Tuesday, January 18, 2011

U.S. Twitter Subpoena Is Harassment, Lawyer Says

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U.S. prosecutors’ demand that the microblogging service Twitter Inc. hand over data about users with ties to WikiLeaks amounts to harassment, said a lawyer for Julian Assange, the website’s founder.

The Justice Department subpoena, approved last month in federal court and later unsealed, also violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable government searches, Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens said today in a telephone interview in London. WikiLeaks is an organization that publishes leaked documents on its website.

“The Department of Justice is turning into an agent of harassment rather than an agent of law,” Stephens, of the firm Finers Stephens Innocent LLP, said. “They’re shaking the tree to see if anything drops out, but more important they are shaking down people who are supporters of WikiLeaks.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Nov. 29 that the Justice Department is investigating the posting by WikiLeaks of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic communications and military documents. Lawyers have said the U.S. will likely charge Assange with espionage.

“To help users protect their rights, it’s our policy to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so,” Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner said in an e-mail.

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