The U.S. government has asked Twitter to hand over private messages sent to and from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks staffers. In all likelihood, it’s also contacting other web services Assange may have used to get contact details and personal information about Assange’s activities and supporters. According to a report just filed by The New York Times, Twitter has been subpoenaed by the U.S. government in connection to the ongoing WikiLeaks investigation.
Twitter, like most web companies, has a “spy guide,” documents pertaining to compliance with request from governments and law enforcement into criminal investigations. These requests are supposed to be accompanied by subpoenas or warrants.
In this particular case, every indication would point to the speedy release of Assange’s direct messages and other data to the U.S. government.
A court order [PDF] was sent to Twitter by the Department of Justice on Decemer 14, 2010. Stating that information held by Twitter was “relevant and material” to the WikiLeaks investigation, the district court ordered the startup to hand over:
- session times and connection records
- telephone numbers
- credit card information
- e-mail and IP addresses
- correspondence and notes of record
The court ordered Twitter to surrender the above information for accounts belonging to Assange, WikiLeaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning (widely suspected to be the original source responsible for transfering cables to WikiLeaks), and several WikiLeaks associates and volunteers, including Birgitta Jonsdottir, Rop Gongrijp, and San Francisco-based programmer Jacob Appelbaum.
Google and other web and social media services all have the same kinds of spy guide documents governing compliance; we’d be shocked if Twitter was the only company that got a WikiLeaks-related court order to surrender information. And we’re pretty sure other services have much more sensitive information on Assange et al.
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