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First they came for......
January 8, 2011 7:57 AM   Subscribe

It was December 14 when Twitter first received the sealed order to turn over information on several of its users. Twitter could simply have provided the information requested, instead of acting, on January 5, to have the order unsealed. The unsealing of the subpoena allowed the Twitter users in question to become aware of the situation, and it allowed them an opportunity to dispute the order--an opportunity they would not otherwise have had.
US wants Twitter details of Wikileaks activists.
WikiLeaks demands Google and Facebook unseal US subpoenas. One of the subpeoned accounts it that of Birgitta Jónsdóttir, activist and Icelandic Member of parliament. A resolution proposing the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), has already been unanimously passed by the country's parliament.
Icelands intention is to become an international transparency haven.
posted by adamvasco (86 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just read about this and was coming here to post about it. Peter Kemp argues here that subponae are not supposed to be used for 'fishing expeditions', but that this clearly is one.
posted by memebake at 8:04 AM on January 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Good for Twitter.

The US was cheering them on after the Iranian elections, now we'll see how much they really support Twitter as a revolutionary force.
posted by empath at 8:09 AM on January 8, 2011 [15 favorites]


Christ, I thought Bush left office.
posted by storybored at 8:11 AM on January 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hubertus?
posted by digitalprimate at 8:13 AM on January 8, 2011


Never put anything you wouldn't want everyone seeing on Twitter or in diplomatic cables.
posted by Artw at 8:13 AM on January 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Christ, I thought Bush left office.

1) Its change you can believe in now Bay-Bee!
2) Almost worth spending $5 for the name Christ just so one could answer questions like this directly.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:19 AM on January 8, 2011


Christ, I thought Bush left office.

He did. Barack Obama took office and immediately started ramping up all of the Bush privacy and secrecy abuses, advancing all of the Bush legal arguments he campaigned against and coming up with new ones pushing the bounds of executive power and secrecy still further. The Unitary Executive and the pervasive Secrecy/Security State is now unquestionably one of the only truly bipartisan agreements in American politics.

How's that hope-y change-y thing workin' these days?
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:21 AM on January 8, 2011 [15 favorites]


Rop Gonggrijp blogs about it.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:21 AM on January 8, 2011


Watching the decisions they have made over the last several years I've become convinced that Iceland is the best country in the world.
posted by vapidave at 8:23 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just another reminder that relying on a commercial company based in the US is two strategic mistakes.
posted by athenian at 8:24 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


How's that hope-y change-y thing workin' these days?

Whatever the merits of your comment may have been, repeating this noxious crap just makes me want to punch something.
posted by empath at 8:27 AM on January 8, 2011 [41 favorites]


The Guardian article linked in the main post is a pretty good summary of the story so far.
The emergence of the subpoena appears to confirm for the first time the existence of a secret grand jury empanelled to investigate whether individuals associated with WikiLeaks, and Assange in particular, can be prosecuted for alleged conspiracy with Manning to steal the classified documents.
posted by memebake at 8:28 AM on January 8, 2011


Just another reminder that relying on a commercial company based in the US is two strategic mistakes.

Wikileaks may provide the future blueprint for what not to do when attempting to confront a rogue first world nation-state or challenge the power of institutional corporate entities. The tools are out there for widespread dissemination of secret information for fun and profit, but Wikileaks is right now serving as the test case and showing numerous practical vulerabilities. People are watching and taking notes, someone (or many somoenes) in the future may find the right combination of secure transmission, extrajudicial operation, widespread dissemination, trustworthy publication and reliable anonymity to make the Wikileaks idea a true game changer.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:34 AM on January 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


What information could the subpoena of Twitter info reveal and how would that info be useful to the US? I mean, all tweets are public aren't they, and the individuals in question use their real names on their twitter accounts. What am I missing? Why does the US want this info?
posted by modernnomad at 8:34 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


What information could the subpoena of Twitter info reveal

My guess? E-mail addresses that they may use or have used in the past that they used to register for Twitter. It's a lot harder for the feds to read their e-mails if they don't know where their accounts are.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:38 AM on January 8, 2011


So Assange believes he should be able to read everyone else's mail, but no one should be able to read his? That's convenient.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:42 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


athenian: Just another reminder that relying on a commercial company based in the US is two strategic mistakes.
T.D. Strange: Wikileaks may provide the future blueprint for what not to do when attempting to confront a rogue first world nation-state or challenge the power of institutional corporate entities.

I think you're diminishing the amount of planning Wikileaks did - their main servers are housed in Sweden for a particular legal reason, and their use of Twitter is entirely peripheral to their main activities. Nearly everything they have done so far, imho, has shown very good strategic thinking - for example stripping their main site down to html only (notice no search functionality) before leaking the cables, so that they could mirror very easily, partnering with established media, making key members into public figures, etc. Given that no-one has done anything similar before on the same scale, they have avoided a lot of pitfalls.

Manning blew his own cover by doing something stupid, and here it looks like the DOJ is just fishing around to see if anyone else has said anything silly.

Granted though, Wikileaks was rather reliant on Visa and Mastercard, as those two companies basically have a virtual global monopoly on electronic cash flows.
posted by memebake at 8:43 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I do find it amusing that the subpoenas are asking for "billing information". I thought Twitter was free to sign up for and use?
posted by hippybear at 8:44 AM on January 8, 2011


I'm very proud of Twitter for making the subpoena public. I have no idea how Twitter decided to do this but I imagine their general counsel Alex Macgillivray had something to do with it. I'm a big fan of his, he's one of the smartest folks I've ever met and did fantastic work at Google and now Twitter. He's one of the few lawyers I know who really gets the Internet and the importance of digital media.
posted by Nelson at 8:46 AM on January 8, 2011 [8 favorites]



Watching the decisions they have made over the last several years I've become convinced that Iceland is the best country in the world.

Unless you are a fin whale.
posted by Danf at 8:50 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


NotMyselfRightNow: So Assange believes he should be able to read everyone else's mail, but no one should be able to read his? That's convenient.

Lets be clear - Assange has a problem with large organisations using 'secrecy' to hide abuses. I don't think he has a problem with individual privacy, and I don't think he's interested in reading your personal email. Maybe he'd be interested in your work email if you were a global company executive or a member of a government somewhere.

There is a debate to be had about the issues around organisational secrecy vs personal privacy, and where those things overlap, but you're misrepresenting the situation by implying that 'Assange wants no secrets or privacy for anyone'.
posted by memebake at 8:50 AM on January 8, 2011 [32 favorites]


How's that hope-y change-y thing workin' these days?

Barf
posted by josher71 at 8:50 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


So Assange believes he should be able to read everyone else's mail, but no one should be able to read his? That's convenient.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:42 AM on January 8 [+] [!]


Did Assange ever profess to want to read individuals' emails? I was under the impression that he wanted to be privy to the internal communications of nation-states.
posted by Jpfed at 8:52 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


TD Strange says, more elegantly, what I meant. Credit to Twitter for opening up the subpoena.

Memebake - I don't think Wikileaks are the ones who need to learn the lesson - they at least know the nature of what they're doing, how much the US Gvt and others will shift heaven and earth to get them, and I think they did the best they could and have been pretty successful at it. Really, the lesson is for the potentially-controversial but definitely-legal enterprises out there - the commercial hosting/service companies with the edgy image turn out to fold under Fed pressure pretty quickly. As someone who runs a non-profit in the EU, it's certainly reminded me to think carefully about where I store my data and commercial information.
posted by athenian at 8:53 AM on January 8, 2011


Why am I getting the impression the DOJ is constructing a huge elephant trap to catch itself in?

If this isn't a punitive fishing expedition, then they are going to have come forward with an indictment. If the indictment is some flimsy conspiracy charge, it should go as well for them as the Chicago 7 trial did.

It won't be fun for those indicted, but it's not going to end well for the feds. At best, they will look like fools and at worst they will look like crooks and bullies.

On a side note, there is no special privilege for journalists. They are simply a stand-in for the public. There are no enumerated rights reserved for employees of publishers (which is how the commercial media defines themselves as "journalists".)

It's annoying when people claim journalists are a special class and then also claim membership in that special class. It's equally annoying when people in the media business claim these non-existent special rights for themselves and then seek to deny them to others like the amateur, small press or non-profits. It's freedom of expression, people. It's universal.
posted by warbaby at 8:59 AM on January 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Freedom of the press isn't about protecting a class of people, but it is about protecting a particular activity. The debate isn't about whether Assange, etc, are journalists, but whether what Wikileaks is doing is journalism. It's a subtle point, but it does matter.

You can't say anything you want and just call it journalism and get away with it -- for example, libel.

I suspect the courts will have to make a decision, and that they will end up making the correct one -- that it is journalism.
posted by empath at 9:04 AM on January 8, 2011


I mean, all tweets are public aren't they, and the individuals in question use their real names on their twitter accounts.

Many people choose to "protect" their Tweets, that is, keep them private, but more importantly, Twitter has a private messaging system -- "direct messages" between users. Those private messages are presumably where the real meat of all this stew is.
posted by Gator at 9:11 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


It doesn't matter if something is journalism or not, it's public speech. That's enough.
posted by warbaby at 9:14 AM on January 8, 2011


What the Government Might Be After with Its Twitter Subpoena
posted by homunculus at 9:15 AM on January 8, 2011


From the second link...
The US District Court in Virginia said it wanted information including user names, addresses, connection records, telephone numbers and payment details.

Those named include Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and an Icelandic MP.

The US is examining possible charges against Mr Assange over the leaking of 250,000 classified diplomatic cables.

Reports indicate the Department of Justice may seek to indict him on charges of conspiring to steal documents with Private First Class Bradley Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst.

....


The information sought includes mailing addresses and billing information, connection records and session times, IP addresses used to access Twitter, email accounts, as well as the "means and source of payment".

Mr Assange condemned the court order on Saturday, saying it amounted to harassment.

"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 said in a statement.
Am I missing something here? The US is liking for evedience to charge Assange and others about their use/publication of the cable memos and Assange is comparing that to Iranian tactics. Does that make sense?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:17 AM on January 8, 2011


Whatever the merits of your comment may have been, repeating this noxious crap just makes me want to punch something.

The first part should make more peopel want to punch things. The second is the bitter lament that it doesn't.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:18 AM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


It doesn't matter if something is journalism or not, it's public speech. That's enough.

Yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater is also 'public speech' and can also get you arrested. It's not that simple.

I actually look forward to the court case, to be honest. The arguments will be fascinating on both sides, I'm sure.
posted by empath at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2011


The second is the bitter lament that it doesn't.

The second part was a quote from Sarah Palin that only her imbecilic fans should feel comfortable repeating in public.
posted by empath at 9:27 AM on January 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


the whole problem with the grand jury (which are always secret by the way) is that it's not clear what law they are looking into violations of, unless they are really contemplating an Espionage Act case.

there is no "conspiracy" to leak classified information, the US has no official secrets act. there are the crimes of giving classified information you have legal access to people who don't have legal access to it and espionage.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:34 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The emergence of the subpoena appears to confirm for the first time the existence of a secret grand jury empanelled to investigate whether individuals associated with WikiLeaks, and Assange in particular, can be prosecuted for alleged conspiracy with Manning to steal the classified documents.

Not necessarily:

"The facsimile of the subpoena showed that it had been authorized by the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., outside Washington, an office that has often been used by the federal government in highly sensitive criminal inquiries. Some published reports in recent weeks have suggested that the justice department may have secretly empanelled a grand jury in Virginia to take evidence in the WikiLeaks probe. But a tickbox on the subpoena saying “grand jury information” was left blank." (NYT)
posted by pmurray63 at 9:38 AM on January 8, 2011


Obama Eyeing Internet ID for Americans
posted by clavdivs at 9:42 AM on January 8, 2011


What a misleading headline.

It's a dumb idea (since the private sector is already taking care of identity stuff), but it's not big brother, either.
posted by empath at 9:56 AM on January 8, 2011


So Assange believes he should be able to read everyone else's mail, but no one should be able to read his? That's convenient.

Assange believes that democracy functions best when the actions of a democratically elected government are known by its citizens.

He also believes that markets works best when information about market value, contract implications, and public risks are known to investors.

Finally, he believes that corruption and embezzlement can only be sustained if kept secret.


You seem to be confusing these ideas with whether a private citizen should be secure in their papers and person against unreasonable search and seizure.
posted by anthill at 9:56 AM on January 8, 2011 [22 favorites]


It's a dumb idea (since the private sector is already taking care of identity stuff), but it's not big brother, either.

do you file your taxes online? - wanna bet that you'll need one of these to do so in the future?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:00 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Many people choose to "protect" their Tweets, that is, keep them private, but more importantly, Twitter has a private messaging system -- "direct messages" between users. Those private messages are presumably where the real meat of all this stew is.

The Wikileaks people know about encrypted email. There wouldn't be any meat in direct messages.
posted by stratastar at 10:04 AM on January 8, 2011


The US is liking for evedience to charge Assange and others about their use/publication of the cable memos and Assange is comparing that to Iranian tactics. Does that make sense?

Yes. It most certainly does. The US, more specifically, the offices of conservative US Attorneys in conjunction with the FBI, have recently gotten really gung-ho about using grand jury investigations (I assume that's what's going on in terms of evidence-collection here, but if not, the process appears similar) as a way to intimidate and antagonize left-wing activists. This has been used frequently in anti-environmentalist crackdowns (as well as many other things, that link is a timeline including all sorts of similar cases) and most recently, anti-war activists (mefi thread about it). Being acquainted with some of the folks mentioned in the latter incident, the amount of disruption this has caused their lives is immense; you can easily start seeing how the grand jury system is used as an intimidation tactic. They've had their computers confiscated, and are repeatedly threatened with contempt of court if they don't travel to Chicago (from Minneapolis) and 'name names', which essentially provides the FBI/US Atty's with a laundry list of the next folks to harass, beyond those who they pick up from confiscated computers, phones, and notes. This has already happened to Jacob Appelbaum, whose cell phones were confiscated, and it would appear, have been used in a similar fashion. Certainly, one can look at all of this as just a search for evidence, but my suspicion is that they're trying to get a good list of wikileaks supporters who they can further subpoena, and intimidate without having to charge anyone with anything.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 10:04 AM on January 8, 2011 [14 favorites]


do you file your taxes online? - wanna bet that you'll need one of these to do so in the future?

So you go through whatever identity mandating scheme they have for filing your taxes. And?
posted by empath at 10:06 AM on January 8, 2011


do you file your taxes online? - wanna bet that you'll need one of these to do so in the future?

if only there were a number the federal government already associates with you tax return.

Love the non-US folks being shocked that their citizenship doesn't protect them against subpeonas filed wrt US based services that they have used.

(As someone else upthread pointed out its very interesting that the US is attempting to argue if wikileaks is journalism or not. If they can prove they conspired with Manning before he downloaded the data I think they've actually got a pretty good point - except given what' available in the public domain this does not seem to be the case. Assange is still a clown. The total transparency thing ranks up there with objectivism on the list of things that sound awesome to 15 year olds but make no sense in real life)
posted by JPD at 10:06 AM on January 8, 2011


So Assange believes he should be able to read everyone else's mail, but no one should be able to read his.

Apparently, he also has horns. And if he makes a quacking sound, there's no echo.
posted by reynir at 10:07 AM on January 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Stratastar, that conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. Appelbaum's first mention of the subpoena
posted by 7segment at 10:15 AM on January 8, 2011


Being acquainted with some of the folks mentioned in the latter incident, the amount of disruption this has caused their lives is immense; you can easily start seeing how the grand jury system is used as an intimidation tactic.

Hee, sort of like leaking diplomatic cables to intimidate government into behaving. I like it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:19 AM on January 8, 2011


The second part was a quote from Sarah Palin that only her imbecilic fans should feel comfortable repeating in public.

Inasmuch as she was suggesting that "hope and change" was a fraudlent marketing scheme, it's a perfectly valid reference drawing contrast between campaign Obama who was all "Hope and change! End war! End torture! Did I say hope or change yet?" and actual President Obama who is all "Dick Cheney didn't go far enough! Look forward, not backward! Procecute leakers but not bankers! Deport illegals!"

If leftward critics of Obama can employ a blatantly populist phase used by his hardest rightwing fanatic enemies as a plausibe (if admittedly snarkful) rhetorical construct and acurately describe his administration's actions...maybe they have a real point.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:21 AM on January 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


I like the fact that the sub-poena spelt Ron Gonggrijp's name wrong. It's that kind of forensic attention to detail that makes a great case.
posted by reynir at 10:29 AM on January 8, 2011


Hee, sort of like leaking diplomatic cables to intimidate government into behaving. I like it.

Intimidation requires a certain power dynamic. On the one hand, you have the government of the world's most powerful nation confiscating the computers of private citizens who they suspect may have supported FARC in Columbia through their speech. On the other, said government's internal documents are leaked by a fairly small international organization. No one's property is confiscated. No US officials threatened to be held without charges for months on end. Perhaps this is my fault for not seeing the equivalency.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lets be clear - Assange has a problem with large organisations using 'secrecy' to hide abuses. I don't think he has a problem with individual privacy, and I don't think he's interested in reading your personal email. Maybe he'd be interested in your work email if you were a global company executive or a member of a government somewhere.

Jonsdottir is a member of parliament in Iceland. Let's hear the special pleading that exempts her from the new transparency insisted upon by the wikileaks.

Let's talk instead about the more interesting issues since we've talked that one to death and no one will agree.

1- The US and EU have a special agreement called Safe Harbor which is supposed to let EU citizens have EU privacy protections and vis versa for US citizens. It will be interesting if this comes into the challenge to quash.

2- In the course of an ordinary criminal investigation one would expect third parties to have to provide evidence they posses. The only thing notable here is the constitutionality of the underlying last they are accused of breaking and the fact that foreign individuals with no ties to the US are being subject to the investigation

3- What is the obligation of a cloud provider to resist a subpoena for your data. I think it is quite high. You have a relationship with them and that is based on an expectation that they will guard your privacy. The fact that this data can be requested without your knowledge because it resides on the cloud, shouldn't give the government to the ability to take it without your knowledge. If the data was on your personal hard disk they'd have to ask for it (or execute a secret search)

4- Encryption -- do not do not store unencrypted data. If you want to control it, you must encrypt it. This goes for governments holding large databases
of all their classified data. And use multiple layers of keys so one guy can't just take it all.
posted by humanfont at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2011


1- The US and EU have a special agreement called Safe Harbor which is supposed to let EU citizens have EU privacy protections and vis versa for US citizens. It will be interesting if this comes into the challenge to quash.

That is not what Safe Harbor does, and it's not really relevant to the issues here. Safe Harbor allows European companies to transmit personal information on European citizens to American companies, despite the fact that the US does not have comprehensive data protection legislation that meets the European standard for privacy guarantees (the normal requirement before European companies can export personal info about Europeans for commercial purposes). American companies merely have to self-certify as "Safe Harbor" compliant in order to be able to receive the data flows. Safe Harbor has zero impact on American citizens or their personal information, or on the operation of European companies processing information within Europe. American companies also remain free to process the personal info of Americans in any way they choose (ie with no restrictions or privacy guarantees); one of the ironies of Safe Harbor is that it means American companies that adopt it thereby give greater protection to the personal info of Europeans than to Americans.
posted by modernnomad at 10:49 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The discussion on this issue makes me want to pull my hair out. Wikileaks does not want to read your email. They are not the boogeyman. And what they did / do is nothing like the US Government is doing here.

Yes, Jonsdottir is a member of Icelandic parliament. What does that have to do with this? This is not transparency. If was a sealed freaking order. Can you not tell how that is a different thing?

And how can someone say, with a straight face, that the existence of an organization willing to publicize leaks of abuses - not make them, mind you, just give people who feel they have to say something a place to bring evidence - is anything like using legal tactics to intimidate political targets?
posted by Nothing at 11:33 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The question is - why was the order sealed? Twitter felt that was inappropriate, as soon as it was served, it contested the sealed nature of the order - and the courts agreed with them. This is a good thing. The first time the subjects were allowed to contest the order, they won. The legal system actually worked here. If there is a bone to pick its with the other recipients of the subpeona whose chose not to contest the seal, not with the courts, or even with the AG - its an adversarial system - why wouldn't you ask for the subpeona to be sealed?
posted by JPD at 11:39 AM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wikileaks is an organization that is dedicated to the transparency of powerful organizations. And yet as it has grown more powerful, they have remained quite opaque. Bylaws, budget, governance? How much material have they gathered? How are decisions made about publication and priority? If they are not holding themselves to the standards they set for other organization, why not?
Are they really dedicated to transparency, or are they motivated by some other factor such as a criminal enterprise of corporate blackmail. Publish a little information, sell the rest as an information mafia. If a whistleblower wonders why their information isn't published, well there is a massive backlog. If any government investigates scream about your civil liberties. Rape a couple of Scandanavian women while your at it, your insurance file makes you untouchable.
posted by humanfont at 12:34 PM on January 8, 2011


Rape a couple of Scandanavian women while your at it

Shame on you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 PM on January 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


Rape a couple of Scandanavian women while your at it, your insurance file makes you untouchable.

The insurance file..of course. I was wondering why we hadn't heard of any legal moves against Assange following the complaints by the two women.
posted by reynir at 12:57 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


humanfont: Jonsdottir is a member of parliament in Iceland. Let's hear the special pleading that exempts her from the new transparency insisted upon by the wikileaks.

Well, the concern here in Iceland is that she may be targeted when traveling. As a member of Alþingi (the parliament) she has various duties that require her to travel as a representative of Alþingi, including to the US. The foreign minister has summoned the US ambassador so that the minister can express his concerns (i.e. shout and yell).

Also, Birgitta Jónsdóttir (incidentally, when referring to Icelanders it's customary to use the first name) was the person who managed to get Assange into the 2009 Christmas party at the US embassy in Iceland.

Rape a couple of Scandanavian women while your at it

Don't do this.
posted by Kattullus at 1:30 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kattallus the problem is of course is that she did all of the things she is potentially being accused of as a private citizen, not as a representative of the icelandic government. Its hard to see legally what protections she actually does have.
posted by JPD at 1:45 PM on January 8, 2011


Re: Ms. Jónsdóttir being a member of the Icelandic Parliament: She tweeted: "USA government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?"

I read this not as her saying that she should get any special protection - as JPD says, its about things she did as a private citizen. I read it more as 'Did the US not realise that I'm a public figure who will be able to kick up a huge fuss about this'. And given that they spelt the other dude's name wrong, its perfectly possible that the US didn't realise who Ms Jónsdóttir was. That would be pretty funny.
posted by memebake at 2:48 PM on January 8, 2011


humanfont: Wikileaks is an organization that is dedicated to the transparency of powerful organizations. And yet as it has grown more powerful, they have remained quite opaque. Bylaws, budget, governance? How much material have they gathered? How are decisions made about publication and priority? If they are not holding themselves to the standards they set for other organization, why not?

Cheap shots aside, you do have a point here. Other people have made the argument that Wikileaks is an opaque, unelected organisation, so why should we trust them. I think they have a pretty good argument for keeping at least some of their activities un-transparent (protection of sources, for a start). On the other hand, yes there is scope for abuse within the organisation - corporate blackmail, etc as you mention. I wouldn't be surprised to find that their financial recordkeeping is bad or non existent. I'm not aware as to whether Wikileaks even 'exists' legally, as anything other than a website. Are they registered as an organisation anywhere?

Imho, Wikileaks are 'trustworthy' in that I believe their stated mission is their real mission, but I think the questions you ask are good ones to ask - the normal checks and balances applied to not-for-profit organisations might be missing here, and that is a concern.
posted by memebake at 3:01 PM on January 8, 2011


to be honest I read it as the exact opposite of that. "do you know who I am" and the fact that the icelandic foreign minister called in the ambassador would seem to reinforce that. I'm sort of half surprised some insane US pol hasn't tried to claim she was acting on behalf of her government.

I mean she's not actually due any protection, her only defense is to contest whatever she is charged with.
posted by JPD at 3:02 PM on January 8, 2011


JPD: to be honest I read it as the exact opposite of that. "do you know who I am" and the fact that the icelandic foreign minister called in the ambassador would seem to reinforce that (in reply to)

Ah yeah, thats true.
posted by memebake at 3:24 PM on January 8, 2011


What information could the subpoena of Twitter info reveal and how would that info be useful to the US? I mean, all tweets are public aren't they, and the individuals in question use their real names on their twitter accounts. What am I missing? Why does the US want this info?
No, twitter supports private messaging.
So Assange believes he should be able to read everyone else's mail, but no one should be able to read his? That's convenient.
"The goal is justice, the method is transparency"
Freedom of the press isn't about protecting a class of people, but it is about protecting a particular activity. The debate isn't about whether Assange, etc, are journalists, but whether what Wikileaks is doing is journalism. It's a subtle point, but it does matter.
Well, not really. Remember, there was no real concept of "objective journalism" in the 1700s. All press was partisan, agenda pushing press. So I don't think there was any intention to protect "journalism" but rather to protect political speech first and foremost. And it would be much more difficult to argue that what Assange is doing isn't political speech.

Fun fact: Also, at least of the founding fathers actually stole government documents and leaked them. I can't remember which one, though.
Yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater is also 'public speech' and can also get you arrested. It's not that simple.
What wikileaks is doing isn't libel or "Yelling Fire" or ordering crimes to take place or any of the other illegal speech acts. It's clearly political speech, which is protected. It's not even a copyright violation since US government documents are (for copyright purposes) public domain.
Hee, sort of like leaking diplomatic cables to intimidate government into behaving. I like it.
You actually like it when the government uses investigator powers to harass people? Seriously? What the fuck? (That's not what they're doing with wikileaks, btw, they're going to twitter directly, and didn't even want the targets to know about it).

here's a detailed account of this kind of thing I read just the other day. A woman who advocates for people in chronic pain and for doctors to be allowed to treat them with opioid pain killers is having her life turned upside down because she criticized a U.S. attorney and publically advocated for a doctor who'd been charged by the DEA. And this, apparently you like. Again, wtf? You actually want the government to be able to fuck with innocent people who embarrass them in some way? Really? Unbelievable.

It's amazing how many so-called liberals are actually huge fans of using state power to crush people who are annoying to them or make Obama look bad or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 3:31 PM on January 8, 2011 [13 favorites]


Granted though, Wikileaks was rather reliant on Visa and Mastercard ...

But even that worked out brilliantly; when they turned off the tap without any charges or evidence of crime it demonstrated to the world the weaknesses of claims about internet 'free speech' like the one that Hillary advanced in Jan. 2010. That along with calls for assassination have been profoundly revealing about the reality behind 'democracy'. All major scores.
posted by Twang at 3:53 PM on January 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a transcript of the conversation between the GOI FM and the US Ambassador in Rejiavick courtesy a neighbor who was formerly a CIA remote viewer in the 1970s.

Goi FM: Amb. Arreaga my government strongly objects to the attempt by your prosecutors to subpoena the private tweets of one of our parliamentarians.
Amb Arreaga: Our prosecutors will not limit their investigations into serious matters purely as a result of political pressures. These are serious matters. Furthermore neither I, the Secretary of State nor the President can interfere in a Federal prosecution. What do you think we are Spain or Germany.
GOI FM: You must understand the private communications of our parliamentarians are essential to the function of their jobs.
Amb. Arrega: Secretary Clinton told me to express to you and the parliamentarian her utmost sympathy for your privacy concerns. She herself has recently had a number of her confidential communications exposed. She also understands what it is like to be in the sights of a US prosecutor. She recommends keeping important records, like billing records from your law firm, in an old desk to prevent and untimely disclosure.

At this point the two figures had a slight breach of diplomatic protocol and broke into hearty laughs. Stiff drinks may have been poured.
posted by humanfont at 4:07 PM on January 8, 2011


"It's a dumb idea... but it's not big brother, either."

It's "the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government" to centralize efforts toward creating an "identity ecosystem" for the Internet.... What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy....

centralize ... identity ecosystem ... enhancing ... security

are not comforting words coming from a USG which has NSA doing domestic spying after stuff like TIA was announced. "Enhanced interrogation" and "enhanced search" also come to mind. They really need to tone down that kind of language if that's not what they mean.

According to Bloomberg "A group representing companies including Verizon Communications Inc., Google Inc., PayPal Inc., Symantec Corp. and AT&T Inc. has supported the program".

Is that supposed to be comforting? May we sheep now safely graze?
posted by Twang at 4:10 PM on January 8, 2011


JPD asked: its an adversarial system - why wouldn't you ask for the subpeona to be sealed?

Yes, it's an adversarial system, but the Twitter users' interests are not and cannot be represented. Furthermore, there's a public interest in protecting the integrity of (what is effectively) a common carrier. Finally, it is generally in the interests of justice when legal proceedings are public. These are good reasons to have the subpoena open, and they're reasons that ought to be respected by prosecutors - who are officers of the court and represent the public interest.

There are grounds to have secret subpoenas when this would interfere with a criminal investigation, but it's hard to imagine any possible interference that could be caused by publicity now, in this case. The parties know they're being investigated and I presume nobody expected them to hack into Twitter and destroy the records in between the court order and Twitter's compliance. And there's no reason to collect new Twitter messages: any hypothetically-illegal acts would have taken place long ago, before the cables were distributed. So requesting that the orders be sealed seems to be prosecutorial overreach, something done just because it can be done rather than for any good reason.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:13 PM on January 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


JPD also sprach: Kattallus the problem is of course is that she did all of the things she is potentially being accused of as a private citizen, not as a representative of the icelandic government. Its hard to see legally what protections she actually does have.

The US government is asking for all her records, including (I presume) ones made between her and her constituents on matters of public business. I don't know how things work in the USA, but here in Australia it would arguably make those records privileged.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:23 PM on January 8, 2011


The US government is asking for all her records, including (I presume) ones made between her and her constituents on matters of public business. I don't know how things work in the USA, but here in Australia it would arguably make those records privileged.

It isn't the US governments concern what Icelandic law is of course, if she wanted to preserve privllege she should have used a microblogging system not based in the US, especially given she was actively working to disclose confidential cables from the US. And in the US interaction between a rep and their constituents isn't privileged, it isn't public, but it can be forced into the open by the courts..

I think my point wrt to the subpeona only applied to this particular case. Certainly sealed subpeonas are overused by the US government, but its up to the judges to adjudicate, not for the AG. Hence the point its an adversarial system. If you entrust your sensitive information to third parties you'd better be damn sure they will stand up for your rights as twitter has. Its ironic that a group that should be as au courant as possible on the issue appears to have gotten caught out.
posted by JPD at 5:58 PM on January 8, 2011


but the Twitter users' interests are not and cannot be represented

but they were - by Twitter. The sealed subpeona was served, twitter sued to have it unsealed, won, and revealed the contents.

The question is why didn't facebook want to represent their users interests? \
posted by JPD at 6:00 PM on January 8, 2011


What wikileaks is doing isn't libel or "Yelling Fire" or ordering crimes to take place or any of the other illegal speech acts. It's clearly political speech, which is protected. It's not even a copyright violation since US government documents are (for copyright purposes) public domain.

FWIW, I agree with you, except I think that it's 'probably' political speech. The courts are going to have to decide it.
posted by empath at 7:10 PM on January 8, 2011


@Wikileaks tweets:
"WARNING all 637,000 @wikileaks followers are a target of US gov subpoena against Twitter, under section 2. B http://is.gd/koZIA"
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:15 PM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the US official correspondence and emails are subject to various record preservation acts and ultimately those communications can publicly released.
posted by humanfont at 7:33 PM on January 8, 2011


I was told when I worked for the Census Bureau that every email I wrote could potentially be made public, and that I should write them with that expectation.
posted by empath at 7:54 PM on January 8, 2011


So you go through whatever identity mandating scheme they have for filing your taxes. And?

it'll be on your computer - and what other activity will it be attached to?

---

if only there were a number the federal government already associates with you tax return.

if only it wasn't so easily counterfeited, stolen or otherwise tampered with
posted by pyramid termite at 9:07 PM on January 8, 2011


The identity scheme, we don't know what form it will take but the government has said they want to preserve the ability to use the internet "anonymously and pseudonymous" Who knows how serious they are. It would not be hard to build an identity system that put the user in total control, and it would be easy to build a system that put the government in control. We'll have to see the proposal when it comes out to determine how much we should freak out.
posted by delmoi at 9:13 PM on January 8, 2011


it'll be on your computer

Define 'it'? I mean is it just pgp signature? We have no idea what they're talking about at this point.
posted by empath at 9:18 PM on January 8, 2011


Never put anything you wouldn't want everyone seeing on Twitter or in diplomatic cables.

Maybe diplomatic cables should start using the Twitter private messaging system, looks like they might have better safeguards in place.
posted by robertc at 5:15 AM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Iceland blasts US demand for lawmaker's details in WikiLeaks probe
Icelandic Foreign Minister Oessur Skarphedinsson said it was not acceptable that US authorities had demanded the information.

"According to the documents that I have seen, an Icelandic parliamentarian is being investigated in a criminal case in the United States for no reason at all," Skarphedinsson told Icelandic public radio RUV.

"It is intolerable that an elected representative is being treated like that," he said.
me: *Grabs big bag of international legal wrangling popcorn*
posted by memebake at 1:46 PM on January 9, 2011


"Do you know who I am"
posted by JPD at 3:26 PM on January 9, 2011


JPD: "Do you know who I am"

Indeed. Your reading looks like the accurate one then.
posted by memebake at 3:47 PM on January 9, 2011


FastCompany: Why Twitter Was the Only Company to Challenge the Secret WikiLeaks Subpoena. Includes a loving profile of Twitter's general counsel Alexander Macgillivray.
posted by Nelson at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2011


Wikileaks volunteer detained and searched (again) by US agents
posted by adamvasco at 7:57 AM on January 13, 2011


Democracy Now interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir
posted by homunculus at 9:50 AM on January 13, 2011


Tunisia -- the first Wikileaks revolution.
posted by empath at 2:08 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The emergence of the subpoena appears to confirm for the first time the existence of a secret grand jury empanelled to investigate whether individuals associated with WikiLeaks, and Assange in particular, can be prosecuted for alleged conspiracy with Manning to steal the classified documents.

NBC: U.S. can't link Army private to Assange -- "U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between Bradley Manning and the WikiLeaks founder."
posted by ericb at 6:24 PM on January 24, 2011


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