Twitter subpoena PATRIOT Act 18 USC 2703(d) Order - Communications Data snooping fishing expedition on a few (former) wikileaks activists and on over 630,000 "wikileaks" twitter account Followers


We have criticised the propensity to use the social media networking service Twitter, to broadcast short (140 characters maximum) "tweets" without any accompanying full page press releases or web page detailed explanations. -

To their credit, Twitter , which parts of the US government have praised and supported, when it has been used by say Iranian, Burmese, Zimbabwean or Chinese political dissidents has notified some, but not yet all, of its subscribers, who have been named on a Court Order which demands their private Communications Data details i.e. subscription names and addresses and phone numbers, as well as any credit card details and any IP address details.

This applies to the half a dozen or so twitter account named in the Subpoena.

However this Subpoena is not narrowly targeted against specific criminal communications, it is a generalised "fishing expedition" / data trawling exercise.

[UPDATE 9th January 2011: it turns out that this is not actually a Subpoena, but a 18 USC 2703(d) order, a controversial legal power introduced by the anti-terrorism "PATRIOT Act, which is, inevitably,,just as was pointed out at the time it was rubber stamped into law, now being abused for non-terrorism purposes.

See this blog article by Chris Soghoian Thoughts on the DOJ wikileaks/twitter court order

The order, issued under 18 USC 2703(d) is not a subpoena (even though the AP, New York Times, Salon and many other outlets have reported that it is). Subpoenas are essentially letters written by law enforcement officers, on official agency letterhead, and have not been reviewed or signed by a judge. The 2703(d) order in question was issued by a magistrate judge.

It also attempts to demand "All records and other information" including "user name and source and destination IP Protocol address(es);" of all of the other Twitter accounts which these named accounts have communicated with from November 2009 to mid December 2010, including all non wikileaks related matters.

The account currently broadcasts to at least 634,892 followers.

There may have been a few thousand fewer such followers on the 14th December 2010, when the Subpoena was signed, but snooping on hundreds of thousands of innocent people, worldwide, is unethical and entirely disproportionate. and will provoke even more bad publicity for the United States government.

Which other social networking and email providers have been served with similar Subpoenas, for similar wikileaks related "fishing expeditions" ?

Which US Government investigative agency actually got the US Department of Justice to apply for the initially secret "sealed" Subpoena ?

If only there was a working Anonymous Whistleblower website where such information could be published - unfortunately that does not include either nor at the moment, or for the foreseeable future.

The "sealed" i.e. secret, Subpoena appears to have been made on 14th December 2010 by The Honourable Theresa C. Buchanan, United States Magistrate Judge at the US Federal Court in Alexandria, in the Eastern District of Virginia. It was kept secret until the 5th January 2001 , when it was "unsealed" by the same Judge, who mistakenly dated her signature 1/5/10 rather than 1/5/11.

What chance have any of these people got of a fair trial in the United States Federal Court in Alexandria, Virginia ? This is the "rocket docket" Court, with an above average rate of conviction, where the US Government goes "jurisdiction shopping" to for high profile trials like that of the so called "20th 9/11 hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui. This is also the main Court which has been dealing with the long running "Pentagon Hacker" case of Kafkaesque legal and political dithering.

No foreigner (or even a US citizen like Jacob Appelbaum from San Francisco) accused of complicity of attacking the US Government, has any hope of a fair trial at this particular Court, which is is situated just across the state line from Washington D.C. It's jury pool is selected from the geographical commuter area dominated by US Federal Government Department, Intelligence agencies like the CIA and the NSA, US Military establishments like the Pentagon and by the "Beltway Bandit" private sector consultancies, Government sub-contractors and lobbyists.

It is very unlikely that anybody selected for Jury service (including Federal Grand Jury service) at this particular Court, would not be unfairly influenced through their own or their family members' direct or indirect employment by the US Federal Government.

Copies of the Subpoena (.pdf), and of f the Unsealing order (.pdf) is available online via Salon's Glenn Greenwald, who does tend to do some in depth investigative journalistic investigation, even though he is a biased supporter, who has recently got into a futile war of words with Wired magazine's Threat Level column..


You are to provide the following information, if available, preferably as data files on CD-ROM, electronic media, or email ( otherwise by facsimile to 703-299-3981:

Note how there is no provision for any kind of encryption to protect this confidential, legally privileged, financial and possibly national security sensitive data, neither during electronic communications transit e.g. internet email or facsimile, nor once it is on physical storage media e.g. CD-ROM.

Neither is there any use of cryptographic Digital Signatures, to help to prove that such trivially forged or edited computer data evidence has not been tampered with, forged or selectively edited.

Given that Julian Assange, Rop Gonggrijp and Jacob Appelbaum (identified below) have all been involved in software projects which make heavy use of strong encryption, it is inconceivable that the content of any of their Twitter Direct Messages, or the email accounts they use to set up or control their Twitter accounts would be unprotected or vulnerable to US Government (or anybody else's) snooping. Either the content will be encrypted or these will be throwaway, single use email accounts or email aliases only used for Twitter account setup and maintenance.

Obviously there was no illegal content in any of their public Twitter postings, as this would have already been spotted by their Followers, with an accompanying media furore.

A. The following customer or subscriber account information for each account registered to or associated with Wikileaks; rop_g; ioerror;birgittaj; Julian Assange; Bradley Manning, Rop Gongrijp; Birgtta Jonsdottir for the time period November 1, 2009

Note the misspelling of Rop Gonggrijp's surname - this is inexcusable in a formal, legal Subpoena document

Note the stupid requests for "Julian Assange" and "Bradley Manning", neither of whom have ever used Twitter accounts under exactly those identities.

Will every innocent "Brian" or "Barbara" etc. with the more common surname of "Manning", now be hunted down and snooped on by the seemingly robotic US Government investigators ?

Only "Bradley Manning" (currently being held in solitary confinement in the USA) and "ioerror" (Jacob Appelbaum) are US citizens or residents in the USA.

Rop Gonggrijp is from the Netherlands, who helped organise the video editing of the Apache Helicopter gunship "Collateral Murder" videos, but who was not involved with the later Afghan and Iraq war diary or Diplomatic Cable leaks.

"Birgtta Jonsdottir" is also misspelled, it should have the Nordic accents: Birgitta Jónsdóttir. She is an Icelandic Member of Parliament, who, supported during the Apache helicopter video period, but who understandably fell out with Julian Assange before the Diplomatic Cables revelations, partly because the Swedish sexual allegations against him were affecting in a negative way.

There is going to be cold fury amongst the population of Iceland, when they become aware that , yet again, one of their Members of Parliament is being investigated by the US Government using Patriot Act anti-terrorism powers.

They have not forgotten or forgiven the abuse of the United Kingdom's anti-terrorism legal powers to freeze the financial assests of dodgy Icelandic banks during the height of the recent banking crisis, when there were plenty of other bank regulatory powers which could have been used, without the implication that Iceland was a terrorist supporting paraiah country.

See: Icelanders are NOT Terrorists

The "Wikileaks" twitter account appears to have been used by Julian Assange (Australian, currently on bail in the United Kingdom) , but also by Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Germany) and by the current Wikileaks spokesperson the Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson (neither of whom are named in this Subpoena)

1. subscriber names, user names, screen names, or other identities;
2. mailing addresses, resiodential addresses, business addressesm e-mail
addresses and other contact information
3. connection records, or records of session times and durations;
4. length of service (including start date) and types of service utilized
5. telephone or instrument number or other subscriber number identity, including any temporarily assigned network address; and
6. means and source of payment for such service (including credit card or bank account number) and billing records.

This appears to be some cut and paste boilerplate legalese, which is more applicable to a paid for Telephone company or Internet Service Provider, rather than to a "free" third party Web and SMS application service provider like Twitter.

Would the US Department of State support such an intrusive snooping "fishing expedition" data trawl by , say the Iranian or Chinese governments aimed at foreign political activists or journalists ?

B. All records and other information relating to the accounts(s) and time period in Part A, including

1. records of user activity for any connections made to or from the Account, including date, time, length, and method of connection, data transfer volume, user name and source and destination IP Protocol address(es);

2. non-content information associated with th contents of any communications or file stored by or for the accounts(s), such as the source and destination addresses and IP Addresses.

3. correspondence and notes of records related to the accounts(s).

This is not a narrowly targeted investigation e.g. for a specific private Twitter message between two criminal suspects, this is very disproportionate, generalised "fishing expedition" data trawling for "all records and other information" from and between the named people above, and all of their other , non-wikileaks, related communications.

Since the "wikileaks" Twitter account currently seems to have 634,892 "followers", the demand for

user name and source and destination IP Protocol address(es)

is disproportionately huge amount of data.

Why should hundreds of thousands of ordinary members of the public interested in current affairs, professional journalists , supporters and opponents of wikileaks, who Follow the wikileaks Twitter account, have their Twitter usernames and the IP addresses and web browser details and / or mobile phone details hoovered up under this United States PATRIOT Act anti-terrorism Order ?

Once your Communications Data has been flagged as being "terrorism investigation related", then either it is shared, out of context, creating "guilt by association" and it permeates through the world of secret database data sharing within the US government and internationally, or it is held in secret and ignored, until it is betrayed by some data loss scandal involving computer hacking, lost or stolen CD-ROMs, or USB flash memory devices etc. (remember that the US Department of Justice appears to be incapable of encrypting such data when it is handed over to them).

If you are a Twitter follower of wikileaks, regardless of whether you support or oppose, or in our case constructively criticise the wikileaks project, you should send a Message to Twitter Support asking them if they intend to hand over your data (or if they have already been forced to do so).

It will be interesting to see next week if any of the other US based organisations which provide free or paid for web services such as Facebook or Google gmail, Microsoft Hotmail, Skype VOIP etc. have also been served with anti-terrorism PATRIOT Act 18 USC 2703(d) Orders for details of activists or casual followers.

About this blog

This blog here at (no "S") discusses the ethical and technical issues raised by the project, which is trying to be a resource for whistleblower leaks, by providing "untraceable mass document leaking and analysis".

These are bold and controversial aims and claims, with both pros and cons, especially for something which crosses international boundaries and legal jurisdictions.

This blog is not part of the project, and there really are no copies of leaked documents or files being mirrored here.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog@WikiLeak[dot]org

Before you send an email to this address, remember that this blog is independent of the project.

If you have confidential information that you want to share with us, please make use of our PGP public encryption key or an email account based overseas e.g. Hushmail

Now that the project is defunct, so far as new whistleblower are concerned, what are the alternatives ?

The wiki page lists links and anonymity analyses of some of the many post-wikileaks projects.

There are also links to better funded "official" whistlblowing crime or national security reporting tip off websites or mainstream media websites. These should, in theory, be even better at protecting the anonymity and security of their informants, than wikileaks, but that is not always so.

New whistleblower website operators or new potential whistleblowers should carefully evaluate the best techniques (or common mistakes) from around the world and make their personal risk assessments accordingly.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

The Submissions web page provides some methods for sending them leaked documents, with varying degrees of anonymity and security. Anybody planning to do this for real, should also read some of the other guides and advice to political activists and dissidents:

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link:

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

WikiLeakS Links

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

WikiLeakS Twitter feeds

The website does not stay online all of the time, especially when there is a surge of traffic caused by mainstream media coverage of a particularly newsworthy leak.

Recently, they have been using their new Twitter feeds, to selectively publicise leaked documents to the media, and also to report on the status of routing or traffic congestion problems affecting the main website in Stockholm, Sweden.

N.B.the words "security" or "anonymity" and "Twitter" are mutually exclusive: Twitter feed via SSL encrypted session: unencrypted Twitter feed

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Temporary Autonomous Zone

Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) by Hakim Bey (Peter Lambourn Wilson)

Cyberpunk author William Gibson

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us, UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid_150.jpg - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond

Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

wikileaks_logo_low.jpg - the controversial "uncensorable, anonymous whistleblowing" website based currently in Sweden.

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