Saturday, March 12, 2011

Twitter WikiLeaks Legal and Subpoena Update

In violation of due process rights, U.S. Magistrate Theresa Buchanan backs U.S. Department of Justice request for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's friends' online records.

The U.S. Magistrate with judicial power over the U.S. government investigation into WikiLeaks has issued a new court order, which affirms a previous secret court order demanding WikiLeaks-related discovery from user accounts on social media journalism sites, such as Twitter, which have no known connection to WikiLeaks other than for typical online social networking activities, such as ''following.''

The Hon. Buchanan denied legal challenges to her previous court order by prominent owners of Twitter accounts. The magistrate said that U.S. government prosecutors were not seeking the "content of the communications," according to Reuters.

Even though Twitter account owners may follow each other on the website, it does not mean that the account owners are, by association, automatically engaged in questionable online behaviour, some online privacy activists say. There is a freedom of assembly in the United States, whether it be in an assembly hall or over a social media website.

In a further worrisome development, the magistrate also invalidated legal arguments that if Twitter were to provide to prosecutors the Internet Protocol addresses of Twitter account owners, then the act of unreasonable disclosure would constitute a "violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure because it revealed their location," reported Reuters.

"Buchanan originally signed an order for prosecutors seeking about seven months of information from Twitter, including who they communicated with, who they followed, and who followed them. They also requested information about how they logged in, which could identify their location at the time," wrote the Reuters reporter Jeremy Pelofsky.

As reported before, what would the U.S. government be gaining from conducting a court-sanctioned surveillance for this kind of social media account information? Not for nothing, by focusing on subscribers and connection records, among other things, the U.S. government is casting a wide, indiscriminate net into cyberspace, and it is hoping to pull in something -- legal or otherwise, relevant or otherwise, applicable or otherwise. There is no focus to the court order ; its only objectives are to spy and to collect surveillance over both foreigners, over which the U.S. may have no jurisdiction, and citizens, who are being denied due process.

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