Trump Administration Lawyers Relent – Ask Judge to Exclude Request for IP Addresses of January Inauguration Protesters

Aug. 22, 2017

Trump Administration Lawyers Relent – Ask Judge to Exclude Request for IP Addresses of January Inauguration Protesters

Statements of Public Citizen Experts

Note: Lawyers for President Donald Trump have asked the judge to modify their search warrant to exclude the government’s demand for server logs that would have revealed the personal identifying information of thousands of visitors who later attended a protest of President-elect Donald Trump’s January inauguration. Public Citizen filed to represent a number of these people in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Monday because it believes the U.S. government has no legal justification for seeking out the identities of people who accessed a protest website. At this moment, Public Citizen is continuing to evaluate the other elements of the government’s request. In particular, there may remain a troubling First Amendment issue with the government’s revised request, particularly involving communications from web users to the website owners.

“This is a tremendous victory for the right to read anonymously online. The government’s explanation for including this request for individual IP addresses in the original search warrant defies belief. That any competent prosecutor could think that any web host would somehow not retain such sensitive and personal information, and therefore would not be included in its search warrant, is disingenuous at best.”

– Paul Alan Levy, attorney, Public Citizen

“In the face of growing public concern, the Trump Justice Department has backed down on its outrageously overbroad request for information on every visitor to an inaugural protest website. If the government had prevailed in its request to enforce the original terms of the warrant, it would have significantly chilled dissent. And there was every reason to fear that if the Trump administration had been able to get away with their anti-First Amendment request, then more, and more serious, civil liberties infringements would follow. A debt of gratitude is owed to the web hosting company DreamHost, which stood up for speech protections in the face of an improper government demand.”

– Robert Weissman, president, Public Citizen