Sunday, January 9, 2011

Anyone considering saying anything negative about the Obama Administration should think twice before sending it on an Internet outlet. Obama, under attack for continuing a war he promised to end, wants to find out what anti-war activists said on Twitter.

The main target is Wikileaks, but the subpoenas also include tweets of a member of the Icelandic Parliament.

The court order told Twitter not to divulge that the subpoena was issued. Lawyers for Twitter got the order overturned after the information had leaked out on the Internet.

Now Wikileaks wants to know if Google and Facebook have gotten similar demands for information. "If the Iranian government was to atempt to coercively obtain this information from journalists and activists of foreign nations, human rights groups around the world would speak out," Wikileaks editor Julian Assange said in a statement.

"I think I am being given a message, almost like someone breathing in a phone," Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir said in a Twitter message.

Among those whose accounts were subpoenaed was Dutch computer expert Ron Gonggrijp, who praised Twitter for notifying him, especially since the subpoena misspelled his name.

"It appears that Twitter, as a matter of policy, does the right thing in wanting to inform their users when one of these comes in," Gonggrijp said. "Heaven knows how many places have received similar subpoenas and just quietly submitted all they had on me,” he told the New York Times.

Administration action is even more than China demanded from Google.

And don't think that just by deleting messages you will be safe. First, organizations like Twitter are required by law to keep records of all transmissions. Second, someone probably downloaded what you said already. One of the women who accused Assange of sexual assault learned that to her dismay, when the messages were publicized by a third party.

Neither Google nor Facebook has commented yet.

The U.S. government has a history of using grand juries to manipulate the law. A Colorado grand jury wanted to prosecute a private company and the Department of Energy in a fire at the Rocky Flats Plutonium plant just outside Denver that could have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Safety practices at the plant were so inadequate the FBI raided it. But the grand jurors were told to shut up or go to jail. You see the government had decided to make a deal under which Rockwell International paid a fine of $18.5 million.

The point is that there is no point beyond which the government will not go. An Army private has been held in solitaire in a Marine brig for seven months with no trial, not even an Article 15 administrative hearing to determine whether he should be court-martialed. The military insists he helped Assange and others get ahold of embarrassing documents about the war in Iraq.

So far, Manning has resisted all efforts to implicate Assange in the leak. Congress is considering legislation that would allow Assange to be charged, ex post facto, if it turns out he was not directly involved in transmitting the information out of a supposed secure government network.

Robert Weller is based in Denver, Colorado, United States of America, and is Anchor for Allvoices
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