Twitter / Wikileaks : DoJ Subpoena
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The subpoena is the first public evidence of a criminal investigation, announced last month by Attorney General , that has been urged on by members of Congress of both parties but is fraught with legal and political difficulties for the Obama administration. It was denounced by WikiLeaks, which has so far made public only about 1 percent of the quarter-million confidential diplomatic cables in its possession but has threatened to post them all on the Web if criminal charges are brought. Dozens of Pentagon and State Department officials have worked for months to assess the damage done to American diplomatic and military operations by the disclosures. In recent weeks, Justice Department officials have been seeking a legal rationale for charging Mr. Assange with criminal behavior, including whether he had solicited leaks.
Not that long ago, there was much debate about whether Twitter was just a plaything for nerds or a powerful, real-time information network. Now the U.S. Department of Justice has answered the question for us by serving the company with a court order related to WikiLeaks , and the case the government is trying to make against founder Julian Assange for releasing secret diplomatic cables. But the subpoena also points out how easy it is for the DoJ to get the information it seeks, because Twitter acts as a central gatekeeper.
The world's media has jumped on the news that the US Department of Justice has sought, and obtained a court order seeking to compel Twitter to reveal account information associated with several of its users who are associated with Wikileaks. Communications privacy law is exceedingly complex, and unfortunately, none of the legal experts who actually specialize in this area (people like Orin Kerr , Paul Ohm , Jennifer Granick and Kevin Bankston ) have yet to chime in with their thoughts. As such, many commentators and journalists are completely botching their analysis of this interesting event. While I'm not a lawyer, the topic of government requests to Internet companies is the focus of my dissertation, so I'm going to try to provide a bit of useful analysis. However, as always, I'm not a lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt. A quick introduction to the law
<img src="http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2011/01/twwet_home.jpg" alt="" title="twwet_home" width="660" height="495" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-22640" /> ANALYSIS: Twitter introduced a new feature last month without telling anyone about it, and the rest of the tech world should take note and come up with its own version of it. Twitter beta-tested a spine. On Friday, it emerged that the U.S. government recently got a court order demanding that Twitter turn over information about a number of people connected to WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange, accused leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning, former WikiLeaks spokeswoman Birgitta Jonsdottir and WikiLeaks activist Jacob Appelbaum. The request was approved by a magistrate judge in Alexandria, Virginia, where a federal grand jury is looking into charges against WikiLeaks related to its acquisition and publishing of U.S.
Secret subpoenas * information requests of the kind the Department of Justice sent Twitter are apparently not unusual. In fact, other tech companies may also have received similar WikiLeaks-related requests. But what is unusual in this story is that Twitter resisted.