UPDATE: According to Reuters, both Jeff Rae and Malcolm Harris are challenging the subpoenas to Twitter for their records. The National Lawyers Guild is representing both activists.
The Reuters piece also sheds a little more light on the reasoning behind the filing of the subpoenas. Assistant DA in Manhattan Lee Langston wrote that his office is seeking Harris' tweets because he had "made clear through various public statements that he was well aware of the police instructions that day." So the ADA wants his tweets to prove to the court that Harris knew he was breaking the law and continued doing so?
If true, that raises the question, again: if the ADA is after the content of Harris' or Rae's tweets (in addition to the three other people subpoenaed that day), why ask for such intimate information as their home addresses and potentially also their phone address book contents? Surely that information is irrelevant to any investigation of the Brooklyn Bridge incident?
Stay tuned for more information on these cases as their motions to quash go forward.
Screenshot of Jeff Rae's charges from the 1 October 2011 Brooklyn Bridge incident.
Now the Manhattan DA is after Twitter user @jeffrae's personal information in addition to that of Malcolm Harris (@ADALeeLangston), as well as that of three other people who have yet to be identified publicly.
An Occupy Wall Street activist who was arrested alongside hundreds of others during the 1 October 2011 Brooklyn Bridge incident, Rae describes himself on Twitter as a "rabble rouser, agitator, organizer, labor activist" and lists his location as Washington, D.C..
Twitter emailed Rae a copy of the subpoena on Saturday 10 March 2012; the subpoena itself is dated 8 March 2012. The cover letter indicates that Manhattan prosecutors asked for the records of five people, likely including those of Malcolm Harris (@ADALeeLangston), the subpoena for which was also dated 8 March 2012. The other three targets have yet to publicly disclose the subpoenas.
Like Malcolm Harris, Jeff Rae was arrested during the Brooklyn Bridge kettling incident, when the NYPD trapped and then arrested about 700 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators on the bridge on October 1. The subpoena asks for the same information sought on Mr. Harris:
all public Tweets posted for the period of 9/15/2011 – 10/31/2011 and 2/1/2012 – 2/15/2012" and his "subscriber information: name; address; records of session times and duration; length of service (including creation date); types of service utilized; telephone or instrument number or any other subscriber number or identity, including any temporarily assigned network address.
What could the DA's office hope to learn from getting access to Rae's personal information — including potentially his phone address book information? If the DA is trying to use Rae's tweets to build a case against him or the other arrestees from that 1 October 2011 arrest, why don't they just use a public service like Snap Bird to go back and look at his tweets? It took me about five minutes to pull up all of his tweets from the day he was arrested on the bridge; all of his other tweets for the period in question are similarly easily obtainable online. (See below.)
Regardless, the increasingly common deployment of subpoenas to unmask activists online is a disturbing trend. Read more about the Twitter subpoena saga and about a particularly bad statute we have in Massachusetts that enables wide-ranging, troubling prosecutorial fishing expeditions.
But regarding the Brooklyn Bridge arrests, is there anything the prosecutors could find in Rae's tweets that would incriminate him or others? Take a look for yourself and see if there's a 'there there,' as they say. Regardless, the question looms: since these tweets are available online for anyone to see, why subpoena Rae's or Harris' records? What does the DA need to know that only a subpoena to Twitter can tell him?