Feds demand Facebook handover private info of 'anti-administration political activists'

Published: Friday, September 29, 2017 @ 11:19 AM

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
(Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice is demanding that Facebook provide the government with the private information of three users, including the identities of an estimated 6,000 people who “liked” a page set up in protest of President Donald Trump.

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In search warrants filed in court, government officials sought the disclosure of a wide swath of personal information from the Facebook accounts of two political activists and a page set up to coordinate protests of Trump on Inauguration Day. Among the information sought was “all contact and personal identifying information,” including passwords, security questions and answers, credit card numbers and private messages.

The warrants were issued as part of the investigation into protests in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day. More than 200 people were arrested on a variety of charges, many connected to allegations of rioting.

Protesters React at Trump Inauguration

The warrants cover interactions and information from Nov. 1, 2016, to Feb. 9. They are being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Opening up the entire contents of a personal Facebook page for review by the government is a gross invasion of privacy,” ACLU-DC senior staff attorney Scott Michelman said in a news release.

“The primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment was to prevent this type of exploratory rummaging through a person’s private information. Moreover, when law enforcement officers can comb through records concerning political organizing in opposition to the very administration for which those officers work, the result is the chilling of First Amendment-protected political activity.”

>> Related: Inauguration of Donald Trump: Protesters, police clash

In a motion filed Thursday in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, ACLU attorneys urged the court to rescind the warrants or narrow them in scope to protect the privacy of those involved.

Activist Lacy Macauley, whose Facebook account is among the three targeted by authorities, said in a declaration filed in court that officials would get access to "intimate messages exchanged with a romantic partner, detailed discussions of my own and other individuals' experiences with domestic violence and death threats referring to specific traumatic incidents from my life” if the warrant is allowed to remain as-is.

“My Facebook page contains the most private aspects of my life — and also a frightening amount of information on the people in my life,” MacAuley said Thursday in a statement. “There are intimate details of my love life, family, and things the federal government just doesn’t need to see. Jeff Sessions doesn’t need to see my family photos.”

>> Related: Donald Trump inauguration: Protesters take to streets outside 'DeploraBall'

Activist Emmelia Talarico, moderator of the Facebook page "Resist This," formerly known as "disruptJ20," said that federal investigators are asking for information that includes the list of people who were invited and indicated that they would be attending a January protest outside then Vice President Elect Mike Pence’s home. The “Queer Dance Party at Mike Pence’s House” drew a few hundred protesters in opposition to Pence’s stance in LGTBQ rights.

Officials would also get a list of all Facebook users who “liked” the “disruptJ20” page before Feb. 9, Talarico said, estimating that the government would get about 6,000 names.

>> Related: LGBTQ activists hold 'Queer Dance Party' outside Mike Pence's house

Talarico called the warrant a “direct attack on D.C.’s grassroots organizing community” in a statement released Thursday.

“This overreaching warrant would strike a devastating blow to organizers working every day to make this city a better place,” she said.

The warrants first became known to the public after Facebook challenged a gag order that prevented the company from notifying its users about requests for private account information from authorities. The government later withdrew the gag order.

It is the second time officials have sought what the ACLU characterized as “unlawful dragnet searches of the internet and social media” in connection to the Inauguration Day protests.

Earlier this year, web hosting service Dreamhost announced it was challenging a warrant from the DOJ that demanded the IP addresses of the 1.3 million people who visited the DisruptJ20.org website. A judge sided with Dreamhost and narrowed the scope of the government’s request, eliminating the requirement that the hosting service provide officials with IP addresses.

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Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty in Mueller investigation

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 2:39 PM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 2:53 PM

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Rick Gates, a former aide in President Donald Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements and conspiring against the United States on Friday, making him the fifth person to enter a guilty plea in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

READ MORE: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates face new charges: report | Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probeWho is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller?Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with?MORE

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Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probe

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM

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An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

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House Oversight Committee launches probe into Rob Porter's employment

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM

Who is Rob Porter?

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.

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Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.

Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.

Porter has denied any wrongdoing.

"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”

Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.

The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.

“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”

>> Related: White House ‘could have done better’ handling Rob Porter allegations, spokesman says

Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.

White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.

“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with White House Secretary Rob Porter (C) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (R) as they return to the White House December 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.

Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.

Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.

She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.

The couple was divorced in 2013.


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Veteran resident dies, receives patriotic farewell from nursing home

Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM

File image of the American flag.
Christopher Bruno, Freeimages
File image of the American flag.(Christopher Bruno, Freeimages)

A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.

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In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.

In a Facebook review of the nursing home, Dorn thanked the "caring, accommodating and selfless" staff who she said treated her father like family. Dorn wrote, "They treated my Dad with dignity and respect from the first moment there until he drew his last breath, then sent him off with a hero's procession."

The video has received more than 3 million views.

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