Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Govt. Entitled to Twitter Records in WikiLeaks Probe, Federal Judge Rules

wikileaksImage by Sean MacEntee via FlickrUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge Liam O'Grady, in a three-page Memorandum and Opinion in In Re Application of the United States of America for an Order Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. sec. 2703(d) [Case No. 1:11-dm-00003-TCB], this week denied a request by Birgitta Jonsdottir, Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp to shield their Twitter account information from authorities seeking to prosecute WikiLeaks.

As reported by Wired, Twitter was served with a subpoena by the feds in December 2010, pertaining to a Grand Jury inquiry into possible criminal charges against WikiLeaks. The government wants information regarding the above-named individuals' accounts under the 1994 Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. sec. 2703(d), which governs access by law enforcement officials to Internet data, such as transaction information, but not online content. Specifically, the order wants information about the trio's Twitter accounts, including addresses and phone numbers, account payment information (if any), IP addresses, data transfer records and connection records.

The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation contend the Twitter order violates the trio's First Amendment rights. In March 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Theresa Buchanan ruled the three lacked legal standing to challenge the records request because the government was not attempting to access actual Twitter content. Prosecutors argued that the Grand Jury probe was being stalled by the delay in obtaining the Twitter account information.

Judge O'Grady denied the petitioners' request because they failed to make a "strong showing" of success on appeal. "A stay is not a matter of right, even if irreparable injury might result," Judge O'Grady wrote.

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