Saturday, January 8, 2011

WikiLeaks Twitter Subpoena Targets Foreigners

A U.S. Court in Virginia issues Order for Production of Information that Ensnares Citizens of Australia, Iceland, and The Netherlands.

The issuance of a court order to Twitter confirms that prosecutors working for the United States Department of Justice are investigating WikiLeaks over the publications of thousands of classified U.S. embassy cables.

The court order specifically names three foreigners. It is unknown if a domestic U.S. court may extend its jurisdiction to cover the internet accounts of foreigners.

According to an analysis published by The New York Times on the subject of the application or validity of the U.S. court order on foreign individuals, Justice Department prosecutors might be violating the right of free speech of the foreign individuals. The three foreign individuals, who are the target of the Twitter court order, are : Julian Assange, the spokesperson and editor-in-chief for WikiLeaks; Birgitta Jonsdottir, a former WikiLeaks activist who is also a member of Iceland’s Parliament; and Rop Gonggrijp, a computer programmer.

''This raised the possibility of a diplomatic quarrel between the United States and allied nations whose citizens were among those covered by the subpoena. They could argue that American laws were being used to stifle free communications between individuals who were not American citizens, and who were not in the United States at the time of the messages.''

It is unclear whether court orders pursued by Justice Department prosecutors in their retaliatory persecution of WikiLeaks can apply U.S. law to foreigners. Indeed, according to The Times, in the case of Ms. Jonsdottir, ''Iceland’s foreign minister ... has requested a meeting with the American ambassador to Iceland to ask, among other things, whether a grand jury inquiry prompted the subpoena.''

If the legal underpinning of the court orders can be called into question, then do the investigations by U.S. prosecutors constitute acts of retaliation against foreign political dissidents and WikiLeaks ?

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