DOJ Continues Crusade for Wikileaks' Twitter Trove

Published on
by
CommonDreams.org

DOJ Continues Crusade for Wikileaks' Twitter Trove

by

The US Department of Justice has continued its efforts to obtain Twitter account information from associates of the whistleblower website Wikileaks.

The Guardian reports:

A member of parliament in Iceland who is also a former WikiLeaks volunteer says the US justice department has ordered Twitter to hand over her private messages.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, an MP for the Movement in Iceland, said last night on Twitter that the "USA government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?"

She said she was starting a legal fight to stop the US getting hold of her messages, after being told by Twitter that a subpoena had been issued. She wrote: "department of justice are requesting twitter to provide the info – I got 10 days to stop it via legal process before twitter hands it over."

She said the justice department was "just sending a message and of course they are asking for a lot more than just my tweets."

Jonsdottir said she was demanding a meeting with the US ambassador to Iceland. "The justice department has gone completely over the top." She added that the US authorities had requested personal information from Twitter as well as her private messages and that she was now assessing her legal position.

Glenn Greenwald, writing at Salon.com, says it's even worse that it appears:

What hasn’t been reported is that the Subpoena served on Twitter — which is actually an Order from a federal court that the DOJ requested — seeks the same information for numerous other individuals currently or formerly associated with WikiLeaks, including Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Julian Assange.  It also seeks the same information for Bradley Manning and for WikiLeaks’ Twitter account.

The information demanded by the DOJ is sweeping in scope.  It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the ”means and source of payment,” including banking records and credit cards.  It seeks all of that information for the period beginning November 1, 2009, through the present.  A copy of the Order served on Twitter, obtained exclusively by Salon, is here.

In a related story, Jillian York and Trevor Tim at the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, explored yesterday the troubling pattern of initiated or requested moves by the US Government to censor, curtail or otherwise monitor social networks by individuals or organizations. They observe:

In a December 14th article in the New York Times, anonymous U.S. officials claimed they “may have the legal authority to demand that Twitter close” a Twitter account associated with the militant Somali group Al-Shabaab. A week later, the Telegraph reported that Sen. Joe Lieberman contacted Twitter to remove two “propaganda” accounts allegedly run by the Taliban. More recently, an Israeli law firm threatened to sue Twitter if they did not remove accounts run by Hezbollah.

York and Tim have seen no evidence Twitter has cooperated with such efforts and applaud this.

Twitter is right to resist.  If the U.S. were to pressure Twitter to censor tweets by organizations it opposes, even those on the terrorist lists, it would join the ranks of countries like India, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Syria, Uzbekistan, all of which have censored online speech in the name of “national security.”  And it would be even worse if Twitter were to undertake its own censorship regime, which would have to be based upon its own investigations or relying on the investigations of others that certain account holders were, in fact, terrorists.

Greenwald, in a subsequent update of his post, reminds readers to note that the treatment received by associates of Wikileaks is particularly troubling because "all of this extraordinary probing and “criminal” investigating [stems] from WikiLeaks’ doing nothing more than publishing classified information showing what the U.S. Government is doing:  something investigative journalists, by definition, do all the time."

More in: