The Justice Department has won the ability to exercise a search warrant against an anti-Trump website after a superior court judge ruled Thursday it could seek data it says connects the website to violent riots that erupted on Inauguration Day.
DreamHost, the company hosting the anti-Trump website DisruptJ20.com, rejected a July 12 warrant that called on the company "to assist law enforcement and produce such electronic data."
The initial warrant that required DreamHost to turn over data including IP addresses, names, addresses, and other personal information of visitors to the website was rejected by the company.
The company argued releasing the data would reveal the identities of nearly 1.3 million visitors to the website. The DOJ earlier this week revised its warrant to include a date range on material it requested, excluding all visitor logs and the website's draft blog posts that were never published.
Chief Judge Robert E. Morin granted the revised warrant request Thursday, but DreamHost maintains the DOJ would still be able to access personal information from IP addresses because it will be able to access emails related to the Inauguration Day protests.
The Justice Department believes the information obtained by executing the revised warrant could shed light on some of the plans that resulted on violent protests, such as cars being burned and tense altercations with law enforcement on Inauguration Day.
Execution of the warrant will be supervised by the superior court but will not be executed immediately as lawyers for DreamHost have indicated they will be filing an appeal.
DreamHost argues the government's revised request still encroaches on Fourth Amendment privacy protections.
"The individuals who are visiting, and becoming members of an advocacy group will still know that at some point, someday, there is going to be an FBI agent sitting there and looking at this information," said DreamHost Defense Attorney Raymond Aghaian. "At the time, this information is in the government's possession and at the time that the FBI agent is reviewing that email and seeing what this person has said, that in my view, that in DreamHost's view, has itself a chilling effect on the exercise of political expression and the right to association under the First Amendment."
Morin acknowledged the constitutional concerns surrounding the request, but said his decision sought to strike a balance between law enforcement and civil liberties.