2011-02-09 Motions on Twitter Order Unsealed & the February 15 Grand Jury in Alexandria

ImageNews broke last night on February 8 as a court unsealed three motions filed on behalf of Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) last month. The motions were filed in response to the U.S. government’s targeting of Twitter accounts as part of an investigation related to WikiLeaks.

Additionally, it was reported that a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia will be held on February 15 on whether there is legal justification for the Justice Department to request Twitter account details and whether the Justice Department order for Twitter turn over account information should be kept under seal.

Federal prosecutors are and have been seeking to obtain information on Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, Dutch hacker and entrepreneur Roy Gonggrijp and US computer programmer and known WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum as well as “subscriber account information” for Bradley Manning, who has been charged with leaking classified information, and WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange.

The ACLU’s “Motion to Seal” suggests there is a “presumption of access to judicial records like the sealed documents under both the common law and the First Amendment. It asserts the government cannot overcome the “presumption because: (1) the “Movants” (Jonsdottir, Gonggrijp, Appelbaum) have been made aware of the investigation and the “Twitter Order” (2) the “Movants” have an “immense public interest in learning about the government’s attempts to obtain their records so that they can take steps to protect their constitutional rights” and (3) the sealed materials are of “immense public interest to the ongoing debate about the legality of WikiLeaks’ publication of previously unpublished information concerning the US government’s activities.”

The “Motion to Seal” highlights how “Movants routinely use the Internet for self-expression, publication, association and communication,” have “multiple electronic communications accounts, with various technology companies that offer opportunities to communicate with others, and since the “Twitter Order requires Twitter to provide the government with information regarding the identity of anyone with whom Movants have sent or received private DMS, including those individuals’ email addresses and their IP addresses,” documents should be unsealed.

The “Motion of Real Parties in Interest Jacob Appelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp to Vacate December 14, 2010 Order” — to overturn the order requiring Twitter to turn over private records — outlines the following: the application does not provide “specific and articulable facts” to indicate the Twitter information is “relevant” and “material” to the investigation of WikiLeaks; the order intrudes on First Amendment rights; the order threatens “Fourth Amendment rights because disclosure could reveal that the Parties were located in particular private spaces at particular times”; the Order calls for “warrantless disclosure”; and finally, demand for Jonsdottir’s information is “contrary to Icelandic law.”

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