Truth to Power

Do you really want to leave that comment? Big Brother is watchin

Subpoena seeks names – and lots more – of Web posters

Free speech should be practiced only by those who are ready to deal with the consequences, which just might include a knock on the door by a friendly federal investigator wanting to know if you posted an anonymous comment on a Web site. Were you advocating violence or confessing to breaking the federal tax laws?

This is not a hypothetical.

On May 26 the Review-Journal published an article about an ongoing federal tax evasion trial. The primary defendant, Las Vegan Robert Kahre, stands accused of tax fraud for using the rather inventive argument that he could pay people in U.S. minted gold and silver coins based on their precious metal value but for tax purposes use their face value, which is many times less.

The story was posted on our Web site. When last I checked nearly 100 comments were appended to it, running the gamut from the lucid to the ludicrous.

This past week the newspaper was served with a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office demanding that we turn over all records pertaining to those postings, including “full name, date of birth, physical address, gender, ZIP code, password prompts, security questions, telephone numbers and other identifiers … the IP address,” et (kitchen sink) cetera.

Tantamount to killing a gnat with an A-bomb.

There was no indication what they were looking for or what crime, if any, was being investigated, just a blanket subpoena for voluminous and detailed records on every private citizen who dared to speak about a federal tax case.</em>

Watch out, Oopbar. Remember, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.


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