(Updated below the fold)
The Justice Department has subpoenaed indymedia.us for it’s visitor logs for a certain date. While this raises big flags regarding online privacy, something else happened with this action that is very odd. They recipient of the subpoena was told she could not talk about it unless authorized by the Justice Department – an essential gag order.
Of course news like this would send the right into a full frenzy that Obama is trying to silence the media, even a left leaning site like indymedia. Here’s Hot Air’s take on it:
Did the White House try to open up a two-front war on the media? Before the Obama administration launched an all-out battle with conservative-leaning Fox News Channel, the Department of Justice demanded the records of all visitor information of left-leaning Indymedia.us in an remarkable subpoena of a media outlet, for one specific day. No one can recall any precedent for such a wide-ranging probe into the records of a media website, but it may provide a challenge to a national-security law if the DoJ presses hard enough:
But there’s a problem with this “blame Obama” mentality. The original source of the article is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and this is what they say about the subpoena:
On January 30th, 2009, Kristina Clair of Philadelphia, PA — one of the system administrators of the server that hosts the indymedia.us site — received in the mail a grand jury subpoena from the Southern District of Indiana federal court. The FBI had sent an email to Ms. Clair a couple of weeks earlier asking where a subpoena directed at the indymedia.us site should be sent. So, we at EFF were ready and waiting to evaluate the subpoena as soon as it arrived. Yet even we were surprised at what we saw. A PDF of the entire subpoena is available here.
And let’s look at when the actual subpoena was signed:
See that? It was signed on January 23rd of 2009 – three days after Obama was sworn in.
Even CBS has jumped on board with this “blame Obama mentality”:
Under long-standing Justice Department guidelines, subpoenas to members of the news media are supposed to receive special treatment. One portion of the guidelines, for instance, says that "no subpoena may be issued to any member of the news media" without "the express authorization of the attorney general" – that would be current attorney general Eric Holder – and subpoenas should be "directed at material information regarding a limited subject matter."
Eric Holder wasn’t confirmed until February 2, 2009. So how could Holder have authorized a subpoena that was entered into the court record 13 days before even being sworn in?
These attempts to pin everything on Obama are always present in the rightwing blogosphere, but the fact that CBS, a major U.S. media outlet, actually started the latest episode is appalling. You would expect the author of the article would have read the actual subpoena, which they linked,
On the other hand this proves that the Obama Administration isn’t the only administration to declare war on media outlets. We now have even more proof of the Bush administration doing just that, and we have CBS and a rightwing blog helping to confirm it by their own error. I’m sure this case is still moving forward and I don’t know all the facts of it. A new President doesn’t come into office and immediately halt every single prosecution going on in the DOJ. If that happened our country would really be in a mess. So this case is actually a left over from the Bush years.
On and cue the right wing blogs are jumping on this. Here’s Clayton Cramer:
Imagine This Happening in the Bush Administration
The Department of Justice is using authority under the PATRIOT Act to gather information about visitors to a hard left "news" organization. From November 10, 2009 CBS News:
Umm – please read above. The dates show that it did happen under the Bush Administration.
This is really frightening. This must be fought fiercely.
I told you you wouldn't like what comes after America.
Yup Bush did a hell of a job at wrecking this country – didn’t he?
And now we have Drudge jumping on board:
He isn’t coming right out and blaming Obama or Holder, instead he is just giving his little subtle hint by putting a picture of Holder above the link to CBS.
The is courtesy of Mediaite, which also says this (in big, bold, red letters):
For those of you keeping score, the IP address landgrab was propagated by the Bush Administration, but the case was continued into the Obama administration, as were efforts to keep Indymedia quiet. This may not be terribly surprising given the number of career civil servants who work at the Justice Department … but it gives the lie to the notion that the Obama administration magically stopped federal agencies from playing surveillance hardball.
I am still astonished at the fact so many people think that Holder or Obama should personally know every one of the tens of thousands of cases the DOJ was dealing with when Obama took office. What makes it even more astonishing is that Holder should be up on all these given the fact that less than 1/2 of the DOJ appointments have been filled and most are held up in Senate thanks to Republicans stonewalling them.
And here comes the wingnut crazy Stop the ACLU:
Even some moonbats are getting unnerved by the Obamination Administration’s intrusiveness, hyper-politicization of the media, and aggressive contempt for the First Amendment:
At least people at the ACLU can read and realize this wasn’t done by the Obama administration.
(and now I feel like Glenn Greenwald LOL)
It seems that the argument raging on in the comments of right wing blogs is that the Obama administration could/should have stopped this. Let’s pause and think about that for a minute. Here would be the headline:
Obama DOJ Drops Case Against Left-leaning IndyMedia Site
How would that play out on the right? And remember that this case was being pursued under the auspice of the Patriot Act. I can just hear the wingnuts now – ‘Obama letting his left wing terrorists off the hook’.
No – Obama really couldn’t do anything. This case started under Bush and for the Obama DOJ to just drop it would have looked suspiciously political. The blame for this lies on Bush, but if the right feels like this is abusive of the Patriot Act (which they are claiming) then I hope they join in with us on the left to get it changed. Let’s just keep the facts straight though – the abuse was under Bush, not Obama.
I have started a new post on this, including what I found could be the real reason behind this case. Check it out here.