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Penn. AG Corbett Subpoenas Twitter For Bloggers' Names 205

Posted by timothy
from the would-like-to-have-in-my-hand-a-list dept.
Dthief writes with this from Pennsylvania's ABC27 News: "The state attorney general's office has issued a subpoena threatening officials of the social networking service Twitter with arrest unless they reveal the names of two bloggers who have been critical of Attorney General Tom Corbett and his public corruption investigation. Vic Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union told Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV that the court action 'raises grave concerns about abuse of the grand jury process to retaliate against political critics and opponents.' He said Americans 'have a right to criticize government officials and to do so anonymously.'"
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Penn. AG Corbett Subpoenas Twitter For Bloggers' Names

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  • But... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cottandr (1017464) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:38PM (#32287212)

    Twitter doesn't store personal details. Even putting a name in your profile name is optional. How can they provide information they don't even collect?

  • Jurisdiction? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Andorin (1624303) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:58PM (#32287424)
    According to Wikipedia, Twitter is based in California. Why is the attorney general of Pennsylvania threatening Twitter's higher-ups with arrest? There must be something here I don't know.
  • Re:Jurisdiction? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@NoSpAm.palegray.net> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:22PM (#32287654) Homepage Journal
    Nothing is going to stop PA's AG from issuing an arrest warrant for someone who is out of state. Now, CA may or may not decide to honor any extradition requests (should they be filed) for such warrants, and states have different rules about what they will or won't extradite for in the first place. However, having a warrant out for your arrest anywhere isn't really good for executives' images, and it might be kinda bothersome to have to avoid layovers in Philadelphia every time you fly somewhere on the east cost.
  • Soon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheMeuge (645043) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:33PM (#32287740)

    And, given the other story on Slashdot today, he'll soon be able to have his office look up the DNA records of the people once he identifies them.

    "Hello, Somebusiness Inc? Hi, this is the Attorney General's office. We're very interested in one of your employees, Mr. X. No sorry can't tell you - it's an active investigation. But you know what's interesting... he's pretty likely to get heart disease, his insurance payments and absences are going to go way up. Oh, and his son has ALS, did you know that? He's probably going to take lots of time off soon to take care of him. Yeah, it's tough to have an employee like him, even without a criminal investigation. Oh, did we say criminal investigation? We weren't supposed to mention it. Oh well, bye"

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:27PM (#32288090) Homepage Journal

    That Attorney General, is he a member of the G.N.A.A. ???

    He's a Republican. Draw your own conclusions. I'm kidding of course, as a Republican he wouldn't dream of being in an association that has anything to do with the letter "N".

    The other bit of information that doesn't appear in this summary is that he just won his parties nomination as candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania. About this, I am not kidding.

    It's a very interesting story, and worth examining. His office just released a statement that he has reason to believe one of the twitter accounts that he's trying to subpoena belongs to the defendant in a case he is prosecuting. He doesn't mention anything about the other account. But since there aren't any threats alleged in these tweets, just a lot of the usual political criticisms and slams, it would seem that his cause of action, if any, would be regarding libel, which would be civil court. Instead, he uses the criminal law enforcement powers of his office to subpoena two twitter accounts, which seems to pretty much violate the First Amendment. His case would seem to question the right of anyone to make an anonymous comment on the Internet, which might be of interest to readers of Slashdot.

    He's been accused of using the powers of his office to advance his political career before, and also of corruption and overreaching his constitutional powers in prosecuting a lot of Democrats and a very few Republicans. This incident is some pretty dangerous stuff, though, if you care about free speech.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:00PM (#32288350)
    Thank you, you point out a very good point. There is not yet enough information to determine if the AG is trying to suppress criticism or if he is legitimately going after someone trying to poison the grand jury process. Either could be the case based on the information currently available. So far, I see a bunch of people jumping to conclusions that Tom Corbett is in the wrong and a few people saying, "Wait a minute, let's wait to see the rest of the story before we reach a conclusion." The latter is the closest anybody is coming to defending Tom Corbett, as it should be based on the info so far available, although the people condemning him should be a little more circumspect until the facts all come out.
  • Re:FP (Score:2, Interesting)

    by slashqwerty (1099091) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:28PM (#32288528)
    You are thinking of a warrant which requires a signature from a judge. It is quite common for lawyers as "officers of the court" to have the power to issue subpeonas on their own. It is also common for prosecutors and Attorneys General especially, to have such power. I'm not familiar with the situation in Pennsylvania but if a court is involved it is probably just a clerical matter that a clerk rubber-stamps.
  • Re:FP (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dunng808 (448849) <osp&aloha,com> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:46PM (#32288626) Homepage Journal

    Free speech does not require a judge's determination. The right to free speech trumps an investigation into leakage. The investigators will just have to find another way. This always pisses off the cops on Law and Order, but it is one of the safeguards built into the American Constitution intended to limit government power.

  • Re:FP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aeternitas827 (1256210) * on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:41AM (#32289298)
    It won't impinge free speech, but eventually it all gets unsealed, and their identities go public for anyone who can fill out a FOIA request to find--and being that the Library of Congress is now archiving tweets, there's no way to guarantee that something that was said previously (even if the accounts never get used again) won't someday come back to bite them in the ass. Thus, this whole thing creates a bit of a sticky situation.

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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