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Google sent WikiLeaks staff emails and more to FBI

Nearly three years ago, Google sent the FBI emails, internet activity and more from WikiLeaks staff members.


Google has revealed, after nearly three years, that it was responsible for sending emails and other digital information from three staff members at the free information group WikiLeaks to the US Government under a warrant secretly issued by a US federal judge.

In response to this revelation, WikiLeaks has written to Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, to protest that Google waited two and a half years to reveal the warrants, which were issued in 2012. Wikileaks stated that they were both astonished and distrubed by this act, since it has essentially deprived them of the chance to protect their rights of “privacy, association and freedom from illegal searches”.

The letter was composed by Michael Ratner, a New York-based lawyer from the Center for Constitutional Rights and member of WikiLeaks. He has demanded that Google lists all the materials that were sent to the FBI, as well as detail whether Google at any point challenged the warrant. He also asked Google if there had been any further demands that the tech company has yet to reveal.

The warrant was revealed to WikiLeaks on Christmas eve, and according to Google involved a release of all emails and IP adresses associated with WikiLeaks’ investigations editor, Sarah Harrison; the spokesperson for the organisation, Kristinn Hrafnsson; and senior editor Joseph Farrell. “Knowing that the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over a death in the family makes me feel sick,” said Harrison.

Google has stated that they were unable to reveal the warrant previously due to a gag order, but that the gag order had been lifted at a later time. Harrison, who is a British citizen, accused Google of aiding the US Government in concealing “the invasion of privacy into a British journalist’s personal email address. Neither Google nor the US government are living up to their own laws or rhetoric in privacy or press protections.”

What is perhaps most shocking about this story is the scale of the data seizure. Virtually all communication to or from the three staff members was taken, including all emails, drafts of emails and deleted emails. The source and destination of the emails was also sent, as well date and time of sending and the length and size of messages. The FBI even seized IP adresses, phone numbers, duration and nature of online activity and even the bank and credit card numbers associated with their internet accounts.

Alexander Abdo, a lawyer and security expert from the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the seizure was shockingly broad. “This is basically ‘Hand over anything you’ve got on this person’,” he said. “That’s troubling as it’s hard to distinguish what WikiLeaks did in its disclosures from what major newspapers do every single day in speaking to government officials and publishing still-secret information.”

Assange 903

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, stated that the seizure was a “serious, and seriously wrong attempt to build an alleged ‘conspiracy’ case against me and my staff”, and commented that the worst part of this reveal is “Google rolling over yet again to help the US government violate the constitution – by taking over journalists’ private emails in response to give-us-everything warrants”.

The seizure will be presented to the United Nations human rights council in Geneva on Monday, by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who is director of Assange’s defence team.

In the first six months of 2014, Google received over 32,000 data requests, a 15% increase from the preceeding six months. Are you still feeling safe?

Source: The Guardian

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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