SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - From the first day of the Republic, the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures has been enshrined in the Constitution.
The U.S. Department of Justice is demanding 1.3 million personal visitor IP addresses from a web site that organized protests of resistance on the day of President Trump's inauguration last January.
The Federal demand alleges that the DisruptJ20 web site was used in the development, planning, advertisement and organization of a violent riot on Inauguration Day; a riot that produced 200 arrests. So, the Government wants anything and everything in the web site, including the web addresses of 1.3 million people who accessed the site for whatever reason.
"I think that is dangerous territory," said attorney Stephanie Lacumbra who is with the 27-year- old Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the rights and privacy of internet users.
"A digital dragnet; the Department of Justice wants to be able to get, like I said., the personal information of , subscriber information, on a whole class of people without particularly identifying who it is they're after and why. And that's the definition of what probable cause requires before a court should be granting that power to a law enforcement agency," said Lacambra.
UC Hastings Constitutional law professor Matt Coles said this of the federal warrant, "I think they're hoping that somehow, they can sift through all that information and find information that identifies the small number of people who engaged in some violent activity. But, you don't get to search people's reading material based on that kind of wild fishing expedition."
By phone, we spoke to Lacy MacAuley, one of the original founders of the Disrupt web site. "It's legal to visit a web site. It's legal to attend a protest actually. And this is nothing more than an intimidation tactic," said MacAuley.
The American Civil Liberties Union, a defender of individual rights, backs her up and issued this statement:
"The Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from engaging in over broad fishing expeditions, and this appears to be a classic one. If enforced, this warrant will surely chill the exercise of First Amendment rights, including the right to receive information, to speak anonomously and to associate with likeminded individuals free from the threat of government unmasking."
The website founder agrees.
"We're not going to be scared. We're going to keep protesting and we're going to keep standing up for what's right despite these ridiculous intimidation tactics," said MacAuley.
As stated, 200 arrests have already been made. By any estimate, the 1.3 million addresses sought would be far less than all the people who attended the inauguration. So, in its apparent pursuit to bring guilty parties to justice, the government will have to explain why all these counter arguments to this very broad warrant should not be severely restricted Friday in D.C. federal court.