NYPD won't defend the warrantless subpoena it tried to get Twitter critic's data with

Why did the New York Police Department try to subpoena the personal data of a police accountability account on Twitter? Whatever its reasons, it doesn't want to have to explain them in court.

The notification included a copy of the subpoena, which warned X not to tell Clancy of its existence. "You are not to disclose or notify any customer or third party of the existence of this subpoena or that records were provided pursuant to this subpoena," the document read.

But X, following its own corporate policy, told Clancy anyway, and suggested he might want to get some legal representation to fight the subpoena, recommending the American Civil Liberties Union. Clancy did just that, and Kathryn Sachs of the New York Civil Liberties Union took up his case. Last Wednesday, Sachs wrote to the NYPD to challenge the administrative subpoena, which the NYPD had sent on its own authority, without any warrant or judicial approval. If the NYPD did not withdraw the subpoena, Sachs told the NYPD, Clancy would go to court with a motion to quash it. Rather than go to court to explain to a judge why the subpoena was necessary, the NYPD wrote back the same afternoon to say that it was withdrawing the subpoena altogether.

As Hellgate points out, this is not what administrative subpoenas are for.

"This kind of administrative subpoena is not overseen by any court, and is not meant to target people like our client," Sachs told Hell Gate. "If it's left unchecked, it would chill speech from potentially anyone that the NYPD decided to subpoena information about." …

Why are NYPD lawyers sending out subpoenas for a critic's private information without a warrant? Why are they using federal task force email domains to do it? Why did they withdraw the subpoena rather than defend its legitimacy in court? How many of these warrantless subpoenas have they sent out in the last year? We asked the NYPD these questions, but did not receive a response.

It was, in other words, an illegal subpoena, but they fired if off for the same reason they do a lot of things that amount to misconduct: because there's no likelihood at all of them getting in trouble for it.

Also, good on Twitter for still having the wherewithal to tell the cops to go pound sand and tell the target what they tried to pull.

Previously: NYPD ordered to stop illegally telling people they can't film inside precinct stations