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Feds subpoena Twitter for info on WikiLeaks backer

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FAIL

@Ian Michael Gumby

"Note: I'm not Swedish or know Swedish laws."

And neither, apparently, do you know Sweden from the actual Nordic country she's from: Iceland.

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Big Brother

Hell hath no fury

like that of an Empire scorned....

Henri

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Happy

A different angle.

Julian is a very naught boy. He's been making the government look bad.

The best that said government could do to spank him, is get him on sex without a condom, where the women invovled took two years to realise that what they originally meant by "consensual" was actually "rape". It's an easy mistake to make. After all, they can be bought just like anyone else.

Now said goverment is going after a politician who says Julian is a hero, and the goverment are a buch of twats. Let's face it, if you tweet it, it's public. Too bad the goverment needs court intervention to get that.

Of this, I have to say the media coverage has done two truly wonderful things:

1/ All this hoo-haa has made people aware of what Wikileaks does, where they may not have even heard about it before.

2/ They've helped the govermenment make themselves look like the twats they are.

Never thought I'd hear myself say it. The media rocks. :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Spook

"Never thought I'd hear myself say it. The media rocks. :-)"

Mark my words, there will come a time when the concealment of information (on the part of governments) is no longer efficient. At this point the most logical path to take would be to publish everything and anything in order to dilute the juicy bits in with the dross when they are discovered.

Even when someone does come up with something interesting it is soon lost to the collective memory of 'The Media'.

Unless you go back and search, can you remember all the embarrassing disclosures that results from the Wikileaks incidents? There has been so much it's hard to remember it all. Imagine that *1000, or *1000000.

Information overload is a weapon in their arsenal, just as much as marking a document as secret is.

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Always read the Terms and Conditions

"These Terms and any action related thereto will be governed by the laws of the State of California without regard to or application of its conflict of law provisions or your state or country of residence. All claims, legal proceedings or litigation arising in connection with the Services will be brought solely in San Francisco County, California, and you consent to the jurisdiction of and venue in such courts and waive any objection as to inconvenient forum"

Maybe she should have taken time to read and understand Twitter's terms and Conditions when she signed up. Like any company in the USA, Twitter will probably comply with US law - if this comes as a surprise to Ms Jónsdóttir, then she must be a dim.

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The Problem with commercial centralised internet services such as this...

This is IMHO one of the big problems with commercially operated centralised services such as Twitter, Facebook, Gmail et. al. Basically the govt can just order them to hand over info like this en mass. They have made it too easy for the govt. This type of court order would be so much harder for the govt if it were simply standard email or a standardised decentralised service (should they yet exist, OK, maybe Diaspora and certainly distributed SMTP email services).

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IT Angle

The interesting part...

is how much data Twitter actually stores.

Does it, for example, store IP addresses from which posts are made? We can assume it stores the actual posts but those are published anyway; you wouldn't need a subpoena for those provided you had, er, an Internet connection and a web browser.

IP addresses may be handy in providing locational data (or, with VPNs and proxies, they may not). MAC addresses definitely would but HTTP doesn't transmit those by default.

El Reg, if you're going to post this kind of stuff, please give us a hint at what you reckon the Feds are actually hoping to achieve with it.

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Black Helicopters

Do you really have to ask?

Twitter stores everything. Just like Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and other internet companies.

Do you know what Hadoop is?

Posted Anon because I know too much.

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Big Brother

Phishing expedition

Dig deep enough in the hope that they can find something (parking ticket unpaid?) to justify (to a non US judge) his extradition to the US.

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Echelon

We do they need to ask for something the already have ?

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Echelon

By asking they can keep up the pretense of Echelon not existing.

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Black Helicopters

stop saying that word

it means exactly what you think it means

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@Chronigan

"The subpoena is to enter who she is and what she said in a public forum into the record of the court. In the US if you say or do something in public you have no expectation of privacy or anonymity"

Actually they are after her private tweets which aren't part of the public record, and which she may easily argue she has an expectatiion of being, well, private. Also they are after the IP addresses she used to access the account, many of which may not be from her own PC and perhaps even Icelandic Parliamentary computers. This will allow them to investigate those links through data-mining especially on sites that didn't have the decency to inform her that they too had been subpoenaed.

Ignore the tech angle, would you be happy if US agents intercepted all the letters, telephone calls and family or casual conversations of an independent foriegn state representative? Oh wait, according to Wikileaks they already do that too as a matter of course...

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The US government / political class is risking a great deal for very little benefit.

Amazon, Paypal, Facebook, Twitter and Google* are US companies which contribute massive amounts to the US economy. These companies are all global brands, and as such their success relies upon non-US citizens, 95% of the world's population, feeling able to trust them with their data and custom. If due to the US government's actions we start moving to non-US based alternatives the US economy will suffer badly in the long run.

This huge risk needs to be balanced against what they hope to achieve - the best outcome for the US govt would be that they get their hands on Julian Assange, prosecute him successfully and jail him for a very long time as a deterrent to others. However, anyone following this story knows that that's very unlikely. Extradition from the UK or Sweden to the US will prove almost impossible, and even if he did end up in the US, expert US legal opinion is that it's unlikely that he could actually be prosecuted for anything. Beyond that, the 'deterrent' aspect would also fail utterly - Assange would become a martyr and 100 Wikileaks clones would appear in its place.

For its own self-interest the US badly needs to take a step back, accept that Wikileaks has a right to exist and tighten up its own internal security to try to prevent leaks in the future. After all, we know that if Wikileaks' current target was Iran, China, Russia or many other countries, the US govt would be applauding them rather than trying to shut them down.

*It's reported and seems almost certain that Facebook and Google have received subpoenas along with Twitter. Apple's actions in removing a Wikileaks app probably have more to do with their own procedures than any political pressure. The most likely to suffer is Paypal - I am very angry that a US Republican senator can control who I can and can't donate to.

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Anonymous Coward

Paypal...

Paypal is getting famous for locking "suspicious" accounts. Their definition of "suspicious" is often "any account with some cash on hand".

Some examples includes Notch (an independant game dev which made quite a buzz with his lego-like Minecraft), several webcomics relying on donations and relief funds setup by NGOs...

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What they're after

According to the BBC: The US District Court in Virginia said it wanted information including user names, addresses, connection records, telephone numbers and payment details.

Why go to twitter for that lot though?!

Current link to story is:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12141530)

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Black Helicopters

Just to get this straight

The U.S. authorities have taken the correct legal procedures asking for a copy of all the 'tweets' from a specific account and asked Twitter to (presumably) identify the account holder.

Firstly, isn't the point of Twitter a means to send messages publicly? That is, not privately.So the 'Feds' (whichever branch is asking) just want to be sure they've not missed any - publicly - sent tweets. Not really invading much in the way of privacy there, I'm guessing.

Secondly, the 'Feds' want to know who the account holder actually is. "Do they realize I'm a Member of Parliament in Iceland?" Probably not, otherwise why would they be asking? Unless they are looking for confirmation.

Of course, how would Twitter know the account holder actually is who they say they are - does Twitter require some sort of verification?

Black helicopters - They must be up to something - this is probably a distraction or decoy operation...

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Black Helicopters

@Greemble

The US Government is actually acting in accordance to US law. That is, everything they are doing is by the book.

They may know the answer, but as a matter of law they have to document what they know and as you put it... verification of what they know or suspect.

There's also more too it...

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FAIL

re: There's also more too it...

Have you read the Subpoena? May I suggest you do.

There's also more too it...

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Paris Hilton

Will it really matter?

Us has plopped on Iceland a few times already.

Another plop isn't going to make too much of a broo-ha-ha is it?

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sealed subpoena

What's missing from most news articles including this one is that the first subpoena presented to Twitter was ordered sealed - Twitter was supposed to reveal all the information they have without informing the users at all. It was only unsealed at Twitters request so Twitter could ask the users named if they want to object. If the same sealed subpoena has been sent to other organisations such as Facebook, Google, Wikileaks' web hosts, etc and they had not requested it be unsealed they would have to to send the information to the DOJ and are not allowed to inform the users they have done so.

Explains why the news is over Twitter feeds when almost everything they have is publicly available, while there are other organisations holding much more private information have made no mention of it.

It's also known that the DOJ have also requested the names and IP address of every follower of Wikileaks on Twitter. I wouldn't be surprised if they have requested the details of everyone who has donated to them, friended them on facebook, or any minor connection with them.

The leaks have shown the US government like to throw their weight around and have little respect for the law. Their response seems to be to throw their weight around with no respect for the law.

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Big Brother

Lesson One: Avoid American Businesses

If the Wikileaks witchhunt teaches us anything it is to avoid doing business with American based companies.

Part of the information being grabbed includes credit card details which will give them access to any transactions on that card. The card company doesn't have to be American as we apparently hand over details of all such transactions whenever requested by America. You can thank the EU for that one.

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Grenade

Privacy Smivacy...

Twatter and Face Bash are mostly bullshit anyway.

It's like being told "OH we are all friends - happy community blah blah blah".... much like the same stunt that Ebay used to pull.

These companies - they have their uses but if you REALLY need to communicate, use your own private encrypted email service or the phone or a fax...

The only thing Twatter and Face Bash have is the sense of being important amongst a huge group of people who for the larger part, really don't give much of a shit for you and your crap anyway.

Commercially - there may be benefits in using it.....

But I retired from these retarded scam artist companies - when I saw what a never ending stream of bullshit went into them and came out of them, and got a taste of Face Bash's dodgy (scam artist) privacy settings and their exposure of all your information to the whole world - without your consent.

To me if you HAVE A REASON for it, then do it, but most of these sites are just a waste of time - like some fucking live in fantasy advertisement.

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kudos to twitter

For at least telling people what's going on.

I wasn't aware bank of america gave wikileaks a hard time. After reading this i've asked them for a statement since I bank with them.

Bank of America gives credit cards to illegal aliens & imports foreigners to work here and undercut the US job market (not like we don't have people that need jobs; bank of america just needs drones).

I didn't boycott PayPal since they pointed a finger at the state department (later rescinded but I believe the initial finger pointing).

If bank of america denied service to WL yet allows service to illegal aliens & imports foreigners when we have 20% unemployment rates I know I will be leaving them.

Hopefully they will respond telling me the state department is to blame but I doub that'll be the response.

Our justice department doesn't have a problem with illegal aliens.

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Paris Hilton

No one's information is safe...

And why is that a surprise to anyone?

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WTF?

Aren't tweets public anyway?

I don't get it, what exactly are they looking to obtain from Twitter - the only thing I can think of that isn't already public are the IP addresses tweets were made from, and account password. Given that they already know the identity of the person making the tweets, and the contents of the tweets, what possible private information are they looking to obtain?

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Thumb Up

Well done Twitter! (no sarcasm!)

Good to see that Twitter is open about this and informs their users before handing over the data. Many other companies would just hand it over silently!

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Black Helicopters

Typical US intelligence fishing expedition....

When you don't have any evidence........make it up!

It worked for Guantanamo.

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Whats up with making fun of Birgitta Jónsdóttirs English?

Talk about missing the point of your own article.

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Headmaster

So you consider

an editor adding [sic] after a quoted spelling or grammatical error to be "making fun of someone's language"?

It's standard procedure to indicate the error is in the quote.

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twittering...

The "Feds" want to link Assange directly to the theft of the documents. They are trolling through anything that may find them a smoking gun that Assange directly asked Pvt. Manning to steal material.

They are subpoenaing the tweets, Facebook, and anything else they than can think of, of Wikileak supporters for this reason (and I suspect in an effort to scare people) in the hope that somewhere something will show that Assange was silly enough to break a US law.

Obviously it has proven a difficult exercise so far as if the there is evidence it is well hidden.

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Troll

"something will show that Assange was silly enough to break a US law."

that is too short sighted, they need him to break _some_ law somewhere where he can be arrested (in this case, the UK or EU). You can bet that this will be one of those very few occasions where the US will pass every bit that they deem relevant to other countries.

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Grenade

Nope, nothing to see here...

I dearly wish that the powers that be would stop persecuting the obvious targets and make a start on rounding up all those "oh so clever" people who use such puerile terms such as Twatter, FaceBash and (for the love of all things holy) Micro$oft.

We get it, you are so much better than us mere consumers... Now get over yourselves and grow up!

(And no, I haven't had my morning coffee yet)

Serious note- Twitter is simply put a highly targetable broadcast mechanism, as is facebook. Unlike radio broadcasts, which can be roughly triangulated, anything you broadcast via Twitter is pretty much directly traceable to you, or at least your account. It is in no way anonymous nor is it a private medium. Anyone using it for confidential comms is either a numpty or a lacks sufficient knowledge of the system.

I agree with AC above (Aren't tweets public anyway?) in that I can see very little to gain from this action as all the "meat" is already public domain.

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Sam Watson, embarrassing dispatches

What did Sam Watson, "the embassy's deputy chief of mission," have to say about "the US and UK role" following the bank collapse?

Interested people want to know!

I can't find it, and Google is now just full of other repeats of this story.

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Alert

Diplomatic/Parlimentary Privilege

Surely there is potential for a bit of a diplomatic storm over this one. Whilst a lot of twitter is public the Private messaging system is just that, private. It could comntain private missives from constiuants to their MP, and hence could be subject to Privilege in Iceland, So should the US honor this? in my opinion if privilege exists in Icelend then diplomatically the US should honour it. as to whether they will or not time will tell.

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WTF?

Huh?

You really don't get it.

Suppose you created a Twitter account claiming that you were the queen of England?

How would the US Government know that you were or were not the queen? (A queen maybe, but not the Queen of England...)

Hence the subpoena.

As to LE subs yes they are usually kept secret and it was a decision of Twitter's counsel to challenge the need to keep this secret. (Perhaps they did their own investigation, found out who owned the account and then decided that it was in their (Twitters) best interest to ask that the account's owner be notified?) ;-)

[Note: This is usually the case. Were it you pretending to be the Queen, they probably wouldn't have gone through this hassle.]

As such, the silly git in Sweden has no expectations of privilege. All she is doing is embarrassing her government and her constituents.

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Mr Gumby, you are seriously in need

of a geography lesson. Ms Jonsdottir is Icelandic. Iceland IS NOT Sweden and Sweden IS NOT Iceland.

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WTF?

Mr Gumby, you are seriously in need. MkII

Oh Im sorry has me extended reading confused you. Twitter managed to get the subpoena unsealed because it actually IS that of an MP. If it were someone pretending to be the queen the subpoena would have remained sealed, and none of us would know about it.

The subpoenea was not restricted to the identity, and is for ALL the data of an MP, hence twitters ability/actions to request unsealing of the subpeona and allow a legal protest. My point is that the protest may be more than legal and could/should be a diplomatic issue.

does that make it more clear? Do I get it yet?

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Anonymous Coward

Is my holiday in the US up the spout?

I follow Wikileaks on Twitter and Facebook. Presumably the info requested by the US authorities will include the 'followers' and 'friends' of WL. Will that affect me when I try to get a visa for Disneyland, or will I just get put back on the plane? Oh well, Blackpool it is again.

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Headmaster

Another subpoena

concerns the tweets of Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch hacker who, with a few others, set up XS4ALL, the first public ISP in the Netherlands. Nowadays he is involved with exposing flaws in voting computers ("Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet" : we don't trust voting computers), and other privacy/security-sensitive government IT projects.

A very tendentious article in the Dutch fishwrapping "Telegraaf" quotes the self-proclaimed security expert Peter Siebelt, who calls Gonggrijp a "master hacker", "cyberterrorist" and "dangerously subversive", with ties to squatters' organisations (as true as it is irrelevant), the German CCC, and through them to the RAF and the KGB. There's also, according to the Telegraaf, a Turkish financier who has offered several million Euros to have Wikileaks hosted "at a resilient and trustworthy Dutch hoster".

Tinfoil clearly has been in great demand in these circles, the past weeks. About the only truthful quote is that Gonggrijp (and Assange) would never be so dumb as to expose sensitive info via Twitter.

An interview with Gonggrijp himself in De Volkskrant ridicules the subpoena, with a statement that "I'm a very sparse Twitterer, I send a message maybe once a month."

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Paris Hilton

i dont get it

I'm sorry i dont see the problem

You tweet stuff for months or years.. IE you pubicly broadcast it into the public domain - and then you dont want the US to have that information?

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FAIL

try actually reading the subpoena

if you have a long enough attention span

most of the info they are after is NOT in the public domain

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@Stoneshop - XS4ALL

XS4ALL were part of what made the Nederlands great (past-tense). If if wasn't for their support the world wouldn't have known that airliners regularly used Depleted Uranium as ballast, following the El Al crash in Amsterdam in '92.

And but for that, 911 would have been a helluva lot worse for New Yorkers.

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AFAIK

1st - You can post almost anything you want on Twitter (with rare exceptions). Its called freedom of speech.

2nd - Not agreeing with a government, even attacking your government openly for perceived misconduct, is not a crime if you don't break a law doing so- unless you live in a fascist or otherwise totalitarian country. It's called executing your democratic rights, and responsible journalism.

3rd - Anything you say on twitter is public. Anyone who followed that person from the start does have that information already (or don't they?). In fact, anything you say or do on the internet is as public as doing in the middle of Trafalgar square.

4th - Governments do have certain rights and possibilities if they are manifested in that countries law. The question is with which intention it does make use of them- and if the populace has a chance to change those rights if there is a majority for it. It doesn't get more democratic than that.

So the problem is not the government getting information illegally. It is totally legal for the government to obtain this information.

It is also not the possibility that it may find something incriminating as that person has the right to say whatever she wants. And even to do, again as long as she doesn't break any law in the country she moves about.

The problem is a government intimidating and bullying "annoying" people by raiding their homes and confiscating their property (journalists computers seized), harassing them with prolonged and exaggerated use of administrative procedures (security consultants detained, searched and questioned at airports), and sending them 'messages' by intruding into peoples privacy just to show they can (this case).

The message between the lines is: we have the power, you have no chance against us.We know who you are, what you do and where to find you. You better be careful what you do and say, or else...

It's sad, and frankly frightening, to see just how far things have gone in the country that claims to be worlds safe guardian for freedom and democracy.

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FAIL

Reg missed the story

The Reg missed the real story: Twitter was asked to hand over all that information secretly, but fought the secret part of the injunction. Apparently they succeeded and then went to contact the concerned parties.

Makes you wonder which other US companies got the questionnaires and answered without further ado. Who cares? Maybe everyone who ever sent confidential data via an American channel. The American clouds just lost their silver shine.

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