Editors arrested for disclosing broad trawl for user records

October 19th, 2007 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

A story developing before our eyes. Early this afternoon (Pacific Time) I got a mail on Lauren Weinstein’s Privacy mailing list, pointing to a subpoena directed at the editors of the Phoenix New times:

In a breathtaking abuse of the United States Constitution, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and their increasingly unhinged cat’s paw, special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, used the grand jury to subpoena “all documents related to articles and other content published by Phoenix New Times newspaper in print and on the Phoenix New Times website, regarding Sheriff Joe Arpaio from January 1, 2004 to the present.” 

Weinstein points to the lessons to be learnt by website operators:

Trust is at the heart of users’ relationships with the Web services that they patronize. If such services put themselves in a position where they and their users may be victimized by unreasonable outside demands for log and other related data, the risks to the Web and Internet at large are immense indeed. 

Now, word, via the Stubblefield list, that the editors who disclosed the subpoenas have been arrested:

Grand jury proceedings are secret, and the two wondered in the opening paragraphs of the article whether they could face legal repercussions for making the subpoena public, but they viewed the subpoena as an attack on freedom of the press. 

Updated (2007-10-20)The charges against the newspaper have now been dropped. The details in the new story make for fascinating reading.

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