Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Wired magazine has a story on the CNN website about the federal government raiding the home of a writer and seizing enormous amounts of “evidence” for the crime of twittering during the G-20 protests in Pittsburgh.

An anarchist social worker raided by the feds wants his computers, manuscripts and pick axes back. He argues that authorities violated the U.S. Constitution and the rights of his mentally ill clients while searching for evidence that he broke an anti-rioting law on Twitter.

In a guns-drawn raid on October 1, FBI agents and police seized boxes of dubious “evidence” from the Queens, New York, home of Elliott Madison. A U.S. District Judge in Brooklyn has set a Monday deadline to rule on the legality of the search, and in the meantime has ordered the government to refrain from examining the material taken in the 6 a.m. search.

Here’s why they raided his house:

Madison, who counsels more than 100 severely mentally ill patients in New York, seems to have first drawn attention from the authorities at September’s G-20 gathering of world leaders in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There he was arrested on September 24 at a motel room for allegedly listening to a police scanner and relaying information on Twitter to help protesters avoid heavily-armed cops — an activity the State Department lauded when it happened in Iran.

A week later, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, armed with a search warrant and backed by a federal grand jury investigation, raided Madison’s house, which he shares with his wife of 13 years and several roommates. The squad seized his computers, camera memory cards, books, air-filtration masks, bumper stickers and political posters — all purportedly evidence that the 41-year old social worker had broken a federal anti-rioting law that carries up to five years in prison.

But a closer look at the court documents leaves the unmistakable impression that Elliott Madison is yet another casualty of the government’s nasty, post-9/11 habit of considering political dissidents as threats to national security.

Madison, his wife and his lawyer Martin Stolar say the search violates the Constitution’s protections against general searches and prosecution for political speech. The police also seized mobile phones, citizen emergency kits, manuscripts, posters and even the couple’s marriage license…

If Madison were an Iranian using Twitter to coordinate government protests, he’d likely be considered a hero in the West. Instead, the self-identified anarchist — who volunteered in Louisiana after Katrina — is now facing up to five years in prison for each count a grand jury cares to indict him on.

Interestingly, they are charged with violations of the same law that was used against the Chicago 7 during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Those convictions were all thrown out.