White House Demands Info on Anti-trump Site Visitors
In mid-august, the Trump administration demanded a website hosting company give up “all” information from a website which helped coordinate those protesting Trump’s inauguration. It is yet another grotesque abuse of power from the government’s Executive Branch.
Back when the inauguration was deep into planning stages for the incoming Trump administration, a second planning effort was underway in parallel. That effort, coordinated via the website disruptj20.org, was intended to help those interested in conducting Constitutionally-protected protests under the First amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Trump’s ire over anyone disagreeing with him must have reached a new level of frustration this summer, since the U.S. Department of Justice requested and was granted a search warrant associated with disruptj20.org as of July 12.
The warrant, whose contents became public on August 14, was issued by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. It requests that Dreamhost, the web hosting company responsible for disruptj20.org, provide “all” information available to the hosting company about disruptj20.org.
Dreamhost has refused to provide that information. In its opposition brief filed with the court it described what the DOJ is asking for as a “highly untargeted demand’. Dreamhost also said there that it sees the war-
rant as “a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority”. Among other things, it would involve disclosing over 1.3 million IP addresses along with contact information, email content and photos of thousands of people.
This is not the first time Dreamhost was subpoenaed related to this matter. According to its current filing, “Approximately one week after the 2017 U.S. Presidential Inauguration, the government provided Dreamhost, a web hosting company, with a Grand Jury subpoena for records along with a request to preserve records. The subpoena called for seven categories of information concerning the Dreamhost account using the internet domain name “disruptj20.org.” The categories in the subpoena included information identifying the individual registrant of the website, the registrant’s physical addresses and e-mail addresses, information about the services the registrant obtained from DreamHost, the payment for those services, and information about the registrant’s computer interactions with Dreamhost’s servers, the disruptj20.org website.”
Dreamhost did respond to that first request “within three weeks of service of the subpoena”, according to their filing on Friday, August 18 with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. This latest one they are refusing to support.
Dreamhost says in its latest filing that the Superior Court warrant asks for:
“all information pertaining to [www.disruptj20. com], including all files, databases and database records stored by Dreamhost in relation to that account or identifier.”
“information identifying the subscribers and their payments”
“records pertaining to the types of service utilized by the user”, and
“records pertaining to communications between Dreamhost and anyone else regarding the account”
In an Appendix B which was part of the same July 2017 DOJ subpoena, it demands ““all information described [in the ‘disclosure’ category] that constitutes fruits, evidence and instrumentalities of violations of D.C. Code § 22-1322 involving the individuals who participated, planed [sic], organized, or incited the January 20 riot, relating to the development, publishing, advertisement, access, use, administration or maintenance of [www. disruptj20.com] . . .”
The subpoena goes on to describe two types of electronic data that it defines as falling within the scope of the “seizure”. These are:
“[s]ubscriber information related to the accounts established to host [www.disruptj20. com],” including names and addresses, payment information, and domain registration details.
As of this writing, no information is available as to how the Superior Court may have ruled on Dreamhost’s justification for why it will not be responding to these latest request. In view of the Trump administration’s paranoia about those who question its judgment, the one thing one can be certain of is that Attorney Gener- al Jeff Sessions will be involved to help push for what Trump wants here.
One other thing which is also likely certain is that this kind of subpoena request, which only by accident has become public, is likely being duplicated in other matters – perhaps more frightening – that none of us so far has any idea is also happening.
Former President Richard Nixon once had what became well-known as an ‘enemies list’. It consisted of journalists, politicians, and celebrities he and his staff deemed as enemies of the state, even if not immediately available to prosecute and put behind bars. Nixon used it to justify searches and surveillance back at a time when the internet was only just being created as an idea.
With the internet, Trump now can make President Nixon look like a rank amateur when it comes to public intimidation. This Dreamhost case may be just the tip of that iceberg.