POLITICS
04/09/2017 10:31 pm ET Updated Apr 10, 2017

Senators Challenge Trump Administration Over Twitter Witch Hunt

They've expressed concern over what this could mean for free speech.

President Donald Trump’s administration has backed off its push to find out who is behind a Twitter account that criticizes the president and his immigration policies, but that’s not enough for some lawmakers.

At least three senators aren’t letting the issue drop and are challenging the administration over its decision to last month issue a summons in a bid to unmask Twitter customers. 

“Not only was the summons blatantly inconsistent with the cited investigatory authority … it appeared to be a distributing threat to free speech and whistleblower protections,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in a letter Friday to the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Even more concerning” is the possibility that CBP issued the summons to find out if the account holders were employed by the Department of Homeland Security to “take retaliatory action or otherwise squelch the exercise of [a] First Amendment right,” Wyden added.

He also called for an investigation.

In its summons, the DHS demanded that Twitter turn over the identity of the person behind the @alt_immigration account ― one of a number of “alternative” Twitter accounts purporting to represent an underground voice within government agencies or other Trump supporters. Twitter sued DHS and CBP last week, and the government withdrew its demand.

Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) also sent a joint letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, expressing concerns about an infringement on free speech and demanding more details behind the action.

“CBP must ensure that any properly authorized investigation does not disregard the rights to free speech enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” they wrote in the letter Friday.

The summons seemingly rattled whoever is behind the ALT Immigration Twitter account. The account took a short break from tweeting after last week’s battle.

“The past few days have been extremely difficult and full of anxiety,” @alt_uscis tweeted on Friday. It also thanked Twitter and the American Civil Liberties Union for “standing up for us.”

Ironically, the government’s action against ALT Immigration gave the site the imprimatur of legitimacy as a true critic of the Trump administration and brought thousands of new followers to the account. 

CONVERSATIONS