January 11, 2011 / 8:42 PM / in 8 years

WikiLeaks activists may seek to quash demand for docs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two prominent WikiLeaks supporters in the Netherlands and Iceland are consulting U.S. lawyers about ways to stop the Justice Department getting their Twitter records in a probe into the leak of secret documents.

Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch Internet activist who worked with WikiLeaks last year, said he and Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland’s Parliament, want to quash a December 14 U.S. court order requiring Twitter to turn over their account records to U.S. prosecutors.

U.S. authorities are investigating the publication last year of thousands of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks website set up by Australian Julian Assange.

The court order instructed Twitter to turn over to federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia, all account records created by the social media site since November 1, 2009 for Gonggrijp, Jonsdottir, Assange, and Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the documents.

Gonggrijp, contacted by Reuters, said he first learned that the U.S. government wanted to obtain his records when he got an e-mail dated January 7 from Twitter informing him of the court order.

In that message, Twitter said it would respond to the order in 10 days unless a motion was filed to quash it or some other resolution of the government demand was reached.

Aden Fine, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union which is looking into the court order, said Twitter’s e-mail indicated that it had not yet turned over to the U.S. government any records that prosecutors requested.

Mark Stephens, a British lawyer for Assange, told Reuters he did not believe either Assange or WikiLeaks had been notified by Twitter that U.S. authorities were seeking their records.

Over the weekend, Jonsdottir wrote on Twitter that she was seeking legal advice and had spoken to Iceland’s minister of justice, who was looking into the case.

And in Twitter messages on Monday, she said: “The U.S. government is trying to criminalize whistleblowing and publication of whistleblowing material.” Jonsdottir could not immediately be reached for comment.

Company officials at Twitter would not comment.

Editing by David Storey

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