LONDON, Jan 8: US officials have issued a subpoena to demand details about WikiLeaks’ Twitter account, according to court documents obtained on Saturday. WikiLeaks says other American Internet companies may also have been ordered to hand over information about its activities.
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. to hand over private messages, billing addresses and connection records of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and other alleged associates – including the US Army intelligence analyst suspected of handing classified information to the site and a high-profile Icelandic parliamentarian. Mr Assange blasted the order, saying it amounted to harassment.
“If the Iranian government was to attempt to coercively obtain this information from journalists and activists of foreign nations, human rights groups around the world would speak out,” he said in a statement.
A copy of the Dec 14 court order said the information sought was “relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation” and ordered Twitter not to disclose its existence to Mr Assange or any of the others targeted.
But a second document, dated Jan 5, unsealed the court order. The reason wasn’t made explicit but WikiLeaks said it had been unsealed “thanks to legal action by Twitter”.
Twitter has declined to comment on the topic, saying only that its policy is to notify its users, where possible, of government requests for information. Those named in the order include Pfc. Bradley Manning, the US Army private suspected of being the source of some of WikiLeaks’ material, as well as Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir, a one-time WikiLeaks collaborator known for her role in pioneering Iceland’s media initiative, which aims to make the North Atlantic island nation a haven for free speech.
The US is also seeking details about Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp and US programmer Jacob Appelbaum, both of whom have previously worked with WikiLeaks.
Mr Assange has promised to fight the order, as has Ms Jonsdottir, who said in a Twitter message that she had “no intention to hand my information over willingly”.
Mr Appelbaum, whose Twitter feed suggested he was travelling in Iceland, said he was apprehensive about returning to the US.
“Time to try to enjoy the last of my vacation, I suppose,” he tweeted.
Mr Gonggrijp expressed annoyance that court officials had misspelled his last name – and praised Twitter for notifying him and others that the US had subpoenaed his details.
“It appears that Twitter, as a matter of policy, does the right thing in wanting to inform their users when one of these comes in,” Mr Gonggrijp said. “Heaven knows how many places have received similar subpoenas and just quietly submitted all they had on me.”
WikiLeaks also voiced its suspicion that other organisations, such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc., had also been served with court orders, and urged them to “unseal any subpoenas they have received”.
Google’s London office did not immediately return a call and an email seeking comment. Facebook did not immediately return an email seeking comment either.
US officials have been deeply angry with WikiLeaks for months, for first releasing tens of thousands of US classified military documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then more recently posting thousands of classified US diplomatic cables. US officials say posting the military documents put informers’ lives at risk, and that posting diplomatic cables has made other countries reluctant to deal with American officials.—AP