Internet posts of delegates' info leads to probe
From Terry Frieden
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Secret Service is investigating an Internet posting of some Republican delegates' phone numbers, e-mail addresses and the hotels where they would stay during the party's national convention, federal law enforcement officials said Monday.
In addition to the personal information, an anonymous statement said the delegates were "not welcome in New York City" and suggested that protesters should use the information "in whatever way they see fit."
The Secret Service declined official comment, citing "an ongoing investigation," but other federal authorities Monday said agents charged with preventing violence at this week's convention became concerned the postings may lead to illegal harassment or identity theft.
"We have an obligation to protect these people," said a Justice Department official requesting anonymity. "Any law enforcement efforts are designed to enforce the safety of convention-goers."
"There's no investigation of protest groups," the source added.
Law enforcement sources acknowledge an Internet Service Provider was asked to produce information about those who posted the Web information.
When the ISP, Calyx Internet Access, refused to hand over the requested data, agents requested and obtained a grand jury subpoena ordering the information to be produced.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is defending Calyx, says the subpoena sought contact information for the Indymedia Web site which allowed the anonymous postings of the delegate information.
"The [Indymedia site administrators] agreed that Calyx could provide their information because they had nothing to hide," the ACLU said in a statement Monday. "In fact, the [site administrators] are not responsible for posting the delegate names, and it is not clear who is, because Indymedia has an anonymous posting policy."
The ACLU said the Secret Service had been provided with the e-mail addresses of the four Indymedia administrators, and publicly identified the three men willing to be openly named. One asked his name not be disclosed.
The ACLU denounced the federal investigation in its public statement.
"This type of investigation is really a form of intimidation and a message to activists that they will pay a price for speaking out," said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson. "The posting of publicly available information about people who are in the news should not trigger an investigation."
The Secret Service has overall coordination responsibility for security at the Republican convention.
FBI agents and Joint Terrorism Task Forces have been actively working to head off potential violence at the convention, and authorities rejected allegations of seeking to quell dissent.
The latest issue over the limits of federal investigations marked a return to a dispute that erupted earlier this month. Two weeks ago the ACLU issued harsh complaints about government interviews of political dissidents in advance of the convention, charging the efforts amounted to the "chilling of free speech."
FBI Assistant Director Cassandra Chandler insisted the government was not interviewing protesters, and that nobody was questioned or monitored "unless we receive intelligence that such individuals or groups may be planning violent and disruptive criminal activity or have knowledge of such activity."