As the New York Times reported today, the office of Bronx district attorney Robert Johnson subpoenaed Ben Smith and Gur Tsabar, the co-founders of Room Eight, looking for someone who wrote unflattering posts about D.A. Richard Johnson and forbidding the recipients from making public the fact that they had been subpoenaed.
The prosecutor’s demands – which were for the I.P. address for a blogger writing under the name “Republican Dissident,” who had been critical of Johnson and the Republican Party in the Bronx — were eventually withdrawn. (Johnson has run with Republican support and is generally seen as an ally to the party even though he himself is a Democrat.)
According to the Times, “In addition to Republican Dissident, prosecutors wanted to identify several other people who chose to post comments anonymously. Some of the comments cited news reports about investigations to support their criticism of Republican officials.”
A spokesman for the Bronx D.A. said that Johnson eventually “reviewed the matter” and
ordered that the subpoena be withdrawn.
The Room Eight co-founders wrote today, “The district attorney’s office refused to offer any details of their investigation, leaving us with the concern that the crime they were investigating was the criticism itself, most of which involved linking – with harsh, at times mean, caricatures – to news stories and to publicly available documents.”
Details of the investigation aside, though, a key political question remains: What in the world was Johnson (and, certainly, the A.D.A who wrote up the subpoena) thinking?