  • Alan: There is.
  • Product Placement: I’d prefer a hellish place on Earth be reserved for her as well.
  • croaker: Fuck that. I don’t want to oay [sic] for that cunt’s food, housing, and medical. Send her through the wood chipper.

In the subpoena to Reason, the government requests that the company “voluntarily refrain from disclosing the existence of the subpoena to any third party,” but makes it clear they have no legal obligation to do so. The Popehat blog post does not identify the source of the subpoena.

Also see this important article at Popehat.com who does a good analysis.  Their conclusion?  Regrettably, The Government Can Probably Abuse the Grand Jury Subpoena Power This Way.

What you see here is incestuous law at its worst.  The prosecutors – who are part of the system and “officers of the court – want to find anonymous commenters in order to keep the system firmly ensconced.  They will get their way or send out the LEOs – who are themselves part of the system and officers of the court.  It will all eventually be heard or adjudicated by judges, who are officers of the court.

I firmly believe that even more troubling times are headed for our country.  An economy based entirely on fiat money, debt and fractional reserve banking cannot long last.  Furthermore, as “European American” correctly observes, “Armed, Law Abiding Citizens, and a Militarized Fascist Police State cannot coexist.”  Hard times are coming, and they cannot be stopped or held in abatement.

In the mean time, though, be careful what you you say and where you say it, even anonymously.

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Comments

  1. On June 10, 2015 at 6:54 am, TexTopCat said:

    I suspect that many of our government employees have lost the basic premise of the Constitution, namely the ultimate power belongs in the hands of “The People”. These comments may be way out of line, however, they are not creditable threats and therefore should be protected by the 1st amendment.

  2. On June 10, 2015 at 8:19 am, UNCLEELMO said:

    “…there is a special place in hell reserved for…”

    If the DOJ finds this comment threatening, I would suggest they investigate Madeleine Albright, who used that exact same expression two years ago in a speech to women at the CIA.

  3. On June 10, 2015 at 12:29 pm, Archer said:

    How on God’s Green Earth did prosecutors convince a Grand Jury issue a subpoena for this?

    There’s nothing directly threatening here. Offensive and angry, yes. But no more so than pro-gun, pro-freedom, pro-Christian, and conservative bloggers (especially those on Twitter) deal with Every. Single. Day. And much less than some (which ARE directly threatening).

    Absent a direct, credible threat, there’s no crime. Just because they’re referring to a judge or other public official doesn’t make it one. I guarantee some on the left have expressed some pretty hateful and violent thoughts about John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and George W. Bush. Where are the subpoenas for that?

    “Incestuous” is a good term for this kind of enforcement.

  4. On June 11, 2015 at 11:14 am, Bobbye said:

    Grand Juries almost always do whatever the prosecutor wants. Very few human beings actually believe in free speech. Most everybody, maybe you included,(no offense meant) believe that some one or five or fifty things that can be said should be forbidden and punished if said. It is very easy to find people to support suppression of speech.

  5. On June 15, 2015 at 5:33 pm, Jim Jones said:

    I would have to agree with you on your “[v]ery ew human beings actually believe in free speech” comment. Whenever you want to test someone’s “tolerance,” just give them a caricature of their enemy and see how they react. Most people are fine with speech as long as they agree with it. The second they don’t, they are usually very quick to agree with stifling it.

  6. On June 13, 2015 at 7:28 am, Daniel Barger said:

    The Grand Jury process is probably the most corrupt and useless waste of tax dollars
    currently part of the system. It is virtually ALWAYS tightly controlled by the DA and the
    bench. There is no adversarial actions allowed. The DA generally determines what subjects are introduced to the Jury, what witnesses are subpoenaed, what questions
    they are asked and every other facet of the process. There is NO opposition to the DA, nobody to ask any questions he doesn’t want answered, nobody to raise objections to his
    procedures and nobody to seek out information and answers that do not fill the agenda and need of the DA and the court. The old saying that a DA could get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich is not really much of an exaggeration…..If a DA wants an indictment he will present ONLY the witnesses, information and testimony to support one. If he does NOT want an indictment than ANYTHING justifying one is squashed and hidden. It’s a system
    the devil himself would be proud to have created.

  7. On June 13, 2015 at 7:24 am, Daniel Barger said:

    This would fall under the ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ description. People comment about how abusive, invasive and criminalistics government employees and the judiciary are and those same people
    engage in conduct that PROVES THE POINT.

  8. On June 15, 2015 at 9:54 am, Ned Weatherby said:

    And statists from the right and left still say “I have nothing to fear – they can search me or my house any time.”

    They may just live to see that happen.

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