Former WikiLeaks Volunteer Birgitta Jonsdottir Believes Her Rights On Twitter Was Violated By U.S. Government

Posted Nov 13, 2011

Birgitta Jónsdóttir is a former WikiLeaks volunteer and is a member of Parliament in Iceland. Recently the courts in the U.S. decided to push for access to her Twitter account because of her involvement with WikiLeaks. Jónsdóttir is furious with the decision of the U.S. government and has decided to take her case to the Council of Europe.

A U.S. judge ruled that Twitter must release her details of her account and two other accounts that are linked to WikiLeaks. Jónsdóttir found out that her Twitter account was under scrutiny by the Justice Department this past January so the decision should not come off too much as a surprise.

Jónsdóttir was involved in the release of a video that shows U.S. military helicopters firing at two Reuters reporters in Iraq. Jónsdóttir believes that the U.S. government is after her to use in a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“This is a huge blow for everybody that uses social media,” stated Jonsdottir. “We have to have the same civil rights online as we have offline. Imagine if the US authorities wanted to do a house search at my home, go through my private papers. There would be a hell of a fight. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”

The other two Twitter accounts that the U.S. government went after belongs to Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp. The government also sought Twitter records that belong to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

Apparently the Justice Department sought this information without a search warrant. But the Justice Department used a law that went into effect in 1994 called the Stored Communications Act, which gave them the ability for them to demand information from Twitter including the IP address of users, bank account details, user names, screen names, and mailing addresses. People that opposed the government’s decisions argued that this information was too broad and unrelated to WikiLeaks. Judge Liam O’Grady disagreed and said that the information sought was to establish key facts related to ongoing investigation.

Twitter users volunteer to turn over their IP addresses when they sign up for the service. “Petitioners knew or should have known that their IP information was subject to examination by Twitter, so they had a lessened expectation of privacy in that information, particularly in light of their apparent consent to the Twitter terms of service and privacy policy,” said Judge O’Grady. The petitioners wanted to unseal the reason for why the Justice Department was seeking the account information, but the judge denied that request.

My opinion on this situation is that as adults we know there are consequences to every action. If you get your hands on any confidential document no matter if it belongs to the government of any country (not just the U.S.) and you expose it a public forum, then you are asking for your civil liberties to be jeopardized. I’m not a fan whatsoever with how the government is handling the wars overseas knowing that they make a lot of mistakes. But if I was a WikiLeaks volunteer and I was uploading confidential government documents, I would expect consequences to come my way.

I’m sure Julian Assange did not expect that he could keep leaking documents and stay away from consequences. He was doing what any other government activist would do… He was “fighting the man” and was ready to deal with consequences after.

[Guardian UK]