Monday, January 10, 2011

Subpoena Issued for WikiLeaks Twitter Account

The AFP says that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a subpoena for the Twitter accounts of WikiLeaks and some of their supporters, and an investigation has begun.

Honestly, this whole investigation isn’t really a huge surprise. In November the “whistle-blowing organization” (WikiLeaks) began to release more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. Since then, people have been speculating that the U.S. government would respond and seek justice by citing the Espionage Act.

WikiLeaks said in a statement, “Today, the existence of a secret US government grand jury espionage investigation into Wikileaks was confirmed for the first time as a subpoena was brought into the public domain.”

The site also said that the government’s move "revealed that the US State Department has requested private messages, contact information, IP addresses, and personal details of Julian Assange and three other individuals associated with WikiLeaks in addition to WikiLeaks own account, which has 634,071 followers."

WikiLeaks mentioned one certain individual, member of Iceland’s parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir.

Jonsdottir tweeted from her feed, “Just got this: Twitter has received legal process requesting information regarding your Twitter account in (relation to Wikileaks)."
The politician continued saying that the U.S. government wanted to access all of her personal information and any of her tweets from Nov. 1, 2009 to the present. She said that she is using the 10 days that she is allowed in an attempt to stop the process.

The names of the other users who were also issued a subpoena have yet not been released. WikiLeaks is saying, however, that they do not believe that this legal action is only being taken against Twitter.

The @wikileaks feed tweeted, “Note that we can assume Google & Facebook also have secret US government subpoenas. They make no comment. Did they fold?”

As of right now, this is the strongest evidence available concerning the U.S. attempting to prosecute WikiLeaks. Any legal action being sought under the Espionage Act is really going to be difficult to sort through. The Espionage Act is vaguely worded which could definitely cause some issues. Who should be included in the prosecution? Most likely, not only The New York Times and The Guardian, who helped publish the documents, would be brought into the legal mess, but also the Twitter and Facebook users that linked to the data. Jonsdottir would probably be the first user in line.

This would not be the first time that the U.S. government has brought charges against the New York Times. In 1971 the government hurled charges at the Times when they printed the Pentagon Papers. Fortunately for the newspaper, it was not held responsible because it was not the original source of the papers.

If all of the rumors that have been swirling around are true, then the DOJ has definitely been building up this case for quite some time now. In December Mark Stephens, who is one of the attorneys for WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, said that there was a secret grand jury that was going about discussing the legal proceedings of this whole situation in Virginia.

"We have heard from Swedish authorities that there has been a secretly empaneled grand jury in Alexandria that is currently investigating this," Stephens said.

Unfortunately for Stephens, these new possible legal dealings are not all that he is handling for his client. Assange also currently has to deal with the possibility of extradition to Sweden due to the rape charges that he faces. Some say that the charges are politically motivated, but no one knows for sure. In December the 39-year-old Australian was released in London on bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 6.

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