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Penn. AG Corbett Subpoenas Twitter For Bloggers' Names 205

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"

  • Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) 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:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ( 1195047 ) <philip.paradis@p ... net minus author> 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.
  • Re:FP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @07:48PM (#32287328) Journal

    Seems like they need a great big kick in the democratic ass.

    Isn't free speech allowed unless you're directly threating someone? From the stories I've read this person might be corrupted. Why is he threating with arrests instead of responding to those claims? Unless of course, he is corrupted person.

  • 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. []
    Something tells me you're going to be very well acquainted with it in a day or so.
  • 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.

  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkman, Walkin Dude ( 707389 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:17PM (#32287612) Homepage
    Please, the US has been a mercantile empire from day one, the American Indians found out all about that. Adventurism has continued from that beginning all the way through to today, take a look at what Smedley Butler had to say about it, I mean when you have a father and son as president, how far away from an official aristocracy are you? You couldn't miss the signs, the entrenchment of power ironically made possible by the very freedoms espoused so strongly there, the massive military expenditure, the exclusive clubs for the wealthy in ivy league colleges, etc.

    Theres nothing simple, and trying to pin things down as black and white, us and them, usually ends in disaster, but nobody can deny the trend of current events.
  • by dreemernj ( 859414 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:26PM (#32287686) Homepage Journal
    I think CasablancaPA only had like 50 followers this morning. Its at 600 now. This could be the greatest thing that has ever happened to their cause.
  • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <> 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 [] does not say the governor picks the Attorney General.


  • 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:Carlin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:55PM (#32287900) Journal

    George Carlin is a crazy old anarchist stand-up comedian, not someone you should ever take seriously on political philosophy...

    Technically, he's scattered ashes at this point. Which still makes him a better choice to take seriously for political philosophy than any political pundit.

  • Re:FP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:05PM (#32287978) Homepage Journal

    But what if the twitterer ISN'T at all connected to the investigation?

    What if they are just a person who reads the papers and is pissed off, or who hears rumors from others or whatever?

    Does a person lose their right to anonymous speech merely because someone SUSPECTS that they might someone else?

  • Re:FP (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:42PM (#32288200)

    But what if the twitterer ISN'T at all connected to the investigation?

    What if they are just a person who reads the papers and is pissed off, or who hears rumors from others or whatever?

    Does a person lose their right to anonymous speech merely because someone SUSPECTS that they might someone else?

    If he can get a subpoena, that means he will have had to have had a judge look at the evidence and decide the facts do, indeed, merit his request.

    Does a person have to be tried & convicted before evidence of his crime can be subpoenaed?

    That seems a bit backwards, but some people will justify an amazing amount of hypocrisy to defend their ideology & leaders. And, yes, I'd say the same things if the (R) & (D) tags were reversed, as it isn't about the party, just the crime(s). Just as I say that GWB screwed up a lot of stuff and I disagreed with many of his administration's actions and policies.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:56PM (#32288322)

    I posted anonymously on blogs, twitter and youtube regarding a Canadian incident where the former Attorney General of Ontario was the driver of a vehicle that was involved in the death of a cyclist. Security cameras showed something unpleasant about the ex AG's actions. Anonymity is essential for whistle-blowing at that level.


  • Re:Carlin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spatial ( 1235392 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:00PM (#32288346)
    The best comedy is a product of cutting insight.
  • Anonymity is extremely important. On more occasions than I can count, I've espoused the virtues of (pseudo)anonymous communications techniques, coupled with strong encryption. Note that this shouldn't be construed to say I believe people should be absolved of being held accountable for their actions if they do something wrong. I do, however, acknowledge that under certain circumstances (repressive regimes for example) local law may not be in line with what the rest of the planet finds remotely reasonable. Like everything else that involves people, these things require careful consideration and deliberation amongst the citizens affected by them.
  • 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?

  • Re:FP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cassius Corodes ( 1084513 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:55PM (#32288666)
    I'm not sure that this is about free speech. If the blagger, once identified, has nothing to do with the proceedings, nothing will happen to him. If he has then there will be legal consequences. Nothing here that impinges on free speech.
  • 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.
  • Re:FP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aeternitas827 ( 1256210 ) * on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:57AM (#32289954)

    If you then make it a condition that no AG or politician that may be under some kind of investigation can perform essential functions of their office (and for AG, investigations & prosecutions are a major part),...

    This isn't a case of may be under investigation--this guy is under investigation, and this is a critical difference. If it were limited to, say, wrongdoing by someone in the AG's office, not the AG himself, it would be a wholly different matter.

    then you've effectively shut down nearly all oversight and curbs on corruption.

    Thus why Special (or Independent) Prosecutors [] exist; and in this instance, this manner of party could be selected by the PA Legislature to remove all doubt that s/he is tainted by the AGs office. There are safeguards for this sort of thing, it's fairly difficult to think that a large number of persons, even if the Legislature is heavily in favour of his party, would blithely ignore ethics to ensure it all goes smoothly for the party.

    Why does it seem like every time a conservative, with no clear and/or credible evidence of any wrongdoing on his part regarding the investigation in question,

    Party affiliation aside, the fact is if the evidence were either clear OR credible, the need for an extensive investigation is obviated; that's the point of an investigation is to obtain clear and/or credible evidence to move to the courts. And in any case, once the spotlight turns significantly, for an official in any position of trust or authority on a matter--whether an Attorney General, a judge, or a Chief Executive--recusal is proper even if only to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. When it looks like you might be hiding something, the fact is, that's what the court of public opinion is going to arrive at. Take the case of Rod Blagojevich, for example; to be technical, he was impeached by the Illinois House twice (a technicality of the Senate not being able to try after the first, due to the end of the term; this required the articles be re-presented by the new House)--the votes to impeach, and the vote to remove, were overwhelming in their majority, with few people even in his own party, whether elected officials or common folk being on his side. It's not always about party lines, as you indicate, particularly when you're using your position to cover things up.

  • Re:FP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday May 21, 2010 @10:01AM (#32292714) Homepage Journal

    It's an established principle because limiting anonymous speech would, indeed, have the effect of limiting speech. To not protect anonymous speech but to claim to be still supportive of "Freedom of speech" would be a little like banning printing presses but arguing that you still support Freedom of Speech because, well, people can always talk to one another.

    It's always been the case, in any regime, no matter how liberal, that intimidation and discrimination that follows the expression of certain viewpoints will result in those viewpoints not being expressed unless the protection of anonymity is provided. Long after the US became free, anonymous and pseudonymous journalism remained a bastion of debate, and nothing has changed to suggest that the same principles do not apply today.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.