WikiLeaks volunteers fight court order to turn over Twitter account info

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 17:35 EDT
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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – Lawyers for three Twitter users Tuesday asked a US federal judge to overturn a court order directing the microblogging site to hand over clients’ data to the US government for use in a probe into WikiLeaks.

The order calling on Twitter to release data about the accounts of Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic lawmaker, US computer researcher Jacob Appelbaum, and Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch volunteer for WikiLeaks, was handed down in December by Judge Theresa Buchanan, the same judge who heard Tuesday’s challenge.

Buchanan on December 14 ordered Twitter to hand over to the US government information on the three subscribers, who were represented but did not appear in court Tuesday, and any other clients linked to WikiLeaks, the organization led by Julian Assange that last year released a slew of diplomatic cables.

The information that Buchanan said should be handed over by Twitter included Internet Protocol addresses and the addresses of “tweet” recipients.

But complying with the order would allow the US government to “map the associations” of Twitter users, and know when, from where and to whom they are sending messages, said John Keker, representing Appelbaum.

That was a breach of privacy, which is guaranteed by the fourth amendment of the US constitution, he said.

John Davis argued for the government that asking for the data was “a standard investigative measure that is used in criminal investigations every day of the year all over the country.”

The hearing was held as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech on Internet freedom at George Washington University in Washington, saying the United States is “committed to continuing our conversation with people around the world.”

“The demand for access to platforms of expression cannot be satisfied when using them lands you in prison,” Clinton said in the speech, referring to crackdowns on bloggers and Twitter users in countries like Syria or Iran.

In the Virginia courtroom, meanwhile, lawyers for the three Twitter users also asked Buchanan to unseal, or make public, still secret documents related to the December order.

The documents are widely believed to contain information about other companies — including Google, Facebook and Yahoo — from which the US government has tried to collect client data for its WikiLeaks probe.

“The government shouldn’t be able to get this information in the first place, and shouldn’t be able to get it in secret,” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) senior attorney Aden Fine, one of the lawyers representing Jonsdottir, said in his arguments to Buchanan.

Giving the US authorities access to information of social networking sites’ clients was “something brand new which, if allowed, would permit the government to know a lot more about us electronically than it used to,” said Keker.

In Jonsdottir’s case, the US government’s and court’s actions are “especially troubling” because they show a disregard for Icelandic law, which gives lawmakers in the Nordic country broad immunity, Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told AFP.

“Courts usually try to honor another country’s laws,” she said, echoing something Fine had said during the hearing, which lasted slightly more than an hour.

“The entire world is watching to see what the US government’s and the courts’ response will be to this,” he said.

Judge Buchanan said she would mull both sides’ arguments and announce her decision, but did not say when that would be.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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  • Anonymous

    Good luck Twitter. Last time someone refused (CEO Joseph Nacchio from Qwest) they ended up with a six year prison sentence on a trumped up insider trading conviction.

  • ProgressiveInNewYork

    This hypocrisy is just unbelievable.
    Do as I say, not as I do…

    I can’t believe we’ve sunk this low in the good ol’ US of A.

  • Anonymous

    Yet another way we chase jobs out of the country.

  • Guest

    My country has the equivalent of terminal brain cancer.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/42THFKXIPMJHQBIH6OPI4RVIDY Thebes

    Is this more of Hillary’s “support” for cyber-dissidents?

  • Anonymous

    How could we all get involved in this? Remember seeing movies when some “bad” deed was done and when the guard asked who did it one by one everybody raised their hands? Well this could be done with Twitter and Wikilinks where everyone could be following Wilileaks and talking to all those who are also following making it so difficult to track just a few users and/or conversations.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MSVG73USMG342DWORQKIEJ6HVQ Bob

    Our credibility in respect of human rights and civil liberties has declined precipitously since 9/11. We are pretty much a laughing stock at this point. Totally duplicitous.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MSVG73USMG342DWORQKIEJ6HVQ Bob

    This is a massive fishing expedition of unprecedented proportions. The US government is free to look at our Internet associations and draw inferences of crimes? They do it now routinely every day? If I link to you I’m a suspect? How interesting.

    Meanwhile the US Air Force is telling the relatives of service members they’ll be arrested if they look at WikiLeaks and Clinton is telling other countries they should be like us and have freedom of the Internet. Is this some kind of joke? What a circus!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MSVG73USMG342DWORQKIEJ6HVQ Bob

    We support the cyber-dissidents of other countries but here they are traitors. Throw them in jail!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MSVG73USMG342DWORQKIEJ6HVQ Bob

    We are talking about a very wide net here. From what I understand the US government is trying to grab all twitter contact information for everyone who follows WikiLeaks on twitter. The number of people is about 637,000. Only 3 people are represented in this court hearing, but those three rulings will affect the outcome for all.

    And it’s now also highly suspected that the government also got the Facebook, Yahoo, etc. contact information from all these same people already because those companies didn’t give anyone the opportunity to fight in court. They acted in secret without notifying the people whose data they turned over.

    So think of it: The US government is saying they can reach out onto the Web and grab everything you do from every site you’ve ever been on. Apparently no Internet location is beyond their purview. At least that’s how I’m reading what the government claims here. Hopefully they won’t win this hearing because that will set a precedent to allow this stuff to keep happening. I imagine there’ll be an appeal in any case.

    So I guess if you want to join the club just link to WikiLeaks from your web site, follow them on twitter, become their fan on Facebook, go to their web site and read the boring cables, call Bank of America and ask why you can’t make a contribution to Wikileaks with your BankAmericard, write a check to the Julian Assange defense fund. And then just wait for the FBI to show up!

    Sadly I can’t remember if I’ve done any of those things or not so I’ll sleep with one eye opened tonight just in case.

  • dk504

    You go get ‘em Holder!!! Those bad, bad twitterers. They are so bad, they told the truth, so they should go to jail, forever. Bad, bad twitterers. Good Holder, keep holding your dick to see if you have one, I’m thinking; no.
    You know, I guess that Constitution thingy is just a fucking joke. Sooooo I’m not going to adhere to any laws. Since Wall St. doesn’t. Neither do I.
    Since Rummy is a war criminal and so many others are too and you refuse to prosecute, I’m going to I don’t know what yet. But fuck you Holder. You don’t deserve anything you have. You are a disgrace to this country and our laws. Resign hack.

  • Hassan i Sabbah

    The level of hypocrisy in this administration is staggering. And they really think no one is going to notice. Answer the door, Barack, it’s the Mad Hatter and Alice here for the tea party.

  • Hassan i Sabbah

    You are assuming it has a brain, which is not in evidence.

  • Guest

    Good point. Let’s call it head cancer.

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile let us send the criminals that filmed torture and destroyed the evidence to jail. Real criminals in the CIA.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting isn’t it? Orwell didn’t anticipate the role private industry would play in the fruition of 1984. He had his government construct the electronic means of surveillance; the ever-present vid screen at home, work and in public was a thing to hate and fear. We, on the other hand, love ours.

    Brought to us by private industry, subscribed to and paid for willingly, gladly, we are surrounded by our vid screens and use the medium for every facet of our lives. They are everywhere and where they are not we carry them with us. The government isn’t burdened with our monitoring or constructing the means, they simply have to mine the data provided, by court order or simple request, after something happens or based on the suspicion that something might.

    You gotta’ love it; simple, elegant, cost effective and people fill in the information banks themselves. It’s fracking brilliant!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJJ4KEVT2Z5RDHTIRGJOUWL2EA Paul M

    What ever happened to the “Whistleblower Protection and Enhancement Act of 2009″ ? Seems to me this Act if it has passed both Houses, could possibly give some leverage to those accused of “blowing the whistle” on those who willfully commit “crimes” against government and the people.

    This Act was introduced to..”Protect whistle blowers who report abuses while working on National Security issues and for Federally funded Contractors”. Also, what happened to the “Truth and Reconciliation Committee”?

    Probably nothing!

  • P Matthews

    McLean, Virginia — The ACLU attorney had it right. The Government shouldn’t be allowed to have the information it wanted. Under no circumstances should any ISP be required to disclose private and possibly personally identifiable information about its clients. The Internet is and should remain a safe and neutral public utility.

    If a reputable (and this is clearly questionable) investigating agency can obtain a warrant in the court of jurisdiction, then the agency should be able to get the information requested in the warrant. This case is clearly a product of a wild-ass fishing expedition brought to us by the same criminals who helped justify torture and illegal wars of aggression.

  • P Matthews

    McLean, Virginia — Eric Holder is a walking, talking war criminal.

    Good catch.