The Justice Department is clashing with career site Glassdoor Inc over the company’s refusal to identify users who posted anonymous employee reviews of a veterans health-care company under federal investigation.

That’s been fought over in civil courts, but this is a first for a potentially criminal matter.  The Federal government is the one making the demand this time because the Feds want witnesses for a grand jury investigation into Glassdoor.

Whatever the parameters of any possible criminal case involved here, there are some questions that need careful consideration.  Leave aside 1st Amendment questions regarding a right, especially but not necessarily limited to political discourse, to discourse anonymously.

Forcing a potential witness to come forward and testify in open court seems counterproductive.  How credible, indeed, how objectively accurate, would a witness be who’s forced to testify?  Might such a witness say what his government forcer wants him to say?  Might such a witness’ memory become faulty?  Might such a witness’ testimony, however well he tries for accuracy, be slanted by…fear of consequences, frustration at being forced, other factors, factors that wouldn’t be present with voluntary testimony?

How would a court tell whether impacts from these factors are large or small in a particular case?  How would a court even recognize the presence of these factors?  Given presence, how would a court control for that presence?

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