(TNS) -- The U.S. Department of Justice shamefully is using its law enforcement power to intimidate not just political protesters, but anyone who dares view an anti-Trump administration website.
Anyone who uses the internet should be alarmed by the DOJ’s latest gambit.
After some anti-Trump protesters in Washington inexcusably engaged in violence on Inauguration Day — throwing rocks at police, breaking windows and setting fires — the DOJ quite properly launched an investigation that has resulted in 200 people being charged with riot-related felonies.
But last month, the DOJ went far beyond the parameters of the Washington crimes. It served a search warrant on a Los Angeles-based internet platform, DreamHost, which hosts disrupt20.org — a website that was used to help organize the Inauguration Day anti-Trump protests. The DOJ demanded the data of about 1.3 million people who visited the website within six days of the protests. The data include individual computer addresses,which would enable investigators to delve into the computer histories of more than a million people who had nothing to do with the incident under investigation.
DreamHost, appropriately, has not complied and has sought relief.
This is an unwarranted political fishing expedition that should be stopped.
As Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas once put it: “Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publication, the free press as we know it disappears. Then the spectre of a government agent will look over the shoulder of everyone who reads. ... Fear of criticism goes with every person into the bookstall. The subtle, imponderable pressures of the orthodox lay hold. Some will fear to read what is unpopular, what the powers-that-be dislike. ... Fear will take the place of freedom in the libraries, book stores, and homes in the land.”
That is even truer in the internet age. The DOJ should desist.
©2017 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.