WIKILEAKS PRESS RELEASE
Mon Feb 14 18:28:37 2011 GMT
Tomorrow (Tuesday morning), a federal magistrates court in Virginia’s national security heartland will be the scene of the first round in the US government’s legal battle against Julian Assange. The US Attorney-General has brought an action against Twitter, demanding that it disclose the names, dates and locations of all persons who have used its services to receive messages from Wikileaks or Mr Assange. It is understood that Twitter will resist the order, so as to protect the privacy of its customers.
Assange said today “This is an outrageous attack by the Obama administration on the privacy and free speech rights of Twitter’s customers – many of them American citizens. More shocking, at this time, is that it amounts to an attack on the right to freedom of association, a freedom that the people of Tunisia and Egypt, for example, spurred on by the information released by Wikileaks, have found so valuable”.
On December 14, 2010, the US Department of Justice obtained an Order requiring Twitter turn over records of all communications between Wikileaks and its followers. This Order was acquired through the use of the “Patriot Act”, which establishes procedures whereby the Government can acquire information about users of electronic communication networks without a Search Warrant, without Probable Cause, without particularizing the records that relate to a proper investigatory objective—and with without any public scrutiny. The basis for the Order remains sealed and secret.
Whilst happy that Twitter plans to resist the subpoena, Wikileaks said it was confirmed that other service providers like Google and Facebook and Yahoo may also have been served with a production order back in December, at the same time as Twitter, and may already have provided information to the government by way of a deal under the secrecy provisions introduced by the Patriot Act. “We are all asking all service providers to explain whether they too have been served with a similar order, and whether, they have caved into it” said Mr Assange.
Tuesday’s case in Virginia, involves the United States government seeking to obtain vast amounts of private information that would jeopardize and chill First Amendment rights of association, of expression, of political assembly, of speech. At its essence it seeks information that can be converted into a list of individuals, across the globe, who have followed, communicated with, and received messages from WikiLeaks – the very sort of government intrusion into basic freedoms that the Supreme Court ruled was prohibited by the First Amendment. WikiLeaks will not participate directly in that proceeding because it believes that the US lacks jurisdiction over expressive activities beyond its borders, but it strongly supports the associational rights of its followers and all who work toward a more open society.
Mr Assange will not himself be intervening in the action against Twitter because as an Australian who has committed no criminal act on US territory, he claims that the American courts have no jurisdiction over him. The head of his UK legal team, Geoffrey Robertson QC, has brought in Alan Dershowitz, the distinguished Harvard Law Professor, as part of the team to advise on the US Attorney General’s actions.