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Feds defend Twitter dragnet on WikiLeaks supporters

Constitutional claims 'baseless'

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Federal prosecutors on Friday defended their attempts to access the Twitter records of three WikiLeaks supporters, arguing their claims that the dragnet violates their constitutional rights should be rejected.

In a 19-page filing in federal court, prosecutors said a ruling issued last month should be upheld despite the claims by WikiLeaks supporters Jacob Appelbaum, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, and Rop Gonggrijp that it violates their right to free speech. The filing came in an ongoing criminal investigation into Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blower website.

The March 11 order approved the government's request for IP addresses the supporters used to access Twitter between November 2009 and last December and the email addresses they gave when registering with the micro-blogging website. US Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan said there were no constitutional violations because the information sought didn't involve the content of any of the Twitter subscribers' communications. Federal prosecutors agreed.

“The subscribers' claim that Twitter's non-content records are subject to heightened protections under the First Amendment is baseless,” they wrote.

The information demand was made in a confidential filing in December under the US Stored Communications Act. The Twitter users also argued that the secrecy of the motion violated their Fourth Amendment right protecting them from unreasonable searches and seizures. The government later agreed to make public most of the court documents filed in their demand, but withheld revealing one document that Buchanan said would reveal “sensitive nonpublic facts, including the identity of targets and witnesses.”

Friday's court filing is here. ®

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