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Congress wants answers about Homeland Security domain name seizures

A bipartisan coalition of US Representatives is demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security regarding a spat of dubious domain name seizures conducted as part of Operation In Our Sights. The Representatives, led by California’s Zoe Lofgren, are concerned that  due process was not given to the domains seized.

A letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano specifically cites the seizure of hip hop fansite Dajaz1. The case has a long and troubled history, from the motivation (the government essentially took the RIAA’s word without any investigation), to the execution (dajaz1’s domain was held by the government, possibly illegally, for over a year before it was determined that it wasn’t doing anything wrong). To add insult to injury, the whole thing was conducted under a veil of secrecy that covered up utter incompetence for over a year.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) points out that a ton of other cases have suffered from the same problems; just last week the government released Rojadirecta.com and Rojadirecta.org, two sports streaming sites that it had held since February 2011. That’s a year and a half that those sites will get returned to them, and there’s not even an explanation for why it took so long.

Representative Lofgren and her allies, Jason Chaffetz and Jared Polis, are looking to pull back the curtain on what’s being covered up in these cases, and ensure that any future seizures are held accountable to the law. The gist of their letter comes down to 7 questions, like:

  • What is the process for determining which sites to target? Who is involved in that process? What specific steps do DOJ and ICE take to ensure that affidavits and other material are thoroughly reviewed for accuracy prior to seizing a domain?
  • Have you made any changes to your domain seizure policies or their implementations as a result of the issues arising from the Dajaz1 seizure or any other seizure? If so, what were those changes?
  • How many seizures do you anticipate occurring in the next six months and year?

Of course, there’s always the possibility that it’ll just get thrown in the wastebin and totally ignored. But we try to be more optimistic than that, so hopefully we’ll all come away from this with some answers, while the owners of seized domains get a better idea of how their cases are proceeding, and why it’s so hard to get answers. Whatever ends up happening, we’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything else.

Source: Congress of the United States | Electronic Frontier Foundation

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