The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a watchdog and whisteblower organization, was recently hit with an administrative subpoena by the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs Inspector General to seize information from its encrypted submission portal.
POGO's submission portal has gotten more than 700 tips from whistleblowers in less than a month about the failures and abuses by the Veterans Administration (VA).
The VA and the Obama administration have faced harsh criticism because thousands of vets have allegedly been waiting for medical care for months at certain VA facilities such as the one in Phoenix.
"If they are successful, that defeats the purpose of trying to improve our online security with encryption," Joe Newman, of POGO, told ArsTechnica.com.
"We are certainly prepared to go to court," added Newman. "We are certainly prepared to go to jail to prevent any of that information from being released."
According to Wired, an administrative subpoena is not signed by a judge, but rather by a federal official who can force "all businesses... to hand over sensitive data on individuals or corporations, as long as a government agent declares the information is relevant to an investigation."
"Via a wide range of laws, Congress has authorized the government to bypass the Fourth Amendment — the constitutional guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that requires a probable-cause warrant signed by a judge," noted Wired.
However, on Monday, POGO informed the Obama administration that it won't give up its records:
Based on protections afforded by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, it is in the public interest that POGO protect its sources, methods, and unpublished information involving any matter related to any POGO investigation or sources, including our investigation into the Department of Veterans Affairs.