U.S. Department of Justice Subpoenas Private Twitter Data & Messages of WikiLeaks & High-Level Volunteers

Glenn Greenwald and Salon.com were the first to obtain copies of the U.S. Department of Justice subpoena for private Twitter data and messages of WikiLeaks and certain high-level volunteers (they are not all still currently active WikiLeaks volunteers).

Glenn's article is well-written, as usual, from his lawyer's-mind and activist perspective.


Last night, Birgitta Jonsdottir — a former WikiLeaks volunteer and current member of the Icelandic Parliament — announced (on Twitter) that she had been notified by Twitter that the DOJ had served a Subpoena demanding information "about all my tweets and more since November 1st 2009."  Several news outlets, including The Guardian, wrote about Jonsdottir's announcement.

via DOJ subpoenas Twitter records of several WikiLeaks volunteers - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com.

This is a very dangerous thing that the U.S. Department of Justice and court are doing.

Birgitta Jonsdottir is a Member of the Icelandic Parliament and also an international politician. Her private messages and data at Twitter should not be allowed to be rifled through willy-nilly. The court, the judge who authorized the order, could not possibly have been given sufficient grounds to merit this order against Jonsdottir or WikiLeaks. I don't know the others named in the subpoena, but I would be surprised if there are proper mundane legal grounds to force Twitter to turn over the data and posts and messages.

WikiLeaks is a publisher organization that is protected under the U.S. Bill of Rights in the U.S. where the subpoena has been issued and served. Frankly, Twitter should refuse to comply unless and until the U.S. government can convince Twitter that the subpoena is constitutional.

It is not as if Twitter is unaware of who these people are. WikiLeaks is well known the world over, and most people who have had much exposure to WikiLeaks beyond the headlines in the mainstream corporate media know of Birgitta and her work on freedom of the press in Iceland and spreading around the globe.

I'm not suggesting lesser known people should have their rights trampled upon. I am though saying that if Twitter will take the right moral stand here, it will go a long way to protecting the rights of those who are not in the limelight but who may be involved in exposing governmental and corporate corruption, which is what WikiLeaks is all about and what Birgitta Jonsdottir initially saw as valuable in WikiLeaks. She has moved on to working on a more transparent system to WikiLeaks, but she does not support the Department of Justice fishing the WikiLeaks Twitter data, etc., either.

You may find it ironic or paradoxical that people in favor of transparency want or need privacy. It is not either ironic or paradoxical when looked at properly. If there were no corruption in the world, there would be zero need for locks against thieves for instance. There would be no need for secrets, as no one would have anything to hide by virtue of wrongdoing. People require privacy from those who abuse mundane power though and especially if those people for the sake of the general welfare are engaged in ferreting out governmental and big-business corruption. Such is the case with WikiLeaks and Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Glenn Greenwald frankly.

Glenn Greenwald too could easily become the target of a fishing expedition simply because he obtained a copy of the "secret" Subpoena. Perhaps it is a moot point that it was secret and that will protect him, but what with the obvious overly wide latitude the system has given the DoJ, who should count upon that?

Police States are often creeping things. They erode and erode the gains made against them. Just when people think that the worst abuses are history, current abuses come to light. Who would have thought that the abuses that the Frank Church Committee was designed to address would surface again and even worse, which they did in the form of CIA renditions and torture and NSA dragnet sweeps of the whole spectrum of domestic communications? Well, I wrote that that was going on before the news broke corroborating my statements. What's more I'm certain they continue (including the torture). Can I supply current documents to prove that? No. However, if I could go on an unbridled fishing expedition at the CIA and NSA without anyone knowing, I sure believe I would be able to.

Well, Iceland needs to get behind Birgitta Jonsdottir. I've suggested a quick "Sense of Parliament" resolution to that end.

They really ought to house untouchable servers for whistleblowers and leakers of real corruption. From there, they could supply their own Twitter, Facebook, and Google type services. It could be a boon to their economy, as those services can turn profits without being gaudy with ads, not that I'm a capitalist. We have to start somewhere though.


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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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