Second judge gives DOJ access to Wikileaks-related Twitter accounts

by Declan McCullagh November 10, 2011 12:24 PM PST

The U.S. Justice Department will be allowed access to WikiLeaks-related Twitter accounts, including information about what Internet and e-mail addresses are associated with them, a federal district judge ruled today.

The 60-page ruling from U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady in Virginia represents a second victory for the U.S. Department of Justice, which sought the court order as part of a grand jury probe that appears to be investigating whether WikiLeaks principals including editor Julian Assange violated American criminal laws.

“The Twitter order did not violate the Constitution,” O’Grady concluded. In addition, he said, there was no evidence that it violated federal privacy laws either.

O’Grady’s ruling follows a previous decision in March 2011, when a magistrate judge also sided with the Justice Department. A few weeks later, attorneys for the Twitter account holders filed an appeal with O’Grady.

The accounts at issue include Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic parliament who helped with Wikileaks’ release of a classified U.S. military video; Seattle-based Wikileaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum; and Dutch hacker and XS4ALL Internet provider co-founder Rop Gonggrijp. The order also sought records relating to Assange and alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, who did not contest it.

This case came to light in January, when Twitter notified the subscribers that prosecutors had obtained a court order for their “account information.” That led Jónsdóttir, Appelbaum, and Gonggrijp to retain their own attorneys, who filed motions asking the judge to overturn her earlier decision.

The U.S. government began an criminal investigation of Wikileaks and Assange last July after the Web site began releasing what would become a deluge of confidential military and State Department files. Last November, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the probe is “ongoing,” and a few weeks later an attorney for Assange said he had been told that a grand jury had been empaneled in Alexandria, Va.

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