The US government has thrown its constitution to the wind and obtained a secret court order so it can harass a WikiLeaks volunteer.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said the US is pursuing an ‘active criminal investigation’ of WikiLeaks and has forced Google and ISP Sonic.net to turn over information from the email accounts of WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum,.
According to documents found by the Wall Street Journal, Sonic fought the government’s order and lost, and was forced to turn over information.
Sonic’s chief executive, Dane Jasper said that the government wanted the email addresses of people Mr. Appelbaum corresponded with in the past two years, but not the full emails. Google and Sonic wanted to tell Appelbaum about the secret court orders, but was blocked.
Appelbaum, 28, hasn’t been charged with any crime. It seems investigators felt some of his friends might be involved in Wikileaks so they hoped his emails would reveal who it was that made the US look like a right tit in front of the known world.
The information was seized under the elderly Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which appears to violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The law has been around before the internet but now appears to be the government’s weapon of choice.
This right is an important part of US history as most of the country’s founders were smugglers who did not like the way the English could simply stop and search them. In fact, some historians think that the whole revolution was engineered by US businessmen who resented paying for the policing that was keeping them making huge profits.
The fact that the US government seems keen to chuck this law out in its desperation to deal with WikiLeaks after it released a trove of classified government diplomatic cables last year, shows how miffed the government is about the leak.
Even the law’s author, US Senator Patrick Leahy, thinks that it’s “significantly outdated and outpaced by rapid changes in technology.”
However Associate Deputy Attorney General James Baker warned that if Congress changed the standard for obtaining information under ECPA, the government might not be able to arrest anyone it likes as quickly as it wants.