DOJ Backs Down From Overbroad J20 Warrant. But Problems Still Remain

Visitors To Anti-Trump Site Ask Judge To Block DOJ Warrant For Server Logs

Government lawyers said that they now "had no interest in records relating to the 1.3m IP addresses", according to court documents sourced by BuzzFeed News journalists. The sheer amount of personal data covered by the warrant prompted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to call it a "clear threat" to Constitutional rights, with the rights organization and DreamHost alike raising concerns about First and Fourth Amendment protections.

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".

But prosecutors say they believe that the site, disruptj20.org, was used for the planning and development of violent protests that accompanied the January 20 inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Justice Department attorneys wrote in court filings that the narrowed request would moot Dreamhost's arguments, but the web hosting company responded saying it does not intend to drop the fight.

US Attorney Channing Phillips wrote in the brief that they were only after a small group of individuals who coordinated and participated in "a premeditated riot".

Dreamhost which hosts the site said it was going to challenge the request in court.

DOJ says it could not be narrowed before because "the government could not exclude from the scope of the Warrant what it did not know existed".

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"The website was not just a means to publicly disseminate information (as many websites are created to do), but was also used to coordinate and to privately communicate among a focused group of people whose intent included planned violence", the government wrote in a court filing.

DreamHost characterized the DOJ's decision as a victory.

A hearing is still scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m.in Superior Court in Washington.

As part of its case against the site, the DOJ served a sweeping warrant [PDF] on web-hosting company DreamHost, seeking virtually every piece of information DreamHost might have about DisruptJ20 and its visitors.

The government initially sought to compel DreamHost to release the information on July 28.

DreamHost does not have details about the DOJ's investigation into disruptj20.org, but it says the scope of the government's request is concerning. And it is fair to assume that despite unprecedented recent efforts by the White House to impose itself on the Department of Justice's traditional autonomy, we have yet to reach the point where the DoJ is using its extraordinary powers to gather political intelligence on the Trump Administration's political opponents.

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