U.S. Government Subpoenas Twitter for WikiLeaks Information

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Birgitta Jonsdottir. Photo: Wiki

A U.S federal court has subpoenaed Twitter, demanding information for every account registered to Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Rop Gonggrijp, and Birgitta Jonsdottir, according to CNN and Salon. The order asks for user names, screen names, mailing addresses, residential addresses, and private messages, as well as other information about the Twitter users. Birgitta Jonsdottir (pictured), a member of Icelandic parliament, former WikiLeaks volunteer, and a self-described activist, reportedly broke this story by tweeting about the subpoena. On Twitter, she also calls herself a poet, "saving Iceland." "This shows how nervous the U.S. government is," she told CNN. "I think this should be handled better. I have done nothing illegal."

According to the New York Post, the court order "ordered Twitter not to disclose its existence to Assange or any of the others targeted," but "the order was unsealed 'thanks to legal action by Twitter,' WikiLeaks said in its statement." Translation: Twitter reportedly challenged the secrecy demand in court and won, though it will still have to hand over the requested information. Twitter has declined comment on this claim, saying only that its policy is to notify its users, where possible, of government requests for information. Pretty bold on Twitter's end, and Salon's Glenn Greenwald wonders if other social networking sites have already been less bold:


"Did other Internet and social network companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) receive similar Orders and then quietly comply? It's difficult to imagine why the DOJ would want information only from Twitter; if anything, given the limited information it has about users, Twitter would seem one of the least fruitful avenues to pursue."

Naturally, Jonsdottir is now tweeting about the proceedings: "Talked with the Icelandic minister of Justice — he is now looking into the case of demands of DoJ wanting my twitter details," she wrote this morning. "If anyone from @twitter legal is reading — I'd like confirm that I am contesting any subpoenas — I do not consent. My lawyer will call." (Iceland is where WikiLeaks web servers are reportedly located, and recently passed Icelandic laws to protect anonymous speech have helped keep the organization safe from investigation there.)

Aside from upping Jonsdottir's follower count, what kind of consequences could this have? CNN vaguely reminds everyone: "In late November, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is conducting an 'active, ongoing criminal investigation' into the WikiLeaks disclosure of secret U.S. diplomatic documents." So consider this part of that.

DOJ subpoenas Twitter records of several WikiLeaks volunteers [Salon]
Lawmaker: U.S. subpoenaed Twitter information linked to WikiLeaks [CNN]
US demanding WikiLeaks Twitter account info [NYP]
BirgittaJ [Twitter]