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WikiLeaks demands Google, Facebook unseal US subpoenas

Posted by on January 9, 2011 0 Comment

London, Jan 9: WikiLeaks has demanded that Google and Facebook reveal the contents of any US subpoenas they may have received, a media report said Saturday.

The demand came after it emerged that a US court had ordered Twitter to hand over details of accounts on the micro-blogging site by five people associated with the group, including Julian Assange.

Amid strong evidence that a US grand jury has begun a wide-ranging trawl for details of what networks and accounts WikiLeaks used to communicate with Bradley Manning, the US serviceman accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of sensitive government cables, some of those named in the subpoena said they would fight disclosure, the Guardian newspaper reported.

“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,” WikiLeaks said in a statement.

The writ, approved by a court in Virginia in December, demands that the San Franscisco-based micro-blogging site hand over all details of five individuals’ accounts and private messaging on Twitter, including the computers and networks used.

They include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Manning, Icelandic MP Brigitta Jonsdottir and Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp. Three of them – Gonggrijp, Assange and Jonsdottir – were named as “producers” of the first significant leak from the US cables cache: a video of an Apache helicopter attack that killed civilians and journalists in Baghdad.

The legal document also targets an account held by Jacob Appelbaum, a US computer programmer whose computer and phones were examined by US officials in July after he was stopped returning from Holland to America.

The court issuing the subpoena said it had “reasonable grounds” to believe Twitter held information “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation”.

It ordered Twitter not to notify the targets of the subpoena – an order the company successfully challenged.

The court order crucially demands that Twitter hand over details of source and destination internet protocol addresses used to access the accounts, which would help investigators identify how the named individuals communicated with each other, as well as email addresses used.

The emergence of the subpoena appears to confirm for the first time the existence of a secret grand jury empanelled to probe whether individuals associated with WikiLeaks, and Assange in particular, can be prosecuted for alleged conspiracy with Manning to steal the classified documents.

The US attorney general, Eric Holder, has already said publicly that he believes Assange could be prosecuted under US espionage laws. The court that issued the subpoena is in the same jurisdiction where press reports have located a grand jury investigating Assange.

It has been reported that Manning has been offered a plea bargain if he co-operates with the investigation.

The emergence of the Twitter subpoena – which was unsealed after a legal challenge by the company – was revealed after WikiLeaks announced it believed other US Internet companies had also been ordered to hand over information about its members’ activities, according to the newspaper.

WikiLeaks condemned the court order, saying it amounted to harassment.

Twitter has declined to comment, saying only that its policy is to notify its users where possible of government requests for information, the Guardian said.  –(IANS)

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