Secret US Court Order demands email data for WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report tonight that Jacob Appelbaum, a hacker, security researcher, and human rights activist, is the subject of a secret court order demanding his email data for the last two years., a small ISP, went to great trouble and expense to fight the order but lost. Google won't comment on whether it complied or resisted.

As previously noted on Boing Boing, Appelbaum has been subjected to harassment, detention, and interrogation at airports by US agencies during that time, also. Appelbaum has never been charged with a crime, nor has the government ever stated why he is under surveillance.

More from the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. government has obtained a controversial type of secret court order to force Google Inc. and small Internet provider Inc. to turn over information from the email accounts of WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said the U.S. is pursuing an 'active criminal investigation' of WikiLeaks.

Sonic said it fought the government's order and lost, and was forced to turn over information. Challenging the order was "rather expensive, but we felt it was the right thing to do," said Sonic's chief executive, Dane Jasper. The government's request included the email addresses of people Mr. Appelbaum corresponded with the past two years, but not the full emails.

Both Google and Sonic pressed for the right to inform Mr. Appelbaum of the secret court orders, according to people familiar with the investigation. Google declined to comment. Mr. Appelbaum, 28 years old, hasn't been charged with wrongdoing.

Read the rest of the story at the WSJ.

The WSJ also has a profile on, the independent, California-based ISP that tried to fight the secret order, at great cost.

Security researcher Christopher Soghoian tweets, "Not only did fight the court order from DOJ, but it has now adopted a 2 week data retention policy for IP logs. Awesome."

And here is a WSJ story on one judge leading the fight against secret court orders.

AFP has a related item. Snip:

The revelation of a secret court order raises questions around US authorities' ability to obtain information on people's digital correspondence -- by email and cellphone -- and whether the law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, violates constitutional protections over search and seizure.

Previous Boing Boing posts:


  1. Why does your government require this kind of secrecy and almost extra-judicial action for a minor hacker?

    Americans should ask themselves about why their govt, which represents them, is doing these things. Stop saying it is better than the alternative AND TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. Write a letter. Go on the record, stand up!

     As long as you keep sitting on your duffs whining on boingboing about these kind of flagrant violations of your freedoms, this will keep happening.

    Write some letters!

  2. Good to know that Obama is an enemy of civil liberties and is eager to kiss the ass of people who won’t vote for him (gotta shore up those voter segments!) by looking like he’s doing something even though he’s doing nothing on an issue that caught the U.S. with their pants down.  Meanwhile, the real criminals and enemies of national security are giving lectures on the joke of their legacies, freely traveling without search or seizure, detainment or indictment, and can look forward to ending their days undermining both Obama and the Constitution and Bill of Rights upon which this nation was founded.  Good job, Obama, you make an awesome tool!  

      1. You’re absolutely right.  Vote Republican and stay in Iraq.  Vote Democrat and stay in Iraq (but look sad about it).

  3. Why is anyone shocked by this and WHY would Mr. Appelbaum even leave that kinda trail in the first place if there even is one…( pure speculation at this point )

    He was searched and detained how many times ??…Hes a big player in TOR which is all about anonymity so I dont think hes that dumb to leave a trail of crumbs…

  4. Now who’s the Crazy Guy for not using Gmail? 
    I agree with the above, he knows better & anything they do find will likely be of little use.

    Really the most shocking thing is that anyone is shocked.

  5. I’m so proud of my ISP, We’ve been with them since 1995. They’re real local people who are always there to help and they have a long standing policy to try to protect our privacy in the face of the un-American Patriot Act.
    Go, Sonic!

  6. So citizens get less privacy and government gets more secrecy? Wonderful. Sigh…

    You know, I might actually be willing to let the government look into every part of my life, provided I can look into every part of each of the lives of every government official, and all of the actions of the government.

  7. Just kill this undesriable with a drone strike signed off by the president, isn’t that how we do things today?

    Whatever happened to due process’n all, well, nevermind. Welcome to the United Military Junta of America.

    1. You joke about this now, but imagine if our next president in the USA is one of those crazies from the right?  Kill political opponents marked as “terrorists” or why even bother marking them as anything when you can do whatever you want anyway?

      This is what happens when Americans allow corporatists to completely run the show.  Our last hope is the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Our last hope is US.

  8. Dear US-Americans,

    After reading this article and the article about drone killings (and a few others – you know what I’m talking about) I’ll ask you and your Government to stop telling and berating others that your country is the model for democracy and freedom. Your self-delusion and self-aggrandizing doesn’t turn to reality if you keep spouting these Myths. You just alienate the few Europeans who still have a few sympathies left for the US after the shit you’re Government has done after 9/11 (and before).


  9. Enjoy life in maximum-security America. Remember to be nice to the wardens or they’ll make your life hell.

      1. Could be soon. Depends if I say or do something that the US Govt doesn’t like.

        Once you guys got rid of Bush, I thought it was OK again to visit the USA. Looks like I might have been wrong. That’s cool though… there are a few countries I wouldn’t visit for ideological reasons.

  10. Anyone have a recommendatino for a non-US-based e-mail company which won’t have to hand over any of our personal data if the US Gov doesn’t like us or someone we happen to send e-mails to?

    1. seconding this, but which countries these days would not bow to US political pressure if our state dept. asked them to roll over on us?

      1. Is it getting so bad that we have to hide our data offshore just like people used to do with money or if they were outright criminals??

    2. Trust no company and use PGP for your email or other encryption methods.  Make the password a crazy long nonsense sentence mixed with numbers you’ll remember and add some capital letters here and there that you’ll remember.

  11. Glad to hear went to bat for their customer.  If more service providers had these kinds of ethics the overhead cost to the government would serve as more of a check on them.

    I’m with the posters who are angry with Obama for failing to set a higher standard.

  12. Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

    Let it be know to all that G H and Bad JuJu are not, repeat, they are not shocked at these developments.  And these aforementioned arbiters of calm expectations are perplexed at all our shock and they are even shocked at our shock.

    Let it also be known that Cowicide is shocked at their shock of our shock of this shocking news.

    That is all.

  13. It’s just a little bit scary how many themes from CD’s Little Brother I’m starting to see played out in real life. Sonic as Pigspleeen…  Macing at peaceful gatherings…  etc etc etc

  14. I’ll never understand you people who think that the government should just stand aside and let this happen. 

    Even if these leaks are good, even if they NEED to happen, they are direct attacks on the government.  Of COURSE the government is going to try to protect itself!

    It’s like if you were constantly beat up by a bully, then suddenly confronted him with the fact that he’s a bully.  Chances are you’re going to get beat up again, even if you’re right.

  15. Say what you like about AOL, but, back when I worked there, our data retention for personal email was 0.  Yeah, it sucked if the RAID died and lost your mail.  But both the business side and technologies side did what they could to protect the privacy of your email.  I hope this isn’t something that has changed in the last 13 years.

  16. @boingboing-13c5761fbc4d10bc361221c281f84190:disqus  I’ll never understand you people who think the population of a free country should just stand aside and let this happen.

    Of course, I’d be very surprised if they don’t, but the point is they fucking shouldn’t.

    1. I’ll never understand you people who conflate, “this is how it is” with “this is how it should be.”

      I never said I was happy about it.  I never said it wasn’t worth the cost.  Is it a crime to point out that there IS a cost?

  17. This episode will all be forgotten in a three days.  Or at least until the next “shocking” example of the U.S. political/corporate forces of evil tromping upon the civil liberties of someone else equally as forgettable. 

  18. Another reason I’m glad I switched to Sonic just a few weeks ago. Had to switch from AT&T DSL due to unresolvable interrmittant drop-offs for over 3 months. Since moving to Sonic haven’t had one drop since.

    Move done entirely without field tech (same wire), Sonic has colo equipment in AT&T COs. BTW, up and downstream data speeds doubled. Oh, and no data caps.

    Saved $25 a month on voice and data.

    Superior tech, better value AND a ethical telecom. Is it too good to be true or have my standards just declined over the last 10 years?

  19. It is a possible solution, but it’s literally gaming the system.  It’s undermining the value and importance of democracy.  In other words, it’s fighting a system that’s broken by breaking the system.

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