DOJ Subpoenas Twitter Account of Wikileaks Volunteer and now Iceland MP

The US Department of Justice has subpoenaed from Twitter the private emails of former Wikileaks activist Birgitt Jonsdottir, now a member of Iceland’s 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?”

If Twitter complies with this order without a legal battle (and Jonsdottir will wage her own), then in my view it should make us all rethink mortgaging our liberties to American social media, technology and finance companies that are lapdogs of the government. Apple deleted the Wikileaks app for iPhone and iPad even though reading leaked US government cables is not illegal. In fact, the Founding Generation intended that no American should ever need permission to read or write anything. Visa, Mastercard and Paypal have all blocked payments to Wikileaks even though the organization has not been proved to have done anything illegal.

Meanwhile, Bush administration officials, such as Dick Cheney, who ordered people tortured have not been in any way inconvenienced by Mssrs. Obama and Holder.

In any case, maybe we should all sign up for some social media based in Europe or in the global South (Orkut is now completely based in Brazil, though owned by Google), to stop the rush toward de facto Facebook- and Twitter- internet monopolies, which then are in turn tools of US government control, what with big corporations being overly cozy with Washington.

Maybe MP Jonsdottir can sponsor legislation allowing the setting up of Iceland-based social media that could not so easily be made to kowtow to government.

The back story here is that the DOJ has decided to attempt to prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for conspiracy to commit espionage. In that connection, the DOJ wants to gather evidence that Assange was not a passive recipient of US government classified documents but rather actively recruited American officials with access to the material and urged them to commit a crime. They want to sniff through Jonsdottir’s private mail for such evidence. It is a fishing expedition and legally fishy in that regard. The over-all strategy is lame and almost certainly will fail, but it is being pursued by the Obama administration out of terror that further massive leaks will be made public. The point is to make an object lesson of Assange. In reality, Assange is no more culpable than the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde or Aftenpost. Newspapers get government officials to leak classified information all the time. But nothing is being done to the newspapers.

31 Responses

  1. maybe we should all sign up for some social media based in Europe or in the global South (Orkut is now completely based in Brazil, though owned by Google), to stop the rush toward de facto Facebook- and Twitter- internet monopolies, which then are in turn tools of US government control

    Maybe MP Jonsdottir can sponsor legislation allowing the setting up of Iceland-based social media that could not so easily be made to kowtow to government.

    It should not stop at social media, non-US credit cards are required as well to get around Visa & Mastercard. There’s the mooted Belgian Payfair credit card, the Monnet card, and other EAPS cards (Euro Alliance of Payment Schemes).

    The quicker non-US based alternatives get up and running, the better for mankind.

  2. Please don’t subscribe to HYVES. It’s owned by the Telegraaf Media Group. If the CATO Institute would have had a social webpage, then it would have been hyves. A lot of dutch people unsubscribed because of the takeover by Telegraaf Media group, mainly because they also publish “De Telegraaf”, a very low quality and populist right wing newspaper.

  3. Two thumbs up for this articale.
    I really hope people understand what US cov is doing to people who is willing to speak out their mind and critic how the cov is working. It is clear they are afraid about truth Wikileaks has show the world and I just ask how far they will go to stop people who speak out. Will they start killing?

  4. With just a few exceptions, the Wikileaks cables have actually been “published” by one or more of the several newspapers to which Assange has delivered them, in most or all cases with editing by the newspaper after learning directly or indirectly of the US government’s specific preferences concerning the cable. Whether this additional filter relieves Assange of liability is one question, but another important question it raises is whether each newspaper is liable as well. No one held a gun to the newspaper’s head to force publication, and it’s fair to assume the newspaper’s cooperation with Assange was at least as “active” as Assange’s cooperation with Pvt. Manning.

    Thoughts?

  5. “In any case, maybe we should all sign up for some social media based in Europe or in the global South (Orkut is now completely based in Brazil, though owned by Google), to stop the rush toward de facto Facebook- and Twitter- internet monopolies, which then are in turn tools of US government control, what with big corporations being overly cozy with Washington.”

    I think it is an excellent idea. Is there any way we can spread this appeal to the broader Internet community? If our American Internet companies insist on their right to exclude anyone they chose to while going to bed with our police state then the only effective response for the freedom loving people is to bring their business to a freer country. Any suggestions? I’d gladly propose this to all my friends.

  6. “Meanwhile, Bush administration officials who ordered people tortured, like Dick Cheney, have not been in any way inconvenienced by Mssrs. Obama and Holder”

    A long overdue comment on your blog, Prof. I really value your blog, and now I feel even more sympathetic to your views.

    • Please note, Obama never fully banned torture/”enhanced interrogation”.

      On January 22, 2009 Obama restricted interrogations to the Army Field Manuel,
      “unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance.”

      Is that a ban? No.

      Would the public be notified if Holder allowed Obama to torture someone? As far as I know, there is no law to compel them to inform the public.

      Also, Appendix M of the manual contain techniques which “may not be employed on detainees covered by Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, primarily enemy prisoners of war.” Most of these techniques could be described as stress and duress or “separation” methods (which are in fact quite similar to what is currently being done to Bradley Manning).

      “The President of the National Lawyers Guild Marjorie Cohn has stated that portions of the AFM protocol, especially the use of isolation and prolonged sleep deprivation, constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is illegal under the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Hina Shamsi, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, has stated that portions of the AFM are “deeply problematic” and “would likely violate the War Crimes Act and Geneva,” and at the very least “leave the door open for legal liability.” Physicians for Human Rights and the Constitution Project have publicly called for the removal of problematic and abusive techniques from the AFM.”

      http://www.alternet.org/rights/117807/how_the_u.s._army%27s_field_manual_codified_torture_–_and_still_does/?page=entire

  7. So Juan, I notice this site still carries all the obligatory social network logos and you still take PayPal.

    Are we all too far down this road to turn back? I bailed from Facebook months ago, and every new piece of news makes me feel glad I did; but still, I confess to feeling a bit cut off and left out.

      • “If Twitter complies with this order without a legal battle (and Jonsdottir will wage her own), then in my view it should make us all rethink mortgaging our liberties to American social media, ”

        When?

        “over the long term”

        So… Your threat is impotent?

        Did you catch Zuckerberg’s interview with Bush in Palo Alto? If that wasn’t enough to make you drop FB, then what about their new partnership with Goldman Sachs?

    • I made my last donation to juancole.com last fall using
      PayPal. Now that PayPal has revealed what big teeth it
      has, I’ve closed out my account with that Big Bad Wolf ™,
      and transfered my balance to flattr.com.

      It’s Swedish, and shares out EU 1.68 monthly among the
      charities I recommend. Over and above this donation, When
      I especially like some particular site that has a “Flattr”
      button for donations, I can donate more directly to the
      favored site.

      Juan, I think you should register at flattr.com and
      put one of their “Donate” buttons on your website.

      • Hi, Richard. I checked this out. Flattr.com takes 10% of incoming revenue, which is outrageous. And, it only allows you to withdraw money through Paypal. So it is worse than useless for the purposes you suggest.

    • Bonsoir Juan!

      To defeat utterly the FB juggernaut, all you need is to install Adblock on your browser and, presto, no ads!!!
      It’s available for Firefox, Sea Monkey, Chrome, probably for Opera, and if IE doesn’t have it yet, it soon will!
      I connect with my friends on FB without an ad to mar the landscape!
      Think of the loss in revenue and Wall street appeal if, say, a third of FB users stopped seeing ads??!!
      Downside for you Juan, and other good people, is I don’t see your ads either!
      Sorry… ;-)

  8. Seems like I’ve heard of some tech company/entreprenuer wanting to buy an island, country/barge, to somehow go offshore and avoid whatever govt initiative might come up next.

    Iceland has a wonderful opportunity here that I’ve heard tossed around before. The way they got screwed (arguably screwed themselves, but at least learning), by the financial conmen/system may have shocked them more than others.

    Seems like there was talk of them writing a raft of legislation to provide a structure to address the range of such issues, for the benefit of the people (now, there’s a thought…). If Iceland could provide the legal infrastructure (explicitly against the interference of foreign states) for the range of services to enable a bottom-up society, I’d sign up for them in a minute.

  9. “reading leaked US government cables is not illegal”

    I know they can’t prosecute the sheer number of people reading it, but isn’t it still technically illegal?

    • utterly confused about the concept of ‘technical’ illegality – surely, something is either legal or illegal, full stop

      can we stop torturing language to introduce more and anodyne inanities, please? people lie, not misspeak; people get murdered through no fault of their own,it’s collateral murder, not collateral damage; it is attempted drowning, not waterboarding even if a both a board and water are involved; it is not enhanced interrogation, it is torture prohibited under the geneva conventions; people get illegally kidnapped and transported against their will to be rendered to torturers, what is extraordinary about such renditions except for the ethical revulsion that the reality of it engenders?

      if you start illegalising what people can read, how many steps away from book burning are we? the hilarity or perhaps pathos of it is that once facts and ideas are already out there, you cannot put them back in the box

      • I’m afraid the “relativism” of the rule-of-law ideal is at the core of this and many other problems. Whenever some little piggies are more equal than other little piggies, there’s a receipe for disaster. Maybe only “bad guys” got tortured by Bush II (oops, an enhanced interrogation), but what happens when you or I are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and don’t have a friend in the politburo (oops, there I go again….) to straighten things out and explain we’re really insiders.

        Not to go overlong, but you, or Julian Assange can be fully technically legit in what you do, but law enforcement (the man/establishment/status quo, tke your pick) can choose to destroy you/him through simple malecious prosecution, if nothing more than to make an example of him/you/whomever else gets in the way of The Machine.

  10. What we really need is decentralized DNS and dectralized webhosting (like freenet or unhosted — check them out.) No need for dedicated servers, the clients are the infrastructure.

    Further, the US has clearly overstepped its bounds and has shown that it no longer can be trusted to keep secrets from the public. As a member of a so called democratic society I motion that we the people must demand the truth from our government, in all things, to prevent further degredation to our safety, our rights, and our freedoms.

  11. Bravo Juan…
    you have branched out from the specific middle east situation…to something which is scarier…the erosion of our liberties as individuals…big brother is most defintely here…and he is very very scary…..this is not the face of good..this is not the face of progress..this is the face of control, of power, and I must say…of evil….we are not going down a good path….may the Lord help us if we cant help ourselfs

    • this in real life is corporate oligarchic muscle flexing that is progressing towards fascism through figureheads of elected representatives and since the corporate oligarchy has already assumed funding privileges for elections, it thinks it has created its cover except they thought that with hitler and mussolini too

      it is no ‘Lord’ who will help us because we are endowed with the ability to help ourselves if we so choose

  12. “maybe we should all sign up for some social media based in Europe or in the global South (Orkut is now completely based in Brazil, though owned by Google), to stop the rush toward de facto Facebook- and Twitter- internet monopolies, which then are in turn tools of US government control”?

    Maybe we should realize that whatever is written online is only secure when it’s written as the rules change over time.

  13. What is really needed is to move away from these centralized services in favor of network-wide encrypted-distributed systems along the lines of Diaspora.

    While the Diaspora developers were grade-A idiots to cut their own PR campaign off at the knees by accepting Zuckerbergs’ money, the principle is quite sound. For the most part all that these new internet category-killers actually do is massively consolidate the provision of fairly simple applications of the internet that benefit only negligibly by being consolidated. All one really needs to get the same snowball effect these companies take advantage of is a shared protocol–a shared infrastructure, beyond the internet itself, simply isn’t necessary.

  14. I have always been amazed at what people will “confide” to a medium which is A: ineradicable and B: ubiquitous.

    Anything of any moment does not belong on the web unless encrypted.

    I will have nothing to do with any of the social networking sites, why enable the all-seeing State any further?

  15. You couldn’t pay me to join Facebook, my space or twitter and tweet or post videos…I have enough to keep up without all that and net comments is as public as I want to go.
    Just drop out of it all….90% of it is just noise.
    The net sites like this are enough, or have been, who knows in the future.

  16. WARNING all 637,000 @wikileaks followers are a target of US gov subpoena against Twitter, under section 2. B link to is.gd

    The information to be supplied, however, pertains to both the sources and destinations of these accounts. This is to include

    records of user activity for any connections made to or from the Account, including the date, time, length, and method of connections, data transfer volume, user name, and source and destination Internet Protocol address(es).

    [N]on-content information associated with the contents of any communication or file stored by or for the account(s), such as the source and destination email addresses and IP addresses. (Source; original pdf subpoena)

    link to wlcentral.org

  17. Bravo to Twitter for putting up a bit of a fight for their users. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for this kind of activity from Facebook or Google.

    I’ll continue using Facebook though until it gets replaced by the next big thing replaces it in about fifteen minutes. In the meantime I don’t want to miss out on all those connections.

    • I’ll continue using Facebook though until it gets replaced by the next big thing replaces it in about fifteen minutes.

      It won’t happen all by itself. Have a look at Diaspora link to joindiaspora.com and see if you can interest people you know. If enough people do that, it really could become the next big thing.

  18. Whether or not Twitter fights these subpoenas probably won’t prevent the DOJ from getting the information. (I’m a lawyer, and would find it highly doubtful that the DOJ wouldn’t have nailed down the answer to this question before the subpoenas went out.) For that reason, ironically, Twitter’s effort is likely only to draw people’s attention more clearly to the lamentable (but obvious) fact that Twitter (and Facebook, etc.) communications can be and will be obtained by the US government.

    That’s why I don’t use Twitter, and why I use Facebook only under an alias and with a very small number of “friends.” Even then, I post nothing on Facebook that would give away my identity, and have asked my few “friends” not to do so either. In addition, I’ve learned that one can delete most posts on discussion threads within Facebook applications (Scrabble, in my case), and I spent an hour yesterday doing just that. If you were the person who started the discussion topic, however, Facebook (or maybe it’s the specific application) won’t allow you to delete your first post on the discussion topic.

    Others might consider some effort to “scrub” their Facebook record a bit. Certainly it’s all there in the archives, but I nevertheless think it will protect your privacy a bit from snooping eyes to delete those old posts and think long and hard about what, if anything, you put in new ones.

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