ICE Reluctantly Releases A Small Number Of Heavily Redacted Domain Seizure Docs, Holds The Rest Hostage

from the but-of-course dept

Back in December of 2010, Aaron Swartz filed a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) efforts to seize, without any notification or adversarial hearings, domain names which ICE claimed were facilitating copyright and/or trademark infringement. After nearly two years of back and forth (including ICE apparently losing an updated request and closing the request because of it), ICE has finally delivered 100 pages worth of heavily redacted material which are close to useless. They are also claiming that there are another 16,137 records out there, but they want him to pay over $1,000 to get the rest. They told him if he didn't cough up the money within a few days, they would consider the request closed. Aaron, with the help of the Muckrock site (which helps people file FOIAs), is appealing this decision.

In the meantime, however, we have 100 mostly useless documents that appear to just show the warrants that US Magistrate Judge Alan Kay approved on the morning of November 23rd, 2011. Of course, these are completely redacted, so you don't even know what domains they're referring to. In going through the documents, the only thing of interest that I spotted was that the judge time stamped each warrant signature, and many of them are mere minutes from one another -- at least raising some questions concerning how carefully the judge reviewed each individual case before granting the warrant that allowed the feds to then seize and shut down those sites. Considering that we already have two known cases -- Dajaz1 and Rojadirecta -- in which it later came out that the government did not have the necessary evidence, and where the feds were embarrassingly forced to hand back the domains and drop legal proceedings, it seems that a judge should be expected to at least spend some time understanding why it is he's signing off on an order to take down speech.

Either way, it really does seem like these documents being the first 100 released was, perhaps, done on purpose, to make sure the released documents don't actually get at what Swartz actually requested, which was:
  • Any guidelines or protocols for ICE agents about the procedures for seizing domains
  • Any communications between ICE and other government agencies with regard to the seized domains
  • Any communications between ICE and intellectual property owners requesting domains be seized or discussing seized domains
  • Any court filings requesting authorization to seize domains
  • Any internal emails mentioning the seized sites
  • Any legal memos mentioning the seized sites
Instead, he gets 100 pages of heavily redacted warrants? What a joke. And, is it that difficult to expect that a judge will take more than a minute or two to understand the issues at hand when signing off on a warrant to completely shut down a website with no adversarial hearing with the site owner?
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Filed Under: aaron swartz, domain seizures, foia, ice, redacted

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2012 @ 2:30pm


    "We can neither confirm or deny the existance of those documents. Any classified information cannot have its existence confirmed because of possible compromisation of foreign powers, military, information gathering, anti-child pornography, business models and generally who or what we deem necessary to protect. As a rule of thumb, anything the government does is classified and whatever we want to let people see has to be controlled through a very narrow spindoctor-haven to assure positive experience for the people requesting imnformation..."

    That is more or less the reality we have been living with before the internet. FOIA is a huge step foreward on terms of assuring a transparent and more "real" democracy.

    That some people are abusing the system is a problem and - on the other side - the lack of ability from some of the government bodies is what is making the transition horribly painful.
    I think it is important to recognise that ICE and some other bodies have always been corrupted by a lack of oversight and too big an ego!

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