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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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  • Carlin (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:37PM (#32287198)

    In the words of George Carlin "You have no rights"

    • Re:Carlin (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sortius_nod (1080919) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:11PM (#32287556) Homepage

      For all the rhetoric of "free speech" and "liberty", it's amusing that the US government and corporations have the power to circumvent anything so long as you push it through the courts.

      • Well obviously. Someone has to decide whether or not things are legal, and that someone is the judicial branch. Of course, they must follow procedure set poorly by the legislature. It's hard to know who's really to blame (just maybe the bloggers themselves have committed a crime) until the details come out.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      You have the right to remain silent.

      Oh wait, that should be "you have the right to shut the fuck up and you damned well better not criticize a government official. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. BTW, your papers please!!"

      I miss America and its freedoms. I wonder where the hell it went?

  • 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?

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by palegray.net (1195047) <philip DOT paradis AT palegray DOT net> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:42PM (#32287254) Homepage Journal
      They're probably not really expecting to get the names of the bloggers from Twitter. More likely, they're looking for all account data for these accounts (including login source IP addresses), and will follow up with subpoenas issued to their ISPs for their real names.
      • 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"

      • At least one [blogspot.com] is quite a blogger.
        • As they're dealing with people whose full-time job is to do such things, I'd say the likelihood is high that any service these folks can be linked with might receive some paperwork.
    • by SomeJoel (1061138)

      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?

      That's for the courts to decide!

    • Re:But... (Score:4, Informative)

      by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:48PM (#32287336) Journal

      Maybe they'll provide the IP address..... not that it really matters. The PA General Attorney is abusing his power by trying to silence bloggers he does not like, in violation of the State Constitution (see below). It's pretty typical of the Rendell administration. His has been the most corrupt of the last twenty years.

      .

      Freedom of Press and Speech; Libels - "The printing press shall be free to every person who may undertake to examine the proceedings of the Legislature or any branch of government, and no law shall ever by made to restrain the right thereof. The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the invaluable rights of man, and every citizen may freely speak, write and print on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.

      "No conviction shall be had in any prosecution for the publication of papers relating to the official conduct of officers or men in public capacity, or to any other matter proper for public investigation or information, where the fact that such publication was not maliciously or negligently made shall be established to the satisfaction of the jury; and in all indictments for libels the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts, under the direction of the court, as in other cases."

      Reservation of Powers in People - "To guard against the transgressions of the high powers which we have delegated, we declare that everything in this article is excepted out of the general powers of government and shall forever remain inviolate."

      • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

        by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:50PM (#32287358)

        Typical of the Rendell administration? Nice spin there- the attorney general is doing this, and he's he republican nominee for governor.

        • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:27PM (#32287698)

          Nice spin there- the attorney general is doing this

          Perhaps you missed where GP says "The PA General Attorney is abusing his power by trying to silence bloggers he does not like". GP is wrong about blaming the Rendell admin though, the Constitution of Pennsylvania [state.pa.us] does not say the governor picks the Attorney General.

          Falcon

      • by corbettw (214229)

        "No conviction shall be had in any prosecution for the publication of papers relating to the official conduct of officers or men in public capacity, or to any other matter proper for public investigation or information, where the fact that such publication was not maliciously or negligently made shall be established to the satisfaction of the jury

        That's the devil in that detail. If he can persuade a jury that the tweets in question were "maliciously or negligently made", then he will not have violated the Constitution of PA.

  • Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@g3.14mail.com minus pi> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:40PM (#32287232) Homepage Journal

    Wow. Way to go authoritarian police state. Let's not even try to hide it anymore.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wurble (1430179)
      I live in PA and I've been following the Bonusgate scandal for a while. There are numerous Republicans and Democrats getting nailed for corruption in this case. The current investigation is into politicians who have been using public funds (read: taxpayer money) to fund their own campaigns and to pay campaign workers (usually friends and relatives). Millions of dollars stolen to fund campaigns, nevermind how much of that "campaign" money was then pocketed. This is stuff that makes Ted Stevens look sain
  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:45PM (#32287286) Journal
    I doubt this is going to work. There's no way a lawyer could write a subpoena in under 140 characters.
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:45PM (#32287288)
    Let me be the first say that Tom Corbett is an asshat. He is also the Republican nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania. One has to wonder how much of this is motivated by his candidacy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Oooo.... two Republican candidates (Corbett, Paul) have shot themselves in the foot in just the last day. Maybe they're trying to lose on purpose?

      "Corbett, who won the Republican nomination for governor Tuesday night, told the television station that he doesn't have any problem with people criticizing him on Twitter. He refused to discuss the nature of the subpoena, however, stating that the investigation prevents him from discussing the matter."

  • Join their twitters! (Score:5, Informative)

    by iamhassi (659463) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:48PM (#32287322) Journal
    Here's the two people he's requesting subpoenas for:
    http://twitter.com/bfbarbie [twitter.com]
    http://twitter.com/CasablancaPA [twitter.com]

    Let's see if we can make them go from 300-500 followers to 3,000-5,000.

    I can't believe he's making such a huge stink over someone with a few hundred followers.
  • by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:50PM (#32287354) Homepage
    ...two twitter users frantically edit their profiles and strip out their personal information.
  • 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 DOT paradis AT palegray DOT 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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by znerk (1162519)

        ...it might be kinda bothersome to have to avoid layovers in Philadelphia every time you fly somewhere on the east cost.(sic)

        Not really... if you lived anywhere east of the Mississippi, you'd know that everything routes through Atlanta. No, really. Flying from New York, NY to Cincinnati, OH? 3-hour layover in Atlanta.

        • Heh. I'm from Atlanta (lived there for the better part of 20 years), spent time in the Navy (plenty of flying there), and now live in Absecon, NJ (54 miles from Philadelphia). PA layovers may not happen quite as often as the Atlanta variety, but they're not exactly rare, either.
    • He is an idiot.

      I'd like to tone it down a bit, but he *can't* arrest them, and he *can't* get all pissy because somebody called him names ON THE INTERNET. Therefore, he is an idiot. I don't even know what he did that they're name-calling over, but in light of his idiocy it's likely he deserves it.

      Guess you should sue Slashdot now, huh? That's not fair - I'll give you a hint. I'll be in PA sometime in the next few months... good luck.

  • by Giranan (762783) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:58PM (#32287438)
    Hey, Mr. Corbett? Let me teach you about a little something called the Streisand Effect. [wikipedia.org]
    Something tells me you're going to be very well acquainted with it in a day or so.
    • by 1 a bee (817783)

      IANAL, but isn't Mr. Corbett himself abusing his office here? And in doing so, isn't he exposing himself to criminal liability?

      If so, this might culminate in something much more unpleasant than simply the Streisand Effect.

      --
      Corbettifect: Prosecution of a corrupt official exposed by the Streisand Effect.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        isn't he exposing himself to criminal liability?

        Who's going to prosecute him?

        This is why Attorney General is the most powerful office in any State. Forget the State legislature, forget Governor: he who controls the prosecutions runs the show.

  • Twitter subpoenaed (Score:5, Informative)

    by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:15PM (#32287596)

    That's kind of old, according do ACLU helping keep Twitter users' IDs secret in Pa. [earthlink.net] a judge will decide whether the subpoena is thrown out.

    Falcon

  • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:19PM (#32287630) Homepage Journal
    He is looking for the names of people who have criticized him? Really? Because I am pretty sure that by doing this, half the Internet will be speaking poorly of him. And I for one, am drinking the cool-aid.

    Fuck Attorney General Tom Corbett and his public corruption investigation. Fuck him in his stupid ass. He is fucking clown shoes.

    Come get me Tom. I dare you.
    • by Kozz (7764)

      Fuck Attorney General Tom Corbett and his public corruption investigation. Fuck him in his stupid ass. He is fucking clown shoes.

      The beauty of what you said right there is that it is protected free speech and not libelous. Unless your final use of "fucking" is intended as a transitive verb rather than an adjective. Which is actually funnier.

    • by EQ (28372)
      Hey asshole, RTFA. Its not critics, its that the Twitters apparently are part of a grand jury corruption investigation target - revealing confidential information that is being discussed by a grand jury - which *is* a crime if they are a party to that grand jury. The secrecy of grand juries is vital to their function in cases like this. Revealing information can tip off criminals ot possible source of information and point them to evidence that could be destroyed to damage any case. Basically, the Tweet
    • by mgblst (80109)

      Yeah, half the internet, the half that can't read a story, and just accepts whatever they are told without doing any research.

      Yeah, the moron half of the internet. In between posting pictures of their cats and writing messages in the name of their cats to other morons pretending to be some other cat.

      Just wait til we get Ark 3 ready to launch.

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:37PM (#32287776)

    If there is reasonable suspicion to believe that grand jury proceedings are being UNLAWFULLY disclosed to the public via the twitterers, then the Attorney General is merely doing his duty. Secrecy of grand jury proceedings is absolutely vital to provide fairness to the targets and to the witnesses. Reputations can be destroyed by a leak of grand jury information. The movie 'Absence of Malice' is a good illustration of how the grand jury process can be abused by illegal leakages and result in damage to innocent people.

    On the other hand, the secrecy of the grand jury process gives the prosecuting attorney ENORMOUS power that can be abused by bad men or women.

    Before I jump on the "enemy of freedom" bandwagon, I'd need to see the tweets. If it looks like they have an 'inside man' in the grand jury room, then I am totally on the side of the Attorney General. On the other hand, if they're just complaining about his behavior based upon what witnesses have reported about their own testimony (that's legal), then you can count me in among the haters.

    There's just not enough information available yet.

    I do hope Twitter moves to quash the subpoena. That way the Judge overseeing the grand jury proceedings will have to examine the prosecuting attorney's actions. If twitter caves in, then nothing is private on that website.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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 cl
    • by rearden (304396) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @11:27PM (#32288820) Homepage
      IANAL but I work for some! It depends on who is doing the leaks. The members of the grand jury are usually not restricted from speaking about the proceedings, just witnesses, and others involved in the process. So... if the person(s) doing the tweeting are on the Grand Jury or being told by people on the Grand Jury then he is barking up the wrong tree and likely to be burned by this. The best way for a judge to handle this (as far as I can see) is if the subpoena is not on its face baseless then the judge should request the info, review it him/ her self and see if it warrants further action. That way at worse some people at Twitter and the Judge know who the people are. Not the AG or anyone who can retaliate/ strike back. If the judge find there is cause based on who the person is the issue can be carried forth in the appropriate way: the courts, the bar association, etc.
  • There is no better way to dissuade people from being critical of a public corruption investigation than to be publicly corrupt. ...Or does it mean that no investigation is really needed now?
  • Anybody have a current count of their followers now?

    Blocked at work :(

  • Anonymity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tpstigers (1075021) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:37PM (#32288570)

    Americans 'have a right to criticize government officials and to do so anonymously.'

    Do they? We have a right to free speech. Where are we given a right to anonymity?

  • After a brief 175 microsecond investigation, we have now discovered that Tom Corbett has been posting online on Slashdot heavily as some dude named Anonymous Coward.

  • Corbett isn't just the Attorney General who filed suit against the President trying to get a federal law (that hasn't even gone into effect yet) declared unconstitutional. Corbett is also the Republican candidate for Governor. If his skin is this thin, he's going to have a rough patch coming on. Corbett is also a Goober.

Byte your tongue.

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