Department of Justice (“DOJ”) was unsuccessful, in part, in its effort to identify people who “liked” an anti-Trump Facebook page.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to associate. Political speech—even of a conservative guy like Paul Ogden—is the most highly protected speech. “Whatever differences may exist about interpretations of the First Amendment, there is practically universal agreement that a major purpose of that Amendment was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs. This, of course, includes discussions of candidates, structures and forms of government, the manner in which government is operated or should be operated, and all such matters relating to political processes.” Mills v Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 218-19 (1966).
In constitutional law, “chilling effect” is defined as “the result of a law or practice that seriously discourages the exercise of a constitutional right, such as the right to appeal or the right of free speech.” Blsck’s Law Dictionary, pocket ed., 1996, p. 96.
An attenuated argument in support of Trump/DOJ’s action to obtain FB contacts was that people who oppose Trump and his illegal hold on the Oval Office committed acts of violence on Inauguration Day. More than two hundred (200) people were indicted in regard to that violence..
I paraphrase Tallyrand, Napoleon’s foreign minister: Violence not only is wrong, it is stupid. Violence:
1) is antithetical to those who oppose a regime the leader of which encouraged violence at his campaign rallies;
2) is silly when the “other side” has at its disposal a military force LARGER THAN THE MILITARIES MOST OF THE REST OF THE WORLD’S COUNTRIES COMBINED;
3) is a means by which “the resistance” can be infiltrated and acts committed by agents provocateur to justify such actions as the DOJ effort.
Trump’s handler, Vladimir Putin, knows how this works. Opposition tends to wane, not so much by threats to activists as by threats to the loved ones of activists.
The ACLU has acted to oppose DOJ in this matter. The list of FB followers of the groups, according to an ACLU statement, was “public” but “the warrant would require the disclosure of non-public lists of people who planned to attend political organizing events and even the names of people who simply liked, followed, reacted to, commented on, or otherwise engaged with the content on the Facebook page. During the three-month span the search warrant covers, approximately 6,000 Facebook users liked the page.”
DOJ’s action is an impingement on free speech and free association. DOJ’s warrant appears still to be an issue, as DOJ appears neither to have rescinded nor amended its warrant.