Sunday, March 27, 2011

ACLU And EFF Appeal Twitter Information Handover Ruling

By Jerry Smith Mar 27 2011

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), on behalf of Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, US computer researcher Jacob Appelbaum, and Dutch volunteer for WikiLeaks Rop Gonggrijp, have filed an appeal to U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan's order for Twitter to give U.S. investigators the data it has on subscribers “associated with WikiLeaks,” including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, Jonsdottir, Appelbaum, and Gonggrijp.

Jonsdottir, Appelbaum, and Gonggrijp have been fighting the government demand for their Twitter records, but Assange and Manning have not contested the order. WikiLeaks and Assange feel the U.S. lacks jurisdiction "over expressive activities beyond its borders," and said they would not be taking part in hearings.

The ruling issued by Judge Buchanan of the Eastern District of Virginia is being appealed to a U.S. District Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia.

In the appeal Jonsdottir, Appelbaum, and Gonggrijp argue that prosecutors appear to be working on a hunch that:
“all of the Parties’ Twitter records have some connection to its WikiLeaks investigation. That cannot be the case, the vast majority of the Parties’ Twitter activity has nothing to do with WikiLeaks.”
Also within the appeal is their reassertion of an earlier argument that the Twitter order violates their First Amendment rights, and that revealing the logs and IP addresses would pin point exactly where the person was tweeting from and give:
“information about the identity and geographical location of every person with whom the Parties have associated by exchanging private DMs.”
They also said:
“While the government has refused to provide the Parties with its Application, it has declared its disapprobation of WikiLeaks and its desire to prosecute somebody associated with it."

"Attorney General (Eric) Holder personally proclaimed that the government will prosecute anyone it can and that the Department of Justice’s tough talk ‘is not saber-rattling.’ No matter how much the government dislikes any given speech or advocacy, it cannot use that protected conduct as a pretext for overboard searches or a basis for criminality.”
The United States government is trying to use the information in the Twitter accounts to build a case against WikiLeaks and Assange for publishing the the secret military communications relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars, publishing the roughly 250,000 classified diplomatic cables and releasing the 'Collateral Murder' video.

The U.S. government hopes to link Manning, the soldier they accuse of stealing the war documents, diplomatic cables and the 'Collateral Murder' video, to Assange, the publisher of the documents,cables and video.

Lawyers for Jonsdottir, Appelbaum, and Gonggrijp have also been fighting the part of Judge Buchanan's order that does not allow them to know if the U.S. government has ordered any other companies besides Twitter to hand over the information they have on Jonsdottir, Appelbaum, or Gonggrijp.

EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said:
“It’s an appeal, so you can’t really put in much that’s new."

"Services like Twitter have information that can be used to track us and link our communications across multiple services including Facebook and Gmail. The Magistrate's ruling that users have no ability to protect that information from the U.S. government is especially troubling."
Aden Fine, staff attorney for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project and one on the attorneys representing Jonsdottir said:
"Except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals' private Internet communications in secret. This is not one of those circumstances."

"If the ruling is allowed to stand, our client might never know how many other companies have been ordered to turn over information about her, and she may never be able to challenge the invasive requests."
In her ruling Judge Buchanan said that she felt that turning over the Internet Protocol addresses was not a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure because it revealed their location and said:
"Petitioners in this case voluntarily conveyed their IP addresses to the Twitter website, thus exposing the information to a third party administrator, and thereby relinquishing any reasonable expectation of privacy."
The U.S. government investigators had requested subscriber names, contact information, billing records, user activity, Internet Protocol addresses and source and destination e-mail addresses.

In her ruling Judge Buchanan had also rejected arguments that the subpoena for the Twitter information violated freedom of speech and privacy.

Click here to download a pdf file of the appeal.

To read more about the U.S. governments attempts to gain the Twitter account information of Assange, Manning, Jonsdottir, Appelbaum, and Gonggrijp, here are a few articles:

Twitter Ordered To Give The US Government The Information It Has On Users Associated With WikiLeaks

United States Government Using Twitter To Build Case Against WikiLeaks

Twitter WikiLeaks Information Hand Over Case Waits For Decision

Judge To Hear Arguments Into Twitter WikiLeaks Information Hand Over

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