Shameful: Feds Spied On Wikileaks' Journalists' Emails

from the freedom-of-the-press? dept

The DOJ's war on investigative journalism keeps on going. In 2013, it came out that the DOJ was able to get massive phone records of AP journalists in trying to find the source of a leak. Soon after that, it obtained Fox News reporter James Rosen's emails by lying to a court and saying he was a co-conspirator with a State Department official who leaked him some information. And, now the latest example, is that it's come out that the feds demanded and received emails and other information from three Wikileaks staffers who had Google Gmail accounts. And, because this is what the government does, with the orders for that information, Google was slapped with a gag order that prevented the company from informing those staffers.

It's no secret that the DOJ has been desperate for years to come up with some way -- any way -- to try to charge Julian Assange with crimes under the Espionage Act. However, to date, this has failed. Attempts to pressure Chelsea Manning into lying about deeper involvement from Wikileaks failed, and that should have been the end of any investigation. But years later, the "investigation" continues for no clear reason. If the DOJ has been unable to find any evidence of criminal violations so many years later, it should end the investigation.

Instead, it's spying on journalists' emails, using a combination of the outdated ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) and the Espionage Act to demand a very broad set of information from Google concerning those three staffers. Of course, the DOJ and Wikileaks haters will counter that Wikileaks isn't a journalistic operation, but that is hard to square with reality. You would have a very difficult time coming up with a legitimate distinction for how what Wikileaks does is any different than what the NY Times or Washington Post investigative reporters do on a regular basis. Getting leaked documents is part of investigative reporting. Cultivating sources is part of investigative reporting (and that likely happens a lot more often with traditional reporters than operations like Wikileaks).

Trevor Timm has an article highlighting how these warrants to seize Wikileaks' staffers' emails is an outright attack on journalism, even as many traditional journalism operations refuse to speak out against the treatment of Wikileaks:

Unfortunately the news world has never rallied around WikiLeaks’ First Amendment rights they way they should – sometimes even refusing to acknowledge they are a journalism organization, perhaps because they dare to do things a little differently than the mainstream media, or because WikiLeaks tweets provocative political opinions, or because they think its founder, Julian Assange, is an unsympathetic figure.

Those are all disgraceful excuses to ignore the government’s overreach: the rights of news organizations everywhere are under just as much threat whether the government reads the private emails of staffers at WikiLeaks, Fox News or the Associated Press. In the eyes of the law, the organizations are virtually indistinguishable, as legal scholars from across the political spectrum have documented for years.

Isn't it about time "we don't like those people" stopped being an acceptable excuse for spying on people? Wasn't our Constitution supposed to prevent that kind of abuse?





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  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 26 Jan 2015 @ 10:25am

    Yet another example

    This is yet another example of one of the main reason why I strongly advise everyone to avoid (as far as possible) using third party services to store or process their personal information and communication.

    As soon as you give it to a company you have no way of knowing what's being done with it, let alone any sort of control.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 10:57am

      Re: Yet another example

      Agreed, yet until there is a way (perhaps some device) to receive and store email and such via dynamic IP addresses and without a registered domain (but with some easily remembered addressing solution), it will not be practical for most people to run their own mail server.

      Oh, and there would also be a need to protect such a device from intrusion without a warrant, given today's governments (and hacker) predilections for intrusion.

      I know, I know, I should stop smoking that funny stuff.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 26 Jan 2015 @ 11:09am

        Re: Re: Yet another example

        "Agreed, yet until there is a way (perhaps some device) to receive and store email and such via dynamic IP addresses and without a registered domain"

        Services such as dyndns provide an easy solution for this problem. You don't even have to register your own domain name.

        The bigger problem with running your own mail server is that it's not an easy thing to set up a properly configured mail server. However, there is an in-between method: set up a small server that downloads your mail then deletes it from the third party server on a regular basis. This can be done purely with client software -- no server needed.

        "Oh, and there would also be a need to protect such a device from intrusion without a warrant, given today's governments (and hacker) predilections for intrusion."

        Indeed, but this isn't a terribly difficult thing to do (easier than configuring a mail server!) and you should be doing it anyway.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 10:46am

    When we leak secrets on purpose,

    we expect journalists to fall into line & publish them as coming from "someone close to the administration".

    In all other cases, STFU!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Trevor, 26 Jan 2015 @ 11:01am

    They just put Barrett Brown away for "linking" to "stolen" information.

    I'm surprised they haven't tried charging Wikileaks staffers with the same charges as Brown for linking to sensitive information that was "hacked."

    Apparently it doesn't matter if they do or don't know what was in the link, so long as they linked it...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 26 Jan 2015 @ 11:09am

    Oh come on now.

    Wikileaks clearly is a terrorist organization since it tries making the U.S.A. afraid. As a more relevant data point it employs Assange who is likely to be accused under the espionage act for leading the terrorist organization Wikileaks.

    It is disingenuous to claim that a terrorist organization can be equated with journalism, so clearly the "journalism" angle has to give since the U.S. could not accuse actual journalists under the espionage act.

    I am sure that the Department of Justice will provide any voting American who is not yet convinced about the right and duty of any U.S. government organization to fight Wikileaks with all means suitable for dealing with terrorists, yes it will provide any voting American with enough circular reasoning to last him a lifetime or 25 years in solitary confinement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 26 Jan 2015 @ 11:09am

    Color me doubtless

    Well, it may be shameful, but I am surprised as the distance between these quotes: ""

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 11:38am

    Listen very carefully next time a authoritarian officials label an opposition, instead of focusing on the label, in this case espionage, find out what that label gives them the authority to do.......declaring in public im starting to suspect, is in their warped way, to justify violating human rights

    If folks like snowden or anyone are labelled a "traitor" by a long list of parrots, i say to those folks labelled, try to pass the fact their calling you a traitor, as much as is hard too, and start thinking, so what illegal authority do they now think they have over you

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 26 Jan 2015 @ 12:12pm

      Here's Shakespeare's take on that

      If folks like snowden or anyone are labelled a "traitor"

      "If? Thou protector of this damned strumpet, talk'st thou to me of ifs? Thou art a traitor: Off with his head!"

      Any similarity between the positions of Richard III and the U.S. government is neither intentional nor coincidental but unavoidable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 26 Jan 2015 @ 1:45pm

      Re:

      " i say to those folks labelled, try to pass the fact their calling you a traitor"

      I like to remind them that as soon as your opponent calls you names, particularly charged names like "traitor", they are admitting that you've won the argument.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 4:12pm

      Re: Human Rights?

      No, no, no. You don't understand. These [insert label here] are not human, so they don't have human rights.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CharlieBrown, 26 Jan 2015 @ 3:47pm

    Seriously, is there absolutely anybody who is surprised by this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 4:16pm

      Re:

      Sadly, it seems, the WikiLeaks staffers. They foolishly believed that doing the work of a journalist meant they would be treated like journalists.

      Unfortunately, they missed the memo from corporate that replaced all journalists with airbrushed Pretty Boys and Hot Chicks that only know how to read TelePrompters.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 4:19pm

    Of course, when you're a Google propaganda blog like Techdirt, there's a limit on what is "shameful":

    http://www.webpronews.com/wikileaks-blasts-google-for-giving-fbi-personal-data-delaying-n otification-2015-01

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 7:23pm

    It's a war on leakers. If journalists report on leaks that show government corruption, illegality, or embarrassing information they want hidden from the public. Those journalists will be placed on a watch list for the rest of their lives and every attempt will be made to discredit, incarcerate, and track down the sources of those leaks, forever.

    This is all standard stuff everyone knows about. This is why mass spying, mandatory backdoors and data retention laws are so dangerous to freedom and democracy. All the while using "terrorism" as the pretext for pushing through these authoritarian laws.

    Never mind the fact you're more likely to die in a car accident than die by a terrorist attack. As stated, terrorism is the pretext for authoritarian spy laws aiming for total information control over entire populations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 27 Jan 2015 @ 2:33am

    Wasn't our Constitution supposed to prevent that kind of abuse?

    If they cared about it and if people were up in arms when it is violated. But when the people sleep the crooks will dominate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pragmatic, 27 Jan 2015 @ 5:23am

      Re:

      When the people jerk their thumbs at their guns and say, "This keeps me safe from the gubmint," the crooks will dominate because the people have been lulled to sleep with false promises of personal security.

      Abuse of the Constitution is everybody's problem. I don't advocate a violent response but we beat SOPA, didn't we? Shouldn't we be doing the same thing about surveillance?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    HempRopeAndStreetlight, 27 Jan 2015 @ 5:37pm

    Quote: "Wasn't our Constitution supposed to prevent that kind of abuse?"

    The 1st Amendment was designed to allow us to complain about it.

    The 2nd Amendment in particular was designed for us to DO something about it.

    Purely logistically speaking, the American citizenry represents the largest armed force on the planet - even 3% of them getting "uppity" would represent such overwhelming and uncontrollable numbers that all the fancy jets, drones and tanks would be near useless . Especially once our antiquated overtaxed power grid gets destroyed by the very people who built it, and the J.I.T. supply system that feeds the American "military logistics miracle" crashes to a sputtering halt. Shortly thereafter, Bondzilla shows up and knocks over the economy. It's much harder to deal with an insurgency when it's on your home turf tearing up the infrastructure - not with bombs or guns - our doom will come at the hands of shovels, picks, hammers, and screwdrivers.

    It's hard to rule your empire in the dark. Or buy expensive hellfire missiles with a crashed economy.

    A cross between the Yugoslavia and Argentina is our destination, given current trajectory.

    "Oh... you're so radical!!!"

    Pfft. It's called a logical through process and escalation.

    Everyone who voted for Obama thought things would be different after 2008. Everyone who voted for the Republicans congress in 2010 thought things would change. And here we are... voting has changed NOTHING. protesting has changed zilch. The right to peacefully air our grievances is being repressed and intimidated into non-existence. People are starting to wake up to the fact that the Democrats and the Republicans are the same team on everything that really matters, and it's THEM against US.

    The reality is, the United States government serves only itself and the entrenched interests that it protects/nurtures - with wealth stolen from us at the point of a gun. They throw some crumbs in our general direction in the hopes we'll be distracted, but at this point, they are nothing more than boodle bundlers for themselves, the corporatists and the bankers.

    Voting won't change sh*t. Neither will burning down your own community and looting it - although the folks in Ferguson are starting to understand what's required.

    They mean to rule over us as serfs, and they consider us so stupid they try to divide us over God, Homosexuality, Firearms, and Condoms.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      GEMont (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 12:28am

      Re:

      Well said.

      "They mean to rule over us as serfs, and they consider us so stupid they try to divide us over God, Homosexuality, Firearms, and Condoms."

      How I wish that last line was completely true, but there is one word that ruins it. "TRY".

      They have succeeded repeatedly and continuously to divide and conquer the public over those and other absurdly silly things and the public just keeps right on biting at whatever bait they choose to use.

      It is precisely this behaviour that makes them "consider us to be so stupid" as to fall for their phony tricks - because the vast majority of the public does fall for them, always.

      Over and over and over again.

      While I really do think that a few people are starting to catch on to the fact that they are being managed, like cattle, I also think it unlikely, that enough people will catch on in time or that they will be able to react in time to affect the inevitable outcome their leaders are pushing them towards.

      Solidarity among the members of the American public appears to be about as possible to achieve as jumping up and touching the sky.

      As always, I hope I am wrong.

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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