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Skinner
Posted by Skinner in General Discussion (01/01/06 through 01/22/2007)
Fri Oct 27th 2006, 02:07 PM
I am a little concerned that some people here may have a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues involved in this Secret Service situation, and therefore may have unrealistic expectations about what Democratic Underground is doing.

Issue #1: The Secret Service is just doing their job. It is the job of the US Secret Service to investigate possible threats to the president of the United States. While it is not clear whether these posts constituted a legitimate threat to the president, the posts definitely did include content that would have raised red flags among the Secret Service. The Secret Service agents I spoke to were extremely professional and polite.

Issue #2: There is no indication that this is politically motivated. All indications are that this is a fairly routine investigation narrowly focused on two individuals who posted three messages on this website. There is no indication that the Secret Service are actively monitoring Democratic Underground. When I asked why after five years we suddenly heard from them on two separate issues, they said that a concerned citizen had contacted them. I have no reason to disbelieve that explanation.

Issue #3: The information request is narrowly focused on only two individuals. The Secret Service asked for information on two people who posted on our website. They did not ask for information on anyone else, and they certainly did not ask for our entire database. Unless you are one of the two banned members in question, you have nothing to worry about.

Issue #4: There exists no constitutional right to threaten the life of the president of the United States. I think some of you have the mistaken impression that Democratic Underground has declined to voluntarily hand over information on these two individuals in order to protect their right to "free speech" with regard to presidential threats. This is not correct. Our position has nothing to do with free speech. The administrators of Democratic Underground recognize the need for the Secret Service to investigate what they perceive to be possible threats against the president of the United States.

Issue #5: Our concern is protecting the privacy of our members, to the extent that we are legally entitled to do so. As visitors to our website, you have trusted us with private information about yourself. We take that trust seriously. If the government (or anyone else), asks us for your private information, we are not required to voluntarily hand it over. That is what happened: The Secret Service asked us if we would voluntarily share information about two former members of this website, we consulted with our lawyer, and we politely declined to do so. So, what happens now? The Secret Service must decide whether to try to get a subpoena to compel us to hand over the information. In order to get a subpoena, they will have to convince a court that they have a good reason to make us hand over the information. This is how our legal system protects your rights. If the court grants the subpoena to the Secret Service, then that will most likely be the end of this. Of course we will consult with our lawyers to make sure everything is legit, but barring some unforeseen issue, this will effectively be over.

At this point, we have not heard back from the Secret Service. If we do get a subpoena or subpoenas, we will let you know. But whatever happens, do not expect this to be some kind of epic Supreme Court-level constitutional battle -- because this is not that kind of case. The legal issues involved here are all very clear and well established.

David Allen
Democratic Underground Administrator
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David Allen
53937 posts
Member since 2001
Washington, DC, USA
I am the owner and co-founder of Democratic Underground.
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