Feds Gagged Google Over Wikileaks Warrants Because They Were 'Upset By The Backlash' To Similar Twitter Warrants

from the that's-not-how-it-works dept

Earlier this week, we wrote about how the feds got a warrant demanding all email and other information about three Wikileaks-associated reporters. While the warrants issued in 2012, Wikileaks only found out about it a few weeks ago when Google told them, saying that an earlier gag order had been partially lifted. Wikileaks lashed out at Google for not letting them know earlier. However, in response, Google has noted that it fought the request and that it was gagged from saying anything until now.
Google says it challenged the secrecy from the beginning and was able to alert the customers only after the gag orders on those warrants were partly lifted, said Gidari, a partner at Perkins Coie.

“From January 2011 to the present, Google has continued to fight to lift the gag orders on any legal process it has received on WikiLeaks,” he said, adding that the firm’s policy is to challenge all gag orders that have indefinite time periods.
But, much more interesting was a separate point made by the lawyer, Albert Gidari, over why the feds demanded the gag order:
According to Gidari, whose firm has represented both firms, Google’s delay was not the result of foot-dragging but of opposition from prosecutors who were upset by the backlash that followed the disclosure of their court orders to Twitter.


“The U.S. attorney’s office thought the notice and the resulting publicity was a disaster for them,” Gidari said. “They were very upset” about the prosecutor’s name and phone number being disclosed, he said. “They went through the roof.”
Gidari also claims that "Google litigated up and down through the courts trying to get the orders modified so that notice could be given."

If you don't recall, the feds attempt to get information from Twitter made headlines back in 2011 for trying to get access to Icelandic politician (and Wikileaks supporter) Birgitta Jonsdottir's account.

If it's true that this was truly the reason for the gag order, that is equal parts ridiculous, pathetic and dangerous. There are legitimate reasons for limited gag orders in specific cases at specific times. But a general, unending, broad gag order "because we don't like the backlash" is not one of them. At all. But that's what you get when there's no real oversight or pushback to the surveillance state.

Filed Under: backlash, free speech, gag order, surveillance, warrants
Companies: google, twitter, wikileaks

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  1. icon
    Violynne (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:23am

    There are legitimate reasons for limited gag orders...
    No, there isn't. A gag order, by its very definition, is a cover-up tool.

    If there's any legitimate reason, I'd like to see just one example of it in use.

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