Monday, February 21, 2011

United States Government Using Twitter To Build Case Against WikiLeaks

By Jerry Smith Feb 21 2011

The United States government is trying to use Twitter, and possibly Facebook, Google and Skype information to build a case against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange for publishing the the secret military communications relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars, and the roughly 250,000 classified diplomatic cables.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) were in court last week in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan trying to prevent the U.S. government from acquiring the Twitter messages.

Judge Buchanan had ordered that Twitter was to give U.S. investigators the data they had on subscribers “associated with WikiLeaks,” who include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, US computer researcher Jacob Appelbaum, and Dutch volunteer for WikiLeaks Rop Gonggrijp.

The EFF say last weeks hearing only happened because Twitter notified its users that the government was looking for information and said:
"The issues at hand - WikiLeaks, privacy, free speech and social networking - are all important matters of public interest, and the orders and motions before the judge should be available to inform public debate."

The ACLU and the EFF argued that the U.S. governments attempts to get the Twitter messages infringed on the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches because the messages would reveal the location of the computers from which they were sent. The ACLU and the EFF feel the government hasn't shown the need for such information.

U.S. investigators are trying to link Julian Assange to Bradley Manning so that they can prosecute Assange along with Manning for the leaked diplomatic cables and military communications, but have been unable to so far.

Republican Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York, and chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security Peter King re-introduced a bill aimed at prosecuting WikiLeaks known as 'The Shield Act' (The Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act), which would modify the Espionage Act to make publishing classified information "concerning the identity of a classified source or informant of an element of the intelligence community" an act of espionage.

Rep. King said in a statement:
"Julian Assange and his associates who have operated and supported WikiLeaks not only damaged US national security with their releases of classified documents, but also placed at risk countless lives, including those of our Nation’s intelligence sources around the world."

"As international pressure has held back Assange, we now find that his colleagues are planning to spin off a new website called OpenLeaks, dedicated to the same dangerous conduct."

"These organizations are a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. Julian Assange and his compatriots are enemies of the US and should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. This legislation provides the Attorney General with additional authority to do just that."
Aden Fine, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Speech, Privacy and Technology Project and one on the attorneys representing Jonsdottir said:
"Except in truly extraordinary circumstances, internet users should receive notice and an opportunity to go to court to defend their constitutional rights before their privacy is compromised. That’s what is happening now, thanks to Twitter’s efforts."

“It’s very alarming that the government is trying to obtain detailed information about people’s communications over the Internet.”

“They shouldn’t be able to get that in the first place, but above all they shouldn’t be able to get it in secret.”

"That's not how our system works and it shouldn't be permitted here. There are certain things that one does on Twitter that are public. The information that the government is seeking is by definition non-public information. Everything that they're seeking is non-public information. And the information that they're seeking will reveal private details about one's activities and associations."
Prosecutors had requested subscriber names, contact information, billing records, user activity, Internet Protocol addresses and source and destination e-mail addresses.

Prosecutors claim their request for the information is just like a request for telephone records, and insist they are not seeking the details of the conversations between the individuals.

John Davis, a lawyer representing the prosecutors said:
"This is a standard investigative measure used every day of the year all across the country."
On Dec 5, 2010 the White House told all federal employees and military service members not to look at WikiLeaks and said:
"Classified information, whether or not already posted on public Web sites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority. Viewing or downloading still-classified documents from unclassified government computers creates a security violation."
Dinah PoKempner, a lawyer at Human Rights Watch said:
"Prosecuting WikiLeaks for publishing leaked documents would set a terrible precedent that will be eagerly grasped by other governments, particularly those with a record of trying to muzzle legitimate political reporting."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned back in December that applying the Espionage Act to third-party publishers of classified information would violate protected free speech rights and said in a statement:
"If the Espionage Act were to be applied to publishers, it would have the unconstitutional effect of infringing on the constitutionally protected speech rights of all Americans, and it would have a particularly negative effect on investigative journalism – a necessary and fundamental part of our democracy."

"[W]e urge Congress to resist the urge to broaden the Espionage Act's already overbroad proscriptions and, instead, to narrow the Act’s focus to those responsible for leaking properly classified information to the detriment of our national security. Publishers who are not involved in the leaking of classified information should be praised by our society for their contributions to public discourse, not vilified as the co-conspirators of leakers with whom they have no criminal connection."
Julian Assange said in a statement:
"This is an outrageous attack by the Obama administration on the privacy and free speech rights of Twitter's customers - many of them American citizens."
Assange is at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk,UK under arrest, waiting for the verdict in his extradition hearing, which should be Feb 24. The Swedish police have not charged Assange with anything, but want him extradited to face questions about accusations of rape and sexual molestation made against him by Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin, which he denies.

No comments:

Post a Comment