Of­fi­cials drop sum­mons for anti-Trump feed

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY AN­DREW BLAKE

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has aban­doned its ef­fort to com­pel Twit­ter for in­for­ma­tion in­volv­ing an anti-Trump ac­count af­ter its re­quest spurred the so­cial net­work­ing ser­vice to file suit.

Twit­ter sued the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion last week in re­sponse to its pre­vi­ously un­re­ported at­tempt to learn about @ALT_USCIS, an ac­count pur­port­edly run by a cur­rent em­ployee of Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices.

The so­cial-me­dia gi­ant dropped its case a day later af­ter the fed­eral gov­ern­ment with­drew its re­quest, Twit­ter said in a court fil­ing.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment told Twit­ter on Fri­day that U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion (CBP) has with­drawn its March 13 sum­mons, “and that the sum­mons no longer has any force or ef­fect.”

“Be­cause the sum­mons has now been with­drawn, Twit­ter vol­un­tary dis­misses with­out prej­u­dice all claims against De­fen­dants,” an at­tor­ney for the com­pany wrote Fri­day.

Twit­ter dis­closed for the first time a day ear­lier that CBP had is­sued a sum­mons last month seek­ing in­for­ma­tion about “@ALT_USCIS,” in­clud­ing in­ter­net pro­to­col (IP) ad­dresses and other ac­count ac­tiv­ity that could po­ten­tially re­veal the iden­tity of the per­son or per­sons who over­see the ac­count — one of sev­eral that pur­port to pro­vide “al­ter­na­tive” views into Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion agen­cies.

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union sued the gov­ern­ment over its re­quest Thurs­day on Twit­ter’s be­half and ap­plauded the next day’s de­vel­op­ments.

“The speed with which the gov­ern­ment buckled shows just how bla­tantly un­con­sti­tu­tional its de­mand was in the first place,” ACLU at­tor­ney Esha Bhan­dari said Fri­day. “Speak­ing anony­mously about is­sues of the day is a long­stand­ing Amer­i­can tra­di­tion, dat­ing back to when the Framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion wrote un­der pseudonyms.”

Ms. Bhan­dari added, “The anonymity that the First Amend­ment guar­an­tees is of­ten most es­sen­tial when peo­ple crit­i­cize the gov­ern­ment, and this free speech right is as im­por­tant to­day as ever.”

Twit­ter de­clined to com­ment to news agen­cies be­yond what the firm said in the fil­ing.

On Capi­tol Hill, oth­ers weren’t as silent. Sen. Ron Wy­den of Ore­gon, the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat, called the gov­ern­ment’s re­quest “a dis­turb­ing threat to free speech and whistle­blower pro­tec­tions.”

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