Google reportedly delayed by two and a half years disclosure to WikiLeaks that it gave emails and other data from three of its staff to the FBI. This occurred after a federal judge issued a warrant.
Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is a lawyer for WikiLeaks, wrote a letter to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, telling him they are “astonished and disturbed that Google waited over two and a half years to notify its subscribers that a search warrant was issued for their records.”
Read the full letter here.
The three WikiLeaks staffers are Investigations editor Sarah Harrison, Section Editor Joseph Farrell and senior journalist and spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson. The warrant was related to charges of alleged conspiracy and espionage.
“Importantly, the warrants reveal for the first time a clear list of the alleged offences the US government is trying to apply in its attempts to build a prosecution against Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks staff. The offences add up to a total of 45 years of imprisonment,” WikiLeaks said in a press release. “The US government is claiming universal jurisdiction to apply the Espionage Act, general Conspiracy statute and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to journalists and publishers – a horrifying precedent for press freedoms around the world. Once an offence is alleged in relation to a journalist or their source, the whole media organisation, by the nature of its work flow, can be targeted as alleged ‘conspiracy’.”
Here’s what it said specifically about Google:
WikiLeaks’ legal team has written to Google expressing its dismay that Google failed to notify the warrants’ targets immediately. The failure to notify has prevented the three journalists from “protect[ing] their interests including their rights to privacy, association and freedom from illegal searches”. The “take everything” warrants are unconstitutionally broad and appear to violate the Privacy Protection Act so would have a good chance of being opposed; however, Google handed everything over before that was possible.
Although Google claims that it was at some stage under a gag order from the US government, there is no indication that Google fought the gag and it is unlikely that the gag just happened to expire the day before Christmas. Similar gags for warrants against WikiLeaks journalists have been successfully fought by Twitter in much shorter time-frames.
While WikiLeaks journalists, perhaps uniquely, do not use Google services for internal communications or for communicating with sources, the search warrants nonetheless represent a substantial invasion of their personal privacy and freedom. The information handed over to the US government included all email content, metadata, contacts, draft emails, deleted emails and IP addresses connected to the accounts. Google redacted the search warrants before sending them to WikiLeaks staff.
The Guardian shares comment from Google:
Google told the Guardian it does not talk about individual cases, to “help protect all our users”. A spokesperson for the company said: “We follow the law like any other company.
“When we receive a subpoena or court order, we check to see if it meets both the letter and the spirit of the law before complying. And if it doesn’t we can object or ask that the request is narrowed. We have a track record of advocating on behalf of our users.”
Assange said, “WikiLeaks has out endured everything the Obama administration has thrown at us and we will out endure these latest ‘offences’ too…’I call on president Obama to do the right thing and call off his dogs–for his own sake. President Obama is set to go down in history as the president who brought more bogus ‘espionage’ cases against the press than all previous presidents combined.”
WikiLeaks also wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. This requests further details on the investigation.
Image via Google