Does It Matter? HELL YES It Matters!

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that you do not like Donald Trump.  And let’s say that one day you are putzing around on the great Internet, and you come across a website that is predominantly anti-Trump, so you decide to check it out.  You read an article or two, make a comment or two, perhaps respond to a few poll questions, and then you move on.

knockA month later, there is a knock on the door, and there stand two men in dark glasses, asking if you are _______________ (insert name)?  Why are they there?  What do they want?  They most likely want your computers and cell phones, but they may also wish to search your home. What do they want?  They want your right to freedom of speech.

Los Angeles-based tech company DreamHost set up a website, www.DisruptJ20.org, last year after the 2016 presidential election to help coordinate inauguration day protestors.  Some 1.3 million people visited the site at one time or another, and now the U.S. attorney’s office in the District of Columbia has issued a search warrant for email addresses, names, photos and blog posts of the people who visited the site.

U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips justifies the warrant by saying, “That website was used in the development, planning, advertisement and organization of a violent riot that occurred in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2017.”  But the federal government has already charged more than 200 people in connection with the protests that injured six police officers and damaged store windows and at least one vehicle.

DreamHost raised concerns with Assistant U.S. Attorney John W. Borchert about the scope and constitutionality of the warrant, fearing it was overbroad and possibly in violation of the 1980 Privacy Protection Act. That was when prosecutors responded with a motion to compel the company to turn over the requested records.  They also argued that the Privacy Protection Act does not preclude the government from seizing even “protected” materials with a search warrant.

Last month, DreamHost filed a reply arguing that the warrant’s breadth violates the Fourth Amendment and also raises First Amendment issues. Mark Rumold, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that no plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of such breadth, “other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible.” Even people who were nowhere near Washington on Inauguration Day who visited the website will have their data “swept into a criminal investigation,” he said.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin ordered the company to comply with the warrant, but last week DreamHost filed a motion asking that the judge put his order on hold while they consider whether to appeal. Prosecutors, concerned that such a delay could hinder their cases against dozens charged in Inauguration Day riots, have asked the judge to force DreamHost to turn over the data immediately.

In a recent interview, DreamHost’s co-founder and chief executive, Dallas Kashuba said …

“This is a fundamental issue of online privacy and how the Internet works. If this goes the wrong way, it could detrimentally impact the Internet itself. If people become afraid to access websites because they may be found out, it could chill the online communication.”

I find this whole thing deeply concerning in the era of Trump and Jeff Sessions.  Most everybody reading this writes for at least their own blog.  Some of us also publish in other publications as well. In the course of our writing, we do research, seeking facts and opinions, and frequently our research takes us to sites that may be controversial.  I may well have, at some point in time, accessed the DisruptJ20 site seeking information.  Does that make me a criminal, subject to investigation by the Department of Justice?  It should not.

Let us put this in perspective.  It is not against the law to access an anti-Trump website.  It is not against the law to write a blog or an OpEd that speaks against Donald Trump.  It is not against the law to plan, organize or participate in a protest march or rally.  If violence ensues at said protest, then it is against the law to throw rocks and bottles, damage property or threaten bodily harm, and anybody who engages in such behaviour should certainly be arrested.  But not everybody who may have high-fived the protest, or even been on the scene, peacefully protesting is breaking the law.

I do not know how this will turn out, and if the federal government has its way, I cannot predict what damage will be done to the future of free speech, but I do see this as very concerning.  As I have been saying, we need to keep our eye on the ball, lest somebody steal the ball from beneath our very noses.

43 thoughts on “Does It Matter? HELL YES It Matters!

  1. Dear Jill,

    This DisruptJ20 group is what the far right are now trying to define as Antifa. The far right conspiracy nuts, were writing about DisruptJ20 (aka Black Blocs) as early as November 2016. This was a Washington DC group that as of December 2016 had 1700 Facebook followers.

    It was originally formed in the summer of 2016 but came into its own around November 2016.

    Remember that James O’Keefe who did the “fake news” videos for ACORN and Planned Parenthood. Well he did one for this same group a few days before the presidential inauguration date. Around the same time, Breitbart did a major write-up telling its followers about this group’s plans to commit acts of violence during the president’s inauguration day events on 1/20/17 in Washington DC.

    From what I have read, it looks like the police were waiting for them on 1/20/17. There are law suits against this police overreach by some of those who were arrested. Now guess why, the right wants the above described info?.

    I am surprised that major news outlets aren’t covering this story more extensively.

    Incidentally, in doing my research, I have perused the DisruptJ20 website.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing that additional info! I was unaware of that. I think part of the reason it has been under-covered is the hurricane news has, rightly, dominated the news for a few weeks now, ever since the advent of Harvey. But still, I am with you in that I would have expected to see more about it. Same with the little boy who was nearly lynched.

      And yes, I have visited that site and many other controversial ones before. And … I am not afraid, so I will do so again as needed. I am not afraid, but I am enraged to see our rights being chipped away at.

      Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Scary stuff. You can imagine Indivisible getting on their radar as a conspiracy to foment riots. Or certain petitions. Or giving money to certain organizations. Reminiscent, too, of Senate Bill S.720, which would make it illegal to support boycotts of Israel for their policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Starting to feel Orwellian around here …

    Liked by 1 person

    • I began quoting Orwell and Huxley last year, in fact. And yes, I was reading about the bill that would make it illegal to support boycotts and I was astounded, to put it mildly. Don’t ask ‘what next?’ for I think we don’t want to know. I keep repeating to myself, “they can lead a horse to water, but they cannot make it drink”. 😉

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  3. Well, I seem to recall I visited that website while trying to find out more about the women’s march and science march. I have also in the course of research for fiction visited websites about death, murder, pathology… I have researched other odd things for blog posts and so far it has it always amused me that I have a very odd web searching profile – but then I have always believed I live in a civilised nation that respects democracy and the rule of law. I occasionally visit the USA, land of my in-laws too – ditto re the rule of law. I always find American immigration terrifying as I have to sign away my right to protest at being immediately deported if the authorities so choose – for no particular reason other than natural neurosis! But now? This is extraordinarily troubling.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And WELCOME BACK!!! 🤗

      YOU, my friend, DO live in a civilized nation. I, however, obviously do not. As to the web surfing, though … yes, I have visited a number of unsavory sights, including the KKK website in my search for information, and I will continue to do what I need to do, but I admit that I now think about it just a bit more than I once did.

      Again … I’m glad you’re back safe and sound … I was thinking of you just last night, hoping all went well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Jill. Good to be back too, thought Texas was a good if short family trip. I thought of you on the way out as we flew over (I always keep the map on my screen to see where we are going)! Will get to my emails next. Still very troubled by this – and we do tend to follow where you lead quite often. Our parliament has just passed a motion placing a control on committees which used to reflect the composition of parliament and now reflect a majority for our minority government – not a good sign …

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hmmmm …. I’m not sure exactly how that works, but it sounds ominous. I shall look further into it. And I never realized the UK followed our lead … very bad thing for them to do these days! We will lead anyone who follows straight into devastation! Ah … don’t mind me … I’m just in one of those dark moods again … too much time in the rabbit hole 😉 But yes, the slow chipping away at freedoms whether here, there or elsewhere is disconcerting. All we can do is keep shining the light on it, not letting ‘them’ hide their deeds away in dark corners until suddenly we wake up and it’s 1938 all over again! On a brighter note … um … on a brighter note … I … um … oh here, have a HUG!!! 🙂

          Like

  4. If you asked my parents who had lived under Martial Law and Dictatorship ( Marcos in the Philippines ), they’d answer that’s what’s going on here in the US has all the characteristics of an authoritarian government.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, I imagine that once you have lived under that regime, you can easily recognize it. I see it, but then I ask myself if I am being paranoid. But, with comments like yours, I am convinced it is real, and that no, I am NOT being paranoid.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This brings back memories of the McCarthy era when friends were turning against friends and some of the finest writers and actors in Hollywood were accused of being Communists and couldn’t find work. It would be tragic if that happened again. 😦 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That website was used in the development, planning, advertisement and organization of a violent riot that occurred in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2017. If this is the charge, then surely it is enough to look at all the web pages posted by this company pursuant to the protest. If there was nothing posted that encouraged the protesters to violence then there should be no case to answer and the right to internet privacy should prevail for anyone who accessed the site prior to the day of the protest.
    xxx Cwtch xxx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Exactly right, David. Although I am intimidated from checking out the site, I wouldn’t bet money that DisruptJ20 planned a violent protest. If it did… a mere six injured police officers? Some damaged store windows? A rather weak outcome… for a planned violent event.

      Something else is going on. It looks a lot like suppression of freedom of speech, citizen protest, and the right to assemble. Do the ruling elites fear an uprising?

      Liked by 2 people

  7. It is troubling to think that events are moving at such a rapid rate. Freedom does not really exist. If a plutocrat driven society starts down the road of invading our privacy, we have no alternative but to become silent and watchful. It changes nothing, but it represses thought, education and growth of social interaction. One has to ask the deep question beyond racism, beyond elitism, beyond plutocracy; why? What do those in government want to hide from public scrutiny,?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well … it’s a bit of a slippery slope. IF we had trust in our Department of Justice to protect our rights to privacy, I might agree. But under the circumstances, with Sessions as Attorney General, I think ‘trust’ flew out the window some time ago. And when the DOJ argues that “the Privacy Protection Act does not preclude the government from seizing even “protected” materials … “, then something sets off red flags in my mind. Perhaps I am too mistrustful these days. But I look back at history, and see parallels. Sigh.

      xxx Cwtch xxx

      Liked by 2 people

    • I suspect they want Total Rule and the opportunity to squash any anti-Government feeling before it gets anywhere.I’m quite sure that if Trump won a second term and the Republicans still ruled both houses there would be changes to allow presidents to run for more than two terms during times of crisis, and crisis being that it’s possible some immigrants are actually Al Qaeda bombers. You could keep that going as long as you liked.
      Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

      • You hit that nail on the head! Only … I have a fear that it will happen sooner. I think that if Trump is not removed from office before the end of his term, there will be some ‘crisis’ that requires a postponement of the 2020 election and extends his term ‘indefinitely’. I could be wrong, and I hope I am.
        xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Jill, indeed it does matter. I have noticed a trend that fewer people like to register an opinion or like something. My hypothesis is they don’t want to leave trail beyond just dropping by. To me, this exacerbates the concern over Big Brother watching, whose band is Jeff. I find the work the AG is doing about as bad as the President’s in rolling back the rights of people at the expense of the oligarchy in charge.

    The author Salman Rushdie made a straightforward observation in an interview. He noted it is scary that a cabinet of billionnaires, including the President, can convince so many that they represent the common man AND that the educators were the elites. Think about that as context as the right to protest is threatened. Keith

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thanks Keith! I fully agree about Sessions. He is in a position and has the potential to do a great deal of harm to free speech, as well as many other issues. I, too, have noticed that a post typically these days gets nearly twice as many views as likes or comments. My post on Joel Osteen a week or so ago? Had more than 600 views in a 2-day period, and only 45 likes. I don’t worry about that, but I do worry if people are afraid of leaving a footprint. We must guard our right to speak up, else I do not like the possibilities.

      I will have to check out the interview with Rushdie … I have wondered the same, ie how the average working person could possibly think Trump understood their problems and was their advocate. The denigration of education also bothers me greatly … how can we produce great minds, great thinkers, great humanitarians for the future if we treat education as the enemy?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jill, I am delighted your Osteen piece resonated with so many. I have similar experiences on even my most visited posts. I have found the older the post, the fewer the likes and comments by more recent visits.

        By focusing on HRC actual, embellished and made-up frailties, Trump was able to avoid detailed and main stream scrutiny of his history of exploitation of others. For him to be viewed as the leader of the common man is quite laughable if it were not so sad. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, although I do not give him credit for much in the way of intelligence, I must say that Trump is a master of illusion, at creating a distraction and drawing attention away from what’s behind the curtain, or up his sleeve. This is such a bizarre presidency that I just know I will awaken any moment, the year will be 2009, and Obama will be taking the oath of office. Shhhhh …. let me have my little fantasy 🙂

          Like

  9. Wow that is scary, and definitely unconstitutional. Illegal search and seizure without a warrant, unless of course the gov’t simply charge you with “terrorism” and all bets are off. At that point many ppl will renounce their citizenship and move on to greener pastures… like Russia lol.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, these are unsettled times in the U.S., and I cannot even predict the direction constitutional rights will take in the coming year or two. Much depends, I suspect, on whether Trump remains in office for the full four-year term. Personally, I wouldn’t mind sending Trump to the ‘greener pastures’ of Russia 😉 I hear Siberia is lovely this time of year …

      Like

      • I have triple citizenship, England, Australia and the USA.
        Australia is where my immediate family is and that is where I am returning to. I plan on coming back to the US in about 10 years to travel around the country, hopefully then it will be a much happier political climate.
        I stumbled across your blog and enjoyed what I read so figured I would hang around 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • I fully understand, and I have also considered leaving the U.S., possibly for Canada, though this is the only home I have ever known. I wish you the best and hope you do come back someday. And, I am VERY glad you stumbled across my blog and hope that you will hang around! One of the best parts of the WordPress community, at least for me, is that I have ‘met’ so many people from all over the globe!

          Liked by 1 person

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