From Larry Lazo, CNN
February 16, 2011 — Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
* ACLU, Electric Frontier Foundation have filed motions in federal court
* One motion seeks to unseal court records on attempts to collect info on Twitter users
* A second motion seeks to overturn order requiring Twitter to provide user info to feds
* Civil rights groups represent three people who are focus of government investigation
Washington (CNN) — Two civil liberties groups have squared off against the government as investigators probing the WikiLeaks scandal seek to gain access to Twitter records.
Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, Tuesday representing three people government investigators are targeting.
Two motions have been filed in the case. The first aims to unseal court records on attempts by the government to collect private records from people holding accounts with Twitter, and the second seeks to overturn a previous court order that requires Twitter to provide information about its users to the government. Defense lawyers say the government’s demand for the records violates First Amendment speech rights and Fourth Amendment privacy rights.
Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland’s parliament, is the most high-profile of the three defendants. The other two people represented in court were WikiLeaks associates Jacob Applebaum and Rop Gonggijp. The three defendants are believed to have helped prepare a classified U.S. Army video that was published on the WikiLeaks website last year.
Defense attorneys argued that the government has not sufficiently demonstrated the need for secrecy when it comes to keeping court documents sealed. They also question the justification for the government wanting IP addresses pertaining to their clients’ use on Twitter.
The government said looking at IP addresses is no different than subpoenas of phone records. The ‘defendants are tying together privacy in the home with public movements,’ said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Davis. ‘IP addresses do not show location with precision,’ he added.
The government says its investigation is not about politics or defendants’ associations with certain invidividuals. The government did not disclose why it is seeking information on the people in question in addition to the others in the still-sealed court documents. But they did say a person’s use of Twitter is fair game and their wanting to know about it is justified.
‘Tweets are public statements,’ Davis said.
U.S. Magistrate Theresa C. Buchanan appeared to be persuaded by the government’s argument on privacy concerns, telling defense attorneys, ‘There is no expectation of privacy when using Twitter.’ Having said that, Buchanan said she would take both arguments under consideration.
The WikiLeaks website is behind the largest-ever intelligence leak in American history. Hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents have been posted on the site. Everything from details about classified military operations to commentary about various foreign heads of state has been posted on WikiLeaks.org.
Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army private suspected of being involved in the scandal, is being held in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. He is facing eight counts of violating U.S. Criminal Code for allegedly leaking a secret military video from the Iraq war that was posted on the WikiLeaks website.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in London and is fighting extradition to Sweden to face sex charges brought against him by two women.
AFP: British arrests, US raids over ‘Anonymous’ cyber attacks: “British arrests, US raids over ‘Anonymous’ cyber attacks
(AFP) – 12 hours ago
LONDON — British police arrested five people and the FBI launched raids across the US as part of a probe into cyber attacks by online group ‘Anonymous’, which last year assailed websites hostile to WikiLeaks.
In a series of dawn raids in England on Thursday, three teenage males and two adult men were arrested on suspicion of breaking the Computer Misuse Act 1990, London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said.
On the same day, the FBI executed more than 40 search warrants throughout the United States.
London police said in a statement that ‘five males aged 15, 16, 19, 20 and 26 are being held after a series of coordinated arrests at residential addresses.’
It added: ‘The arrests are in relation to recent and ongoing ‘distributed denial of service’ attacks (DDoS) by an online group calling themselves ‘Anonymous’.
‘They are part of an ongoing MPS investigation into Anonymous which began last year following criminal allegations of DDoS attacks by the group against several companies.
‘This investigation is being carried out in conjunction with international law enforcement agencies in Europe and the US.’
The FBI added in a statement that ‘Anonymous’, a loose-knit group of computer hackers, had targeted ‘major US companies across several industries.’
Last year, ‘Anonymous’ members launched assaults on the Amazon, Visa and Mastercard websites in apparent retaliation for the companies’ decision to stop working with whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks is under political pressure in the United States for its publication of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables, which has enraged Washington.
In a typical DDoS attack, a large number of computers are commanded to simultaneously visit a website, overwhelming its servers, slowing service or knocking it offline completely.
The FBI said the attacks were aided by software tools which the group made available for free on the Internet.
Under British law, it is a criminal offence to carry out ‘any unauthorised act in relation to a computer’, punishable by up to ten years in jail and a fine of £5,000 (5,800 euros, $8,000).
‘Anonymous’ attacked Tunisian government websites this month and on Wednesday warned the Egyptian government of reprisals if it blocks Internet access for protesters.”
US authorities have subpoenaed Twitter for information about an Icelandic parliamentarian who until recently was a vocal supporter of WikiLeaks and its embattled founder Julian Assange.…
(Via The Register – Public Sector.)
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
JOINT STATEMENT ON WIKILEAKS
December 21, 2010–In light of ongoing developments related to the release of diplomatic cables by the organization Wikileaks, and the publication of information contained in those cables by mainstream news organizations, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression see fit to recall a number of international legal principles. The rapporteurs call upon States and other relevant actors to keep these principles in mind when responding to the aforementioned developments.
1. The right to access information held by public authorities is a fundamental human right subject to a strict regime of exceptions. The right to access to information protects the right of every person to access public information and to know what governments are doing on their behalf. It is a right that has received particular attention from the international community, given its importance to the consolidation, functioning and preservation of democratic regimes. Without the protection of this right, it is impossible for citizens to know the truth, demand accountability and fully exercise their right to political participation. National authorities should take active steps to ensure the principle of maximum transparency, address the culture of secrecy that still prevails in many countries and increase the amount of information subject to routine disclosure.
2. At the same time, the right of access to information should be subject to a narrowly tailored system of exceptions to protect overriding public and private interests such as national security and the rights and security of other persons. Secrecy laws should define national security precisely and indicate clearly the criteria which should be used in determining whether or not information can be declared secret. Exceptions to access to information on national security or other grounds should apply only where there is a risk of substantial harm to the protected interest and where that harm is greater than the overall public interest in having access to the information. In accordance with international standards, information regarding human rights violations should not be considered secret or classified.
3. Public authorities and their staff bear sole responsibility for protecting the confidentiality of legitimately classified information under their control. Other individuals, including journalists, media workers and civil society representatives, who receive and disseminate classified information because they believe it is in the public interest, should not be subject to liability unless they committed fraud or another crime to obtain the information. In addition, government “whistleblowers” releasing information on violations of the law, on wrongdoing by public bodies, on a serious threat to health, safety or the environment, or on a breach of human rights or humanitarian law should be protected against legal, administrative or employment-related sanctions if they act in good faith. Any attempt to impose subsequent liability on those who disseminate classified information should be grounded in previously established laws enforced by impartial and independent legal systems with full respect for due process guarantees, including the right to appeal.
4. Direct or indirect government interference in or pressure exerted upon any expression or information transmitted through any means of oral, written, artistic, visual or electronic communication must be prohibited by law when it is aimed at influencing content. Such illegitimate interference includes politically motivated legal cases brought against journalists and independent media, and blocking of websites and web domains on political grounds. Calls by public officials for illegitimate retributive action are not acceptable.
5. Filtering systems which are not end-user controlled – whether imposed by a government or commercial service provider – are a form of prior censorship and cannot be justified. Corporations that provide Internet services should make an effort to ensure that they respect the rights of their clients to use the Internet without arbitrary interference.
6. Self-regulatory mechanisms for journalists have played an important role in fostering greater awareness about how to report on and address difficult and controversial subjects. Special journalistic responsibility is called for when reporting information from confidential sources that may affect valuable interests such as fundamental rights or the security of other persons. Ethical codes for journalists should therefore provide for an evaluation of the public interest in obtaining such information. Such codes can also provide useful guidance for new forms of communication and for new media organizations, which should likewise voluntarily adopt ethical best practices to ensure that the information made available is accurate, fairly presented and does not cause substantial harm to legally protected interests such as human rights.
Catalina Botero Marino
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression
WikiLeaks, protest and the law: The rights and wrongs of hacktivism | The Economist: ”
The rights and wrongs of hacktivism
Protest can be disruptive but legal. But furtiveness removes its moral weight
Two ends of the spectrum are clear. Consumer boycotts are a matter of individual choice. There is nothing wrong with people expressing their disapproval of companies that have dumped WikiLeaks, such as Visa, MasterCard, Amazon, PayPal, by stopping doing business with them. But using the internet to try to disrupt, say, power supplies or the fire service, as happened in Estonia in 2007, is a crime.
Dec 16th 2010 | from PRINT EDITION “
ARTICLE 19 is extremely concerned by the political pressure governments and elected officials are exerting on internet companies, to force them to deny provision of services to WikiLeaks without prior authorisation from a court. Recent actions by a number of internet companies against WikiLeaks raise several issues about the rights of free expression on the internet, which is largely controlled by private companies but still subject to state threats.
Intermediaries, such as internet companies, facilitate connections between the providers of information and the users of that information. Increasingly, they are the subject of legal and other actions whose actual end targets are their service-users. Where these companies can do so lawfully, they should resist such interference.
Any removal of information on internet, or blocking of internet access to information should be authorized only by a court. Actions that seek to limit freedom to donate to their service-users should only be allowed after a finding by a court that a service-user has violated the law. Internet companies in turn should be transparent in actions affecting users of their services.
(Via WL Central.)
By ERIC SCHMITT
Published: December 14, 2010
WASHINGTON — The Air Force is barring its personnel from using work computers to view the Web sites of The New York Times and more than 25 other news organizations and blogs that have posted secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks, Air Force officials said Tuesday.
When Air Force personnel on the service’s computer network try to view the Web sites of The Times, the British newspaper The Guardian, the German magazine Der Spiegel, the Spanish newspaper El País and the French newspaper Le Monde, as well as other sites that posted full confidential cables, the screen says ‘Access Denied: Internet usage is logged and monitored,’ according to an Air Force official whose access was blocked and who shared the screen warning with The Times. Violators are warned that they face punishment if they try to view classified material from unauthorized Web sites.
Some Air Force officials acknowledged that the steps taken might be in vain since many military personnel could gain access to the documents from home computers, despite admonishments from superiors not to read the cables without proper clearances.
Cyber network specialists within the Air Force Space Command last week followed longstanding procedures to keep classified information off unclassified computer systems. ‘News media Web sites will be blocked if they post classified documents from the WikiLeaks Web site,’ said Lt. Col. Brenda Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Space Command, a unit of which oversees Air Force cyber systems. ‘This is similar to how we’d block any other Web site that posted classified information.’
Colonel Campbell said that only sites posting full classified documents, not just excerpts, would be blocked. ‘When classified documents appear on a Web site, a judgment will be made whether it will be blocked,’ she said. ‘It’s an issue we’re working through right now.’
Spokesmen for the Army, Navy and Marines said they were not blocking the Web sites of news organizations, largely because guidance has already been issued by the Obama administration and the Defense Department directing hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors not to read the secret cables and other classified documents published by WikiLeaks unless the workers have the required security clearance or authorization.
‘Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority,’ said a notice sent on Dec. 3 by the Office of Management and Budget, which is part of the White House, to agency and department heads.
A Defense Department spokesman, Col. David Lapan, in an e-mail on Tuesday night sought to distance the department from the Air Force’s action to block access to the media Web sites: ‘This is not DoD-directed or DoD-wide.’
The Air Force’s action was first reported on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site late Tuesday and underscores the wide-ranging impact of the recent release of secret State Department documents by WikiLeaks, and five news organizations, including The Times. It also illustrates the contortions the military and other government agencies appear to be going through to limit the spread of classified information that has become widely available in the public domain.
‘It is unfortunate that the U.S. Air Force has chosen not to allow its personnel access to information that virtually everyone else in the world can access,’ said a spokeswoman for The Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha. A senior administration official said Tuesday that the administration’s policy contained some leeway, for instance, to allow certain employees to download information in order for them to be able to verify that classified information was leaking into the public domain, and to assess damage to national security and potential danger to sources.
Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, a secrecy specialist, said dozens of agencies, as well as branches of the military and government contractors, had issued their own policy instructions based on the Office of Management and Budget memo.
‘It’s a self-defeating policy that will leave government employees less informed than they ought to be,’ Mr. Aftergood said.
‘We have chosen to help prevent the asphyxiation of WikiLeaks at a time when governments and companies try to block its operation without even a legal order. Like thousands of other sites, Libération.fr decided to participate in the support movement that is being put into place on the internet, replicating WikiLeaks content fully. These sites, called mirrors, can be hosted by anyone who has server space available. This is what we did, in order to prevent the disappearance from the public record of WikiLeaks documents selected with partner media organizations. We have therefore opened this site: wikileaks.liberation.fr’
(Via WL Central.)
By Mike Melanson / December 9, 2010 9:53 AM
Ever since whistle-blowing site Wikileaks began its latest round of document releases, it has found opposition and support in various places. It has hopped around from server to server, had its bank account closed, watched as PayPal, Visa and Mastercard all shut down donations to the site, and even had an anonymous group of hackers retaliate in Wikileak’s name. One thing that keeps Wikileaks going, however, is the simple fact that it has hundreds of mirror sites in different languages and locales.
One such listing of these sites hosted on name-in-kind service Wikipedia has been deleted by the collaborative encyclopedia’s editors. Should we cry “Foul!” or is the deletion just more business as usual for the site?
If you take a look at the discussion page for the deletion of the “List of WikiLeaks mirrors” page, you can see some of the views for and against its deletion. While proponents argue that the list of links should be kept until Wikileaks finds more stable hosting, or that it offers a value outside of just listing links, most opponents cite clear Wikipedia policy stating that “Wikipedia is not a mirror or repository of links.” In the end, and despite all of the lofty debate, the article’s removal looks like a simple matter of policy.
We got in touch with Wikipedia’s parent organization, Wikimedia, to find out what was really going on. Moka Pantages, a spokesperson for Wikimedia, told us it was “business as usual.”
This article was started two days ago and deleted yesterday. This is business as usual for our community of volunteer editors. Deleting link lists are common. When there is no encyclopedic value, an article is deleted. In this case, the article was simply a list of links, so our community deleted it quickly. A recent article deleted for the same reason was “List of Active Drive in Theaters” People editing Wikipedia have nothing against drive-in theaters, of course, it’s just that lists like these don’t belong on Wikipedia.
For a bit of an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how this was done, you can look at the discussion page yourself. In the deletion of the article, editors cited a number of clauses, including a particularly interesting one – the “Snowball clause”. It states that “If an issue does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of being accepted by a certain process, there’s no need to run it through the entire process.”
Of course, if you were using the Wikipedia article to keep track of how to find your favorite classified document releasing, Whac-A-Mole website, you can also visit its own list of mirror sites. If that doesn’t work, simply search for “Wikileaks mirrors” and you’ll run across more than enough lists. This is, of course, the distributed wonder that is the Internet – take down one thing and a million more pop up in other locations.