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Friday, January 7, 2011

Feds subpoena Twitter, demand details for select number of WikiLeaks volunteers

In the latest sign that the federal government has gone into full-blown status quo preservation mode in the wake of Cablegate, Twitter has confirmed that it received a subpoena demanding details for a select number of WikiLeaks volunteers who maintain accounts with the popular microblogging service.

The order (PDF), signed by Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan, whose jurisdiction is in Virginia, demands "all postal mailing addresses, billing data, connection records, session times, IP [Internet Protocol] addresses used to connect with Twitter, all email addresses, and 'means and source of payment,' such as bank account information and credit cards," Boing Boing reports.

Individuals named in the order include Julian Assange (surprise, surprise), Bradley Manning (the purported source of the cables), Jacob Appelbaum, Birgitta Jónsdóttir (who happens to be a member of the Icelandic Parliament) and other individuals associated with WikiLeaks' own Twitter account.

Jónsdóttir, one of the first to reveal that she had been notified by Twitter about the court-approved order, hasn't been sitting still since learning the feds are after her information. She's already contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation (the preeminent defender of our digital freedoms) and Iceland's Minister of Justice for legal advice. She says she is resolved to fight the subpoena.

Twitter's legal team, we've learned, did what it could to resist. The original order, issued on December 14th, was sealed, undoubtedly by design.

Rather than simply complying with the government's demands — which would have meant turning over the information without telling anyone — Twitter requested that the order be unsealed. It was.

Consequently, Twitter was able to notify the targeted users that the feds were after them, plus we're able to see the order for ourselves.

Which is as it should be.

It's pretty ironic that our government is trying to secretly crack down on the people who are exposing many of its shameful secrets.

The Obama administration has far better things to do than pick on the hardiest defenders of open government and freedom of information.

This campaign of harassment and intimidation that the Justice Department is evidently undertaking against volunteers and supporters of WikiLeaks is embarrassing and abhorrent. We call for it to end. Immediately.

As progressives, we believe in a government that is open, straightforward, and accountable to the people it serves. This is a democracy.

We, the people of America, have a right to know what is being done in our name, and to whom. There is no moral justification for the corrupt culture of data-mining, surveillance, and secret-keeping that the political establishment of this country has created, sanctioned, and perpetuated over the years.

When Barack Obama ran for President, he ran on a platform of change. He promised to end abuses of power, and govern more responsibly.

But unfortunately, instead of changing D.C., he has let D.C. change him, in his zeal to avoid confrontation and acrimony.

What Obama doesn't seem to understand or appreciate is that you can't upend the establishment by singing Kumbaya. You have to be confrontational.

WikiLeaks has been effective because it has dared to share, and even publish, what others wouldn't or couldn't. If its volunteers shied away from confrontation, it wouldn't be on anybody's radar. We would be unaware of the covert and illegitimate activities of our government that they have exposed.

By choosing to persecute whistleblowers, the Obama administration is betraying our finest traditional values, and wasting an opportunity to shake up the status quo. What they're trying to do to WikiLeaks is beyond troubling. It's appalling.

And it needs to stop.

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