Appeals Court Rules for Secrecy in Twitter/WikiLeaks Case

January 25, 2013 6:24 pm

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Appeal Aimed to Unseal Secret Orders to Other Internet Companies

January 25, 2013

NEW YORK – A federal appeals court in Virginia ruled today that the government can keep hidden its efforts to obtain internet users’ private information without a warrant. The appeal stems from the legal battle over the records of three Twitter users sought by the government in connection with its investigation into WikiLeaks.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation represent Icelandic parliament member Birgitta Jonsdottir. The appeal was filed jointly with Twitter users Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp, and did not challenge the district court judge’s November 2011 decision requiring Twitter to turn over their records.

In today’s ruling, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to unseal or publicly list all orders and other court documents relating to the parties in the case that may have been sent to other companies besides Twitter.

“This case shows just how easy it is for the government to obtain information about what people are doing on the internet, and it highlights the need for our electronic privacy laws to catch up with technology. The government should not be able to get private information like this without getting a warrant and also satisfying the standard required by the First Amendment, and it shouldn’t be able to do so in secret except in unusual circumstances,” said Aden Fine, the ACLU attorney who argued the case before the appeals court in October. “This case offers the rare opportunity for the public to learn about the government’s increasing use of electronic surveillance. Unfortunately, today’s decision makes it easier for the government to keep its electronic surveillance activities hidden, even when there is no longer any need to keep them secret.”

Today’s decision is at:

More information on the case is at:

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