Privacy Law

WikiLeaks Lawyer Criticizes DOJ Demand for Twitter Information

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The U.S. Justice Department has obtained a court order requiring Twitter to turn over account information about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the Army intelligence specialist suspected of leaking documents to the group.

Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, criticized the DOJ’s demand for Twitter information in an interview with Bloomberg News. “The Department of Justice is turning into an agent of harassment rather than an agent of law,” he said. “They’re shaking the tree to see if anything drops out, but more important they are shaking down people who are supporters of WikiLeaks.”

Besides Assange, others covered by the so-called 2703(d) order include leak suspect Pfc. Bradley Manning; former WikiLeaks activist Birgitta Jonsdottir, who is a member of Iceland’s parliament; and two computer programmers, according to stories in the New York Times, CNET’s Privacy Inc. blog and Salon’s Glenn Greenwald blog. The statute allows police to obtain Internet records if they are relevant and material to an ongoing investigation, according to Privacy Inc.

The order (PDF posted by Glenn Greenwald) seeks addresses, screen names, telephone numbers and credit card and bank account numbers, but does not seek private content sent using Twitter, the Times says. Privacy Inc., however, says the order “appears to be broad enough to sweep in the content of messages.” The order was originally issued under seal, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan in Alexandria, Va., changed her mind and unsealed the document Jan. 5.

Related coverage:

New York Times: “1986 Privacy Law Is Outrun by the Web”

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