WikiLeaks subpoenas spill out into public realm

By Raphael G. Satter

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Jan. 8 2011 2:09 p.m. MST

WASHINGTON — Investigative documents in the WikiLeaks probe spilled out into the public domain Saturday for the first time, pointing to the Obama administration's determination to assemble a criminal case no matter how long it takes and how far afield authorities have to go.

Backed by a magistrate judge's court order from Dec. 14, the newly disclosed documents sent to Twitter Inc. by the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, Va., demand details about the accounts of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who's in custody and suspected of supplying WikiLeaks with classified information.

The others whose Twitter accounts are targeted in the prosecutors' demand are Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic parliamentarian and one-time WikiLeaks collaborator; Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp; and U.S. programmer Jacob Appelbaum. Gonggrijp and Appelbaum have worked with WikiLeaks in the past.

Justice Department Matt Miller declined comment on the disclosure in the case, which intensified following WikiLeaks' latest round of revelations with the posting of classified State Department diplomatic cables. The next day, Nov. 29, Attorney General Eric Holder vowed that anyone found to have violated U.S. law in the leaks would be prosecuted.

Assange said the U.S. move amounted to harassment, and he pledged to fight it.

"If the Iranian government was to attempt to coercively obtain this information from journalists and activists of foreign nations, human rights groups around the world would speak out," he told The Associated Press in an e-mail.

The demand by prosecutors sought information dating to Nov. 1, 2009, several months before an earlier WikiLeaks release.

Manning is in a maximum-security military brig at Quantico, Va., charged with leaking video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. WikiLeaks posted the video on its website in April of last year.

In a statement about the demand to Twitter for information, WikiLeaks said it has reason to believe Facebook and Google, among other organizations, have received similar court orders. WikiLeaks called on them to unseal any subpoenas they have received.

The subpoena from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered Twitter to hand over private messages, billing information, telephone numbers, connection records and other information about accounts run by Assange and the others.

A copy of the subpoena, sent to the AP by Jonsdottir, said the information sought was "relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation" and ordered Twitter not to disclose its existence to any of the targets.

But a second document, dated Jan. 5, unsealed the court order. Although the reason wasn't made explicit in the document, WikiLeaks said it had been unsealed "thanks to legal action by Twitter."

Twitter declined comment on the matter, saying only that its policy is to notify its users, where possible, of government requests for information.

Neither Facebook Inc. nor Google Inc. immediately returned messages Saturday.

The Obama administration volunteered little new information about its criminal investigation against Assange and WikiLeaks after news of its subpoena leaked. Under rules governing grand jury investigations — in which U.S. prosecutors present evidence and testimony to selected private citizens behind closed doors to seek their approval to formally file charges — government lawyers are not allowed to discuss the case until charges are announced publicly.

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