DreamHost, the web hosting provider that was hit with the request, has been fighting back against what it characterized as an over-broad warrant that would have forced the company to hand over "all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors".
The Justice Department obtained a search warrant in July for information regarding the website disruptj20, hosted by DreamHost and associated with the Inauguration Day protests that led to more than 200 criminal cases.
DreamHost's arguments, made in a court filing last week, largely centered on the claim that forcing a company to turn over broad data about people who visited a political website would run afoul of the First Amendment. The records in question would have exposed the IP addresses, and therefore, the identity, of around 1.3 million visitors to the DisruptJ20.org website.
Government lawyers wrote in a court filing Monday they had "no interest in records relating to the 1.3 million IP addresses" of site visitors, but wanted information on the planning, coordinating and participation of the protests.
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Federal prosecutors in Washington say in court papers Tuesday that a search warrant they obtained from a judge last month was focused exclusively on gathering evidence of a "premeditated riot".
"That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution's First Amendment".
In a supplemental filing on Tuesday, the Justice Department asked a D.C. Superior Court judge to let it amend its request after Public Citizen and other critics called the warrant a clear abuse of government authority.
A hearing is set for Thursday in D.C. Superior Court.
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Even though the Justice Department has dropped its request for expansive IP logs, Rumold says the warrant still seems like a misguided attempt to gather information about the planning of the protest.
Police confront demonstrators near the route for President Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington on January 20. DreamHost said in a blog post that it still plans to challenge certain "first and fourth amendment issues raised by the warrant" at the hearing. The new proposal would limit the time period for which DreamHost would provide information and would come with the assurance that the government would place under seal any information it might receive that is not relevant to its prosecutions. "This warrant has nothing to do with that right".
"The warrant - like the criminal investigation - is singularly focused on criminal activity".
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