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July 23, 2008

Blog Fights the Law, Blog Wins (For Now)

Room 8, a blog about New York politics, was served with a subpoena and an accompanying gag order in April by the Bronx DA's office, which was attempting to obtain information about the identities of anonymous bloggers and commenters. The subpoena centered on a blogger called Republican Dissident who made some critical claims about people involved in the Bronx GOP. (His posts have since been taken down.)

Room 8
What did Republican Dissident say? It seems that his complaints, at their core, involved some Republican officials who claim residence in the Bronx but actually do not live there. This is sort of corrupt, but it seems to be rather small-scale stuff to us—we've long known of NYC civil servants who find creative ways around residency requirements. It's a pretty widely known practice.

This, of course, leaves the far more troubling issue of the justification for the subpoena. Nobody at Room 8 was told why an investigation was being conducted, nor was the New York Times. While Room 8 was successful in fighting the subpoena—it was eventually withdrawn—the investigation is still a mystery. It could be ongoing, and it's unclear what precipitated it, which has left Room 8 wondering if "the crime they were investigating was the criticism itself."

There's yet another question here, as well—the identity of Republican Dissident, who even the owners of Room 8 claim not to know offline. Several blog comments attributed to the alias to Phil Sanchez, an attorney and former Bronx GOP official. However, when Gelf contacted Sanchez he told us that he is not, in fact, the blogger in question. We haven't seen any other names suggested, but whoever Republican Dissident is, we hope the Bronx DA will leave him alone, or at the very least tell him what they're looking for.

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