January 9, 2011 in Nation/World

WikiLeaks subpoenas made public

Feds seeking suspects’ Twitter records
Raphael G. Satter Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – Investigative documents in the WikiLeaks probe spilled out into the public domain Saturday for the first time, pointing to the Obama administration’s determination to assemble a criminal case no matter how long it takes and how far afield authorities have to go.

Backed by a magistrate judge’s court order from Dec. 14, the newly disclosed documents sent to Twitter Inc. by the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., demand details about the accounts of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who’s in custody and suspected of supplying WikiLeaks with classified information.

The others whose Twitter accounts are targeted in the prosecutors’ demand are Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic parliamentarian and one-time WikiLeaks collaborator; Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp; and U.S. programmer Jacob Appelbaum. Gonggrijp and Appelbaum have worked with WikiLeaks in the past.

Assange said the U.S. move amounted to harassment, and he pledged to fight it.

“If the Iranian government was to attempt to coercively obtain this information from journalists and activists of foreign nations, human rights groups around the world would speak out,” he told the Associated Press in an e-mail.

Legal experts have said one possible avenue for federal prosecutors would be to establish a conspiracy to steal classified information.

“They are trying to show that Manning was more than a source of the information to a reporter and rather that Assange and Manning were trying to jointly steal information from the U.S. government,” said Mark Rasch, a former prosecutor on computer crime and espionage cases in the Justice Department.

In a statement about the demand to Twitter for information, WikiLeaks said it has reason to believe Facebook and Google, among other organizations, have received similar court orders. WikiLeaks called on them to unseal any subpoenas they have received.

The document demand ordered Twitter to hand over private messages, billing information, telephone numbers, connection records and other information about accounts run by Assange and the others.

It was not immediately clear how the data being requested would be useful to investigators. Twitter’s logs could reveal the Internet addresses that Assange and WikiLeaks supporters have used, which could help track their locations as they traveled around the world. The information also might identify others with official access to WikiLeaks’ account on Twitter who so far have escaped scrutiny.

Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, said it was an attempt to “shake the electronic tree in the hope some kind of criminal charge drops out the bottom of it.”

© Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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