Saturday, September 07, 2013

Administrative Subpoenas and Private Information

There has been a lot of media coverage lately regarding the federal government's
spying operations on its citizens, but are you aware of a little-known law passed
in 2008 that  allows state prosecutors to use something called an "Administrative
Subpoena" in order to obtain private information about the public without
permission from a judge.

A  website shows the cover of the administrative subpoena the DA of Suffolk
County's office sent to Twitter seeking records related to Occupy Boston in
December 2011.
Ava Cooper Davis, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Special
Intelligence at the DEA, explained how her agency obtains these records:  "When
a criminal investigator acquires a telephone number for which the subscriber
information is not immediately known, the investigator must first identify the
telephone company (e.g., Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc.) that owns or controls that
number. Once the telephone company is identified, the investigator will obtain
an administrative subpoena, requesting subscriber name, billing information, and
telephone toll records for a specific time frame".

According to an article in the Boston Herald the legislature has scheduled a
hearing to repeal the use of this subpoena.  House Bill 1648 which would repeal
this law has been referred to the Joint Committee of the Judiciary.