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NYPD cited the The Patriot Act in attempt to access reporter’s Twitter account data

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New legal papers have revealed that the New York Police Department (NYPD) cited The Patriot Act, a post 9/11 anti-terrorism law, in an attempt to gain access to a New York Post reporters Twitter data last year.

The subpoena is dated December 9, 2019 which was less than two weeks after the city’s current Police Commissioner, Dermot Shea, was sworn in.

The subpoena orders Twitter to turn over a massive amount of data associated with the account of Tina Moore, the New York Post’s Police Bureau Chief, between October 9, 2019 and October 14, 2019.

The requested data from this period includes:

  • Any/all detailed subscriber, profile, contact, billing, and payment information associated with the account
  • Any/all email addresses, screen names, user names, and domain names associated with the account
  • Any/all Internet Protocol (IP) data and MAC address data associated with the account including historical data, length of service data, and connection logs related to the account, subject, and associated electronic devices

Additionally, the legal papers request that Twitter not inform Moore about the subpoena for 90 days.

However, Twitter emailed Moore, alerted her about the subpoena, and said its deadline to produce the records was Thursday.

After lawyers from the New York Post contacted the NYPD, they withdrew the subpoena on Wednesday.

Moore had obtained and tweeted a crime scene photo between October 9, 2019 and October 14, 2019 and the NYPD’s subpoena appears to be centered around an investigation into the leaked photo, according to the New York Post.

An NYPD official said the department was “conducting an investigation of a person who leaked crime scene photos” when asked about the subpoena.

They added: “Tina Moore was never the focus of our investigation.”

Lawyers said the citing of The Patriot Act in the subpoena was “a strange move” while legal experts described it as “George Orwell-level shocking.”

Retired NYPD cop-turned-attorney, Eric Sanders, said the subpoena “has absolutely nothing to do with the Patriot Act” and added “this isn’t what The Patriot act was intended for.”

Sanders also described the subpoena as a “fishing expedition” and said: “They are trying to chill her, and they are trying to chill their employees for giving information. It’s a First Amendment issue.”

Adam Scott Wandt, an assistant professor of public policy at John Jay College who specializes in digital forensics and cybersecurity, said the requested connection data could leave a “network trail” of Moore and allow the NYPD to geo-locate her.

Former Manhattan prosecutor Andrew Stengel said: “There are absolutely no grounds for a police department to subpoena the social media records of a journalist.”

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