As iMediaEthics wrote in January, the U.S. government subpoenaed Twitter back in December, but the order wasn’t released until January.
While WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning reportedly didn’t contest the order, Birgitta Jónsdóttir , Rop Gonggrijp and Jacob Appelbaum challenged the court order to reveal their information to the Department of Justice. Along with the three attorneys, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued against the order.
Their arguments claimed that the order violated federal law and the First and Fourth Amendments, according to CNET. But, the judge, Theresa Buchanan, stated that “activists ‘have already made their Twitter posts and associations publicly available.'”
And because the U.S. government wasn’t subpoenaing “the contents of the communications,” but rather IP addresses, which the Twitterers “have ‘no Fourth Amendment privacy interest in,'” the other arguments were dismissed.
Buchanan responded to claims that the order may result in a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech, according to the AFP, stating that “the Twitter order does not seek to control or direct the content of petitioners’ speech or association.” And, noting Jonsdottir’s parliament position, Buchanan wrote that the order “does not seek information on parliamentary affairs in Iceland, or any of Ms. Jonsdottir’s parliamentary acts. Her status as a member of parliament is merely incidental to this investigation.”
The order called for Twitter to turn over their “Twitter account information, including screen names, mailing addresses, telephone numbers, credit card and bank account information, and Internet protocol addresses,” the Washington Post reported.
What Buchanan OK’d is called a 2703(d) order, explained CNET. That order “is broad” and “requests any ‘contact information’ associated with the accounts from November 1, 2009, to the present, ‘connection records, or records of session times and durations,’ and ‘records of user activity for any connections made to or from the account,’ including Internet addresses used.”
“It also covers ‘all records’ and ‘correspondence’ relating to those accounts, which appears to be broad enough to sweep in the content of messages such as direct messages sent through Twitter or tweets from a nonpublic account. That would have allowed the account holders to cite a nonbinding but influential opinion from a federal appeals court, which concluded that a 2703(d) order is insufficient for content data and a search warrant is necessary.”
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Aden Fine, an ACLU attorney, is quoted as saying: “While we disagree with the court’s decision, the court did the right thing in making sure that all of the documents associated with this legal challenge are now publicly available.”
The EFF’s legal director, Cindy Cohn, stated that the EFF intends to appeal Buchanan’s order, CNET reported.
PC Mag reported further comments by Cohn on the ruling. Cohn stated:
“With so much of our digital private information being held by third parties – whether in the cloud or on social networking sites like Twitter – the government can track your every move and statement without you ever having a chance to protect yourself. We’re disappointed that the court did not recognize that people using digital tools deserve basic privacy and that the government should be required to meet a high standard before it demands private information about you from the online services you use, be they Twitter, Facebook, Gmail or Skype.”
“Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia, said prosecutors had no comment. Twitter also had no comment,” the Washington Post reported.
See the ruling here on Wired.com’s website.
Meanwhile, Phillip Crowley, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department has commented that the military “mistreated” Bradley Manning, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. However, U.S. President Barack Obama stated that “Pentagon officials had assured him that the treatment of Private Manning was ‘appropriate’ and ”meeting our basic standards.'”
And Pentagon spokesperson, Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan stated: “‘We are aware of Mr Crowley’s remarks and have since sent him the facts on PFC Manning’s pre-trial confinement.”
iMediaEthics is writing Twitter and lawyers for the parties. We will update here with any comments.