Twitter fights to reveal DOJ subpoena on WikiLeaks-related accounts

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Glenn Greenwald reports that the U.S. Justice Department has subpoenaed Twitter for information related to several accounts connected to WikiLeaks.

Twitter first received the order in December, but it was only revealed last week after Twitter requested it be unsealed so that it could notify the users targeted and give them time to challenge it.

Greenwald reports that the request covers a variety of people associated with WikiLeaks, including its founder Julian Assange, alleged leaker Bradley Manning, and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, “a former WikiLeaks volunteer and current member of the Icelandic Parliament.” Greenwald writes:

“The information demanded by the DOJ is sweeping in scope.  It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the ‘means and source of payment,’ including banking records and credit cards.  It seeks all of that information for the period beginning November 1, 2009, through the present.”

Twitter challenged the sealing of the court order, Alexia Tsotsis writes at TechCrunch, in order to comply with its own privacy policies. Twitter’s vice president of communications, Sean Garrett, told Tsotsis:

“To help users protect their rights, it’s our policy to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so. We outline this policy in our law enforcement guidelines.”

Greenwald notes that absent the unsealing, Twitter would have been required to provide that information to its customers secretly. He wonders, was Twitter the only Internet service to receive the request?

“It’s difficult to imagine why the DOJ would want information only from Twitter; if anything, given the limited information it has about users, Twitter would seem one of the least fruitful avenues to pursue.  But if other companies did receive and quietly comply with these orders, it will be a long time before we know, if we ever do, given the prohibition in these orders on disclosing even its existence to anyone.”

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