Wired is one of the few publications that acts as a watchdog on civil liberties and freedom of information issues, and I'm glad they do. The federal government far too often overreaches - and this looks like it's one of those times. Go read the whole thing:
(WIRED) -- An anarchist social worker raided by the feds wants his computers, manuscripts and pick axes back. He argues that authorities violated the U.S. Constitution and the rights of his mentally ill clients while searching for evidence that he broke an anti-rioting law on Twitter.
In a guns-drawn raid on October 1, FBI agents and police seized boxes of dubious "evidence" from the Queens, New York, home of Elliott Madison. A U.S. District Judge in Brooklyn has set a Monday deadline to rule on the legality of the search, and in the meantime has ordered the government to refrain from examining the material taken in the 6 a.m. search.
Madison, who counsels more than 100 severely mentally ill patients in New York, seems to have first drawn attention from the authorities at September's G-20 gathering of world leaders in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There he was arrested on September 24 at a motel room for allegedly listening to a police scanner and relaying information on Twitter to help protesters avoid heavily-armed cops -- an activity the State Department lauded when it happened in Iran.
A week later, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, armed with a search warrant and backed by a federal grand jury investigation, raided Madison's house, which he shares with his wife of 13 years and several roommates. The squad seized his computers, camera memory cards, books, air-filtration masks, bumper stickers and political posters -- all purportedly evidence that the 41-year old social worker had broken a federal anti-rioting law that carries up to five years in prison.
But a closer look at the court documents leaves the unmistakable impression that Elliott Madison is yet another casualty of the government's nasty, post-9/11 habit of considering political dissidents as threats to national security.
Madison, his wife and his lawyer Martin Stolar say the search violates the Constitution's protections against general searches and prosecution for political speech. The police also seized mobile phones, citizen emergency kits, manuscripts, posters and even the couple's marriage license.
In a motion to throw out the search, Stolar called the search unconstitutional:
In this day and age, federally authorized agents entered the private home of a writer and urban planner and seized their books and writings. The warrant's vagueness and lack of specificity encouraged the agents to use their own discretion and their own views of the political universe to seize, or not to seize, items which they thought were evidence of a violation of the federal anti-riot statute. The law and the Constitution do not allow this. If there really is a grand jury investigation with possible future prosecution under [a federal anti-rioting law], the use of this statute as applied to demonstrations, demonstrators, and their supporters has profound 1st Amendment implications.
If Madison were an Iranian using Twitter to coordinate government protests, he'd likely be considered a hero in the West. Instead, the self-identified anarchist -- who volunteered in Louisiana after Katrina -- is now facing up to five years in prison for each count a grand jury cares to indict him on.
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