Judge rules for government in Twitter case

March 11, 2011 at 8:05 PM
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ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. magistrate judge ruled the government may collect Twitter users' private records in its investigation of whistle-blower Web site WikiLeaks.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union said they would appeal Friday's ruling, which also found the government may prevent Twitter users and the public from seeing some documents prosecutors submitted to the court to support their claim for obtaining records.

The judge in Alexandria, Va., denied a government request to conduct hearings on the records matter in secret and ordered documents related to the users' legal challenge unsealed.

Prosecutors trying to build a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are seeking Twitter messages sent by supposed WikiLeaks supporters, and possibly message information from Facebook, Skype and Google. The non-profit EEF and the ACLU went to court last month to stop the government's acquisition of the Twitter messages.

The organizations had filed a motion before U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan to overturn a December court order forcing Twitter and possibly others to turn over private users' records. They also asked that court records on government attempts to collect those private records through subpoenas be unsealed.

The motions were filed on behalf of Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's Parliament. Private lawyers represented WikiLeaks associates Jacob Applebaum and Rop Gonggijp. The three are believed to have helped prepare a classified U.S. Army video published last year on the WikiLeaks Web site, CNN reported.

ACLU attorney Aden Fine said Friday's ruling "gives the government the ability to secretly amass private information related to individuals' Internet communications."

"If this ruling stands, our client may be prevented from challenging the government's requests to other companies because she might never know if and how many other companies have been ordered to turn over information about her."

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