Saturday, January 8, 2011

WikiLeaks Twitter Subpoena Denies Subscribers Their Right To Due Process

The First item listed in the secret Order signed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia demands that Twitter turn over ''subscriber names'' of the five individuals associated with WikiLeaks.

On Saturday night, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed included this ominous message : ''Too late to unfollow; trick used is to demand the lists, dates and IPs of all who received our twitter messages.''

Not only have U.S. Justice Department prosecutors cast the data mining aspect of their court order on Twitter to include foreigners, but now prosecutors are trying to ensnare mere subscribers (or, in Twitter jargon, ''followers'') of the five individuals associated with WikiLeaks.

Whereas, the three foreigners, who are targets of the prosecutors' surveillance, have the option to object to the court order served on Twitter, the fact that followers have no say in fighting the reasonableness of the U.S. government's court order call into question the true scope of the legal witch hunt.

Since there appears to be a weak legal underpinning to the court orders, then, more and more, the investigations by U.S. prosecutors appear to be mere acts of retaliation against foreign political dissidents and WikiLeaks.

And caught in the middle are the followers on Twitter. If the followers are foreigners, then a U.S. court may have no jurisdiction over the free speech activities of those foreigners. And if the followers are Americans, then the Americans should be given due process, namely, an opportunity to challenge the court order. Except for harassment or retaliation, what is the purpose for the U.S. government to know who are the Twitter followers ? Certainly, there is no legal reasoning for the U.S. government to know who are the Twitter followers.

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