In ‘Chilling’ Ruling, Chevron Granted Access to Activists’ Private Internet Data

"Sweeping" subpoena violates rights of those who spoke out against oil giant’s devastating actions in Ecuador

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Following their guilty sentence for the dumping of 18.5bn gallons of toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Chevron is amassing the personal information of the environmentalists and attorneys who fought against them in an effort to prove ‘conspiracy.’  The US government is not the only entity who, with judicial approval, is amassing massive amounts of personal information against their so-called enemies.

A federal judge has ruled to allow Chevron, through a subpoena to Microsoft, to collect the IP usage records and identity information for email accounts owned by over 100 environmental activists, journalists and attorneys.

The oil giant is demanding the records in an attempt to cull together a lawsuit which alleges that the company was the victim of a conspiracy in the $18.2 billion judgment against it for dumping 18.5 billion gallons of oil waste in the Ecuadorean Amazon, causing untold damage to the rainforest.

The "sweeping" subpoena was one of three issued to Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

"Environmental advocates have the right to speak anonymously and travel without their every move and association being exposed to Chevron," said Marcia Hofmann, Senior Staff Attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who—along with environmental rights group EarthRights International (ERI)—had filed a motion last fall to "quash" the subpoenas.

"These sweeping subpoenas create a chilling effect among those who have spoken out against the oil giant’s activities in Ecuador," she added at the time.

According to ERI, the subpoena demands the personal information about each account holder as well as the IP addresses associated with every login to each account over a nine-year period. "This could allow Chevron to determine the countries, states, cities or even buildings where the account-holders were checking their email," they write, "so as to ‘infer the movements of the users over the relevant period and might permit Chevron to makes inferences about some of the user’s professional and personal relationships.’"

In their statement about the ruling, ERI notes that the argument given by presiding US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan—who was previously accused of prejudice against the Ecuadorians and their lawyers—was as "breathtaking as the subpoena itself." They continue:

According to Judge Kaplan, none of the account holders could benefit from First Amendment protections since the account holders had “not shown that they were U.S. citizens.”

Now, let’s break this down. The account-holders in this case were proceeding anonymously, which the First Amendment permits. Because of this, Judge Kaplan was provided with no information about the account holders’ residency or places of birth. It is somewhat amazing then, that Judge Kaplan assumed that the account holders were not US citizens. As far as I know, a judge has never before made this assumption when presented with a First Amendment claim. We have to ask then: on what basis did Judge Kaplan reach out and make this assumption?

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This work was published on Thursday, July 11, 2013 by Common Dreams and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License (Photo: Rainforest Action Network/ cc/ Flickr)

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Pledge to resist Keystone XL

The clock is ticking — 45 days and counting — on the most important comment period yet for stopping the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The State Department released its latest report on the pipeline last Friday, and it utterly downplays the profound impact Keystone XL would have on the climate. Will you join us in signing the Pledge to Resist the Keystone XL Pipeline?

The pledge reads: “I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline. ”

Take the Pledge to Resist<br />Keystone XL

Last Friday was one of those days that remind us of just how steep a hill to climb this fight against climate change is.  Activists like you sent 75,000 comments last summer against the tar sands. This time, it will take 100,000 to show President Obama how fast our movement is growing.

Even with a president who recently professed a lofty goal of getting all cars off of oil, even with one of our stronger climate-hawk senators as the new secretary of state, the State Department still released a joke of an environmental assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline, taking us one big step closer to approval of this project that should be a no-brainer of a rejection.

Obliviously ignoring the consensus among oil executives, bankers, and environmentalists, who all agree that Keystone XL is central to speeding the extraction of tar sands, the State Department found the project is “unlikely to have a significant impact” on tar sands development. This is coward’s logic.

This assessment was a vehicle for the White House to test the waters and see if the public will stand by, and buy this false and cynical argument that the tar sands will just get burned anyway. That while NASA’s chief climate scientist’s assertion that Keystone XL will spell ‘game over’ for the climate may be true, it is essentially irrelevant. That we should let the bankers and the oil companies profit while the planet inevitably burns.

Well, we won’t. And so, last Friday reminded us of something else, too: those two weeks in August of 2011, when the peaceful and dignified arrest of 1,253 people over two weeks at President Obama’s front door effectively stopped what was considered a virtually guaranteed presidential approval of Keystone XL.

There is still time to convince President Obama to change his mind and reject Keystone XL. But with the president ignoring every possible sign Mother Nature can send, it is once again incumbent upon us to send a message he can’t ignore.

That’s why CREDO is joining with Bold Nebraska, The Other 98%, Hip Hop Caucus, Rainforest Action Network, 350, and Oil Change International to launch the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance. It is time for us to pledge to resist. That is, we are asking you to commit — should it be necessary to stop Keystone XL — to engage in serious, dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could get you arrested.  We need to tell the President and Secretary of State Kerry that they cannot fight climate change while simultaneously investing in one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuels on the planet.  Will you join us in pledging resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline, including — if necessary — pledging to participate in peaceful, dignified civil disobedience?

Sign the petition ►

If tens of thousands of people stand up as President Obama mulls his final decision, and commit to participate in civil disobedience if necessary, we can convince the White House that it will be politically unfeasible to go forward. That is, our goal is not to get arrested. Our goal is to stop the Keystone XL pipeline — by showing enough opposition to Keystone XL that President Obama will reject it. But if he shows clear signs he that he is preparing to approve it, we will be ready.

It goes without saying, this isn’t a usual ask. It is not for everyone. So we want you to carefully consider if this is something you can commit to be a part of.

Here’s exactly what we have in mind: With the release of Friday’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, we will have 45 days to submit formal comments. And comment we will. We will petition, rally, make phone calls, and comment through official channels. But that may not be enough.

The moment of truth will come later, at some point likely in the summer, with the release of the Draft National Interest Determination. If the Obama administration issues a draft finding that Keystone XL is in our national interest, that will trigger action on our pledge to resist.

So we are asking you to pledge, if necessary after the release of the Draft National Interest Determination, to join with others in your community and risk arrest in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience all over the country.  Will you join us in pledging resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline, including — if necessary — pledging to participate in peaceful, dignified civil disobedience?

Sign the petition ►

Most events will be outside of Washington D.C., because this decision will affect all of us where we live. So we want to see the beautiful sight of actions across the nation — including a wide variety of symbolic targets like State Department offices, TransCanada corporate lobbies, Obama Organizing for Action meetings, banks that are financing tar sands oil development, areas ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, and along the pipeline route. Some brave souls have started this work already. We need to support their efforts and make them much, much bigger.

You can pledge to participate or you can pledge to help organize an action in your community. We’ll need tons of volunteers. And soon, we’ll announce organizer trainings so local leaders and activists who want to can get the tools they need to organize an action near them.

You shouldn’t make this pledge lightly. We certainly don’t ask lightly. We ask in the belief that there are tens of thousands of people out there who feel as strongly about this as we do, who believe that these circumstances call for extraordinary action, and want to be part of that action in their community. And we ask with the faith that those who commit to participate and organize actions will participate only in the most dignified manner. After all, we are the conservatives, standing up for a safe and secure future for our families. It is those we protest, those who profit from radically altering the chemical composition of our atmosphere — and the prospects for survival of humanity — who are the radicals.

But what is more frightening than asking you to join us in committing to acts of civil disobedience across the nation, is the prospect of coming up short in the fight against Keystone XL. Our time is short to convince President Obama to change his mind. We do not know how many people’s pledges, and how many pledged actions, it will take to convince President Obama to resist the big money, dirty energy, inside-the-beltway pressure and take a stand to protect our nation from the greatest threat of all.  So we need you. Literally, you might tip the balance.

Sign the petition ►

We hope you can join us. If you are so moved, make the pledge. And share this pledge with friends and family so that those who are ready and willing to be arrested can be counted in the pledge to resist. We’ll send you more information soon.

Becky Bond, Michael Kieschnick & Elijah Zarlin, CREDO Action
Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska
John Sellers, The Other 98%
Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., Hip Hop Caucus
Amanda Starbuck, Rainforest Action Network
May Boeve & Bill McKibben, 350.org
Steve Kretzmann, Oil Change International

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