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Fear of blogosphere used by Wisconsin “John Doe” investigators to justify secrecy

Fear of blogosphere used by Wisconsin “John Doe” investigators to justify secrecy

The ability of targets to access new media frightened the prosecutors commencing the anti-conservative “John Doe” investigation.

The investigators in the “John Doe” proceeding against conservative activists in Wisconsin are appealing the federal District Court’s injunction shutting down the investigation, as we previously detailed in numerous posts.

That injunction is part of a lawsuit by Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth also seeking damages and other relief directly against the investigators, who are also local prosecutors, for violating the activists’ constitutional rights.

A separate lawsuit has been filed in state court against the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

As part of the appeal in the federal case, yesterday the investigators filed a redacted copy of the original Petition for Commencement of John Doe Proceeding (full embed at bottom of post), detailing the reasons why the investigators sound the sweeping secrecy provisions of Wisconsin’s John Doe procedure.

Among the reasons was a cryptic and redacted reference to the targets of the probe having “well placed” ties to the blogoshpere (transcription via Wisconsin State Journal):

“I believe it is reasonable to expect that any public filing about the existence of this investigation will generate substantial publicity, both from traditional (e.g., print and broadcast journalism) and non-traditional (e.g. Internet blog) information sources. This is because the individuals involved in this investigation are well-placed,” it reads.

The rest of that sentence was blacked out and was not visible in public court records.

Here’s the relevant portion of the Petition (highlighting added, redaction in original):

Wisconsin Petition for Commencement of John Doe Proceeding re blogosphere highlighted

I think new media has arrived when the government is more afraid of the blogosphere than the blogosphere is of the government.

Wisonsin Petition for Commencement of John Doe Proceeding – O'Keefe Et Al.


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Sounds like republican democracy breaking out…!!!

    sequester in reply to Ragspierre. | June 5, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Rags, I do not understand why the prosecutors did not convene a Grand Jury if they had probable cause to believe a crime had been committed.

    If the “John Doe” process requires a lower standard than probable cause, it brings up some very serious due process issues.

      Ragspierre in reply to sequester. | June 5, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Oh, I totally agree…!!!

      I think this is the worst possible means to go about what is arguably a meritorious end…that of ferreting out government corruption.

      It seems patently obvious that it accomplishes the opposite by establishing a means for corrupt prosecutors to use to damage the free expression of political speech.

        sequester in reply to Ragspierre. | June 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm

        It is rare to see a law that may have the perfect trifecta of constitutional flaws hitting the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

      Think38 in reply to sequester. | June 5, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      The purpose of John Doe investigation is to determine whether there exists probable cause that a crime has been committed, and if so, by whom.

      That purpose is a central point of the rulings so far. The investigators lack personal immunity because they are not prosecuting a crime, they are investigating if one occurred.

        sequester in reply to Think38. | June 6, 2014 at 6:55 am

        An investigation not based on probable cause will become entangled with serious constitutional problems.

          Ragspierre in reply to sequester. | June 6, 2014 at 7:04 am

          “Fishing without a license”, I’d call it.

          The process is the violation of rights, and hence the punishment…when none is justified.

But let Joe Citizen get arrested for so much as spitting on the sidewalk, and THAT little item, along with your booking photo, will be blasted all over the Internet forever and ever.

Irregardless of any subsequent factoids like ‘all charges were dropped’, ‘no charges were filed to begin with’, ‘case of mistaken identity’, ‘innocent bystander’, etc.

Nice sytem.

It is time to put the fear of blog into them!

If they were fearful at the outset their knees must really be a knockin’ right about now.

Henry Hawkins | June 5, 2014 at 11:42 pm

Neologism: Blogophobia