The U.S. Justice Department has ordered Twitter to hand over data associated with multiple user accounts, in preparation for legal action related to Wikileaks.
"There are many WikiLeaks supporters listed in the US Twitter subpoena," Wikileaks stated over Twitter tonight.
UPDATE, 9:01pm PT: A copy of the order is here, and a copy of the court's unsealing order is here, via Salon's Glenn Greenwald. The order was signed by federal Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan, in the Eastern District of Virginia. In addition to Birgitta Jonsdottir and Jacob Appelbaum reported here earlier this evening, others named include Rop Gonggrijp (whose name is misspelled), Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and all accounts associated with Wikileaks itself. The information demanded includes all postal mailing addresses, billing data, connection records, session times, IP addresses used to connect with Twitter, all email addresses, and "means and source of payment," such as bank account information and credit cards. Notably, the order does not demand the content of the accounts: public tweets or private "direct messages."
Among those targeted: Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's parliament who has worked with WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. Also named, Wikileaks volunteer Jake Appelbaum. Both stated over Twitter that they are contesting any orders, and do not consent. Rop Gonggrijp responds on his blog, here.
A Twitter spokesperson tells Boing Boing the company will not comment on specific legal requests, "But, to help users protect their rights, it's our policy to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so. We outline this policy in our law enforcement guidelines."
I got the letter from Twitter a couple of hours ago, saying I got 10 days to stop it," wrote Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's parliament, in an e-mail. "Looking for legal ways to do it. Will be talking to lawyers from EFF tonight."
EFF refers to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit civil liberties group in the United States. On her Twitter feed, Jonsdottir said the government is seeking an archive of tweets she sent out since Nov. 1, 2009 as well as "personal information" for her account.
Josdottir told Threat Level that the request was filed under seal by the Justice Department on December 14 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. This is the same jurisdiction where, according to previous press reports, a federal grand jury is investigating possible charges against Assange, with whom Jonsdottir has worked closely.
Birgitta Jonsdottir was one of those WikiLeaks backers who -- it's been widely reported -- allegedly had a falling out with Assange. She was particularly active in the Collateral Murder video action. She even took him as her guest to a U.S. Embassy party in Iceland. But she later was upset over Assange's handling of the Afghan war logs which emerged with some key names not redacted. She has since been interviewed by the BBC and U.S. news outlets as a WIkiLeaks dissident. On ABC last month she said she had argued for Assange to step aside as WikiLeaks leader while the sex crime case was ongoing.
Some initial questions that come to mind:
• Why these particular individuals and usernames? Why draw the line here?
• Why are some named by their Twitter handles, and others by their real names?
• What other online services have been ordered to hand over data to the feds? Twitter didn't have to notify the account holders, but it did. Have other online service providers turned over the data without notifying the affected users?
• What about financial service providers such as Mastercard, Visa, and Paypal, which denied service to Wikileaks in late 2009? What about Amazon?
• Have similar demands already been made for phone service records with telecom providers and internet service providers?