A federal court has ordered Twitter to turn over details of accounts tied to several WikiLeaks supporters as part of the government’s investigation into the whistle-blower site.
The U.S. Department of Justice obtained a subpoena for the microblogging site Dec. 14 requesting records going back to Nov. 1, 2009, that are “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.” Among those targeted are WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp (whose name is misspelled in the subpoena) and Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking documents to WikiLeaks.
Also named in the subpoena are computer programmer Jacob Appelbaum (identified by his Twitter username, ioerror) and former WikiLeaks volunteer and current Icelandic parliament member Birgitta J??nsd??ttir, who wrote the following in a tweet: “just got this: Twitter has received legal process requesting information regarding your Twitter account in (relation to wikileaks).”
J??nsd??ttir also tweeted that she plans to oppose the subpoena.
According to a copy of the court order published by Salon.com (PDF), the government is looking for a variety of information, including session times and mailing addresses.
“WikiLeaks strongly condemns this harassment of individuals by the U.S. government,” WikiLeaks said in a statement relayed to Reuters by WikiLeaks attorney Mark Stephens.
The recent WikiLeaks controversy began when the site started publishing a trove of U.S. diplomatic cables in late November. The release of the documents has touched off months of debate and prompted WikiLeaks supporters and opponents alike to air their differences with denial-of-service attacks while businesses such as PayPal cut ties with the whistle-blower site.
In December, Assange was arrested in the U.K. on charges of sexual assault that had initially been dropped by authorities in Sweden. He is currently out on bail.
In its statement, WikiLeaks reportedly said that some of the people named in the subpoena were key figures in helping WikiLeaks make public U.S. military video of a 2007 air strike that killed Iraqi civilians. WikiLeaks is instructing its lawyers to oppose the subpoena, and is calling on Facebook and Google to disclose whether they received similar subpoenas as well.
A federal judge unsealed the court order Jan. 5 after Twitter requested the right to inform the people being targeted.
In addition to obtaining the subpoena, it was also revealed that the U.S. government has taken steps to protect people judged by officials to be in danger because of the document leak. On Jan. 7, U.S. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley told the media the department has helped relocate “a handful of people” identified in the diplomatic documents out of concern for their safety.
WikiLeaks has denied putting any lives at risk.