Police fire pepper spray at protesters during a demonstration in downtown Washington on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. (John Minchillo/Associated Press)

A D.C. judge recently ruled that the website provider DreamHost must comply with the federal government’s demand for information related to a website involved in organizing an Inauguration Day protest. The Aug. 25 editorial “Don’t buy the hype” defended the government’s assertion that the request was constitutionally reasonable and did not suggest a crackdown on dissent. A broad coalition of more than 70 privacy and civil-liberty organizations disagrees.

The coalition wrote the attorney general to express alarm that, while narrowed, the government’s demand for information still constitutes government overreach. The website in question was used as a platform for providing and exchanging information about a range of activities planned for the week leading up to Inauguration Day, including a workshop on peaceful resistance held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The revised warrant still seeks all contents of email accounts of individuals associated with the website, regardless of their participation or involvement in the Jan. 20 protest. It would allow the government to identify individuals engaged in constitutionally protected speech, including members of the news media and the public who simply participated in meetings or communicated with organizers whose email accounts are affiliated with the website.

The public needs further assurance that our government is not attempting to gain access to information on individuals merely because they engage in dissent and political organizing, constitutionally protected activities fundamental to our democracy.

Lisa Rosenberg, Washington

The writer is executive director of
OpenTheGovernment.