Back in 2012, the FBI issued a warrant to Google demanding access to the Gmail accounts of three key WikiLeaks staffers. According to The Guardian,
“The wide-ranging scope of the order meant that all email content, including deleted emails, drafts, place and time of login, plus contact lists and all emails sent and received by the three targets – for the entire history of their email account up to the date of the order – had to be handed over to the FBI.”
But why are we only talking about this now, when the order was issued in 2012? Well apparently, WikiLeaks wasn’t informed of the handover until December 23, 2014 – more than two years after the fact.
Not surprisingly, WikiLeaks didn’t take the news too well.
“We’re looking at legal action not only with Google but to those who actually turned in the order,”
said Baltasar Garzón, who heads up WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team.
Garzón also challenged whether the FBI could legally use the info they obtained from the accounts, saying,
“…any information that would be used from the taking of documents [in this way] will be considered as biased, illegal and will cancel the whole proceedings… I’m not sure what craziness – what desperation – went into the US to make them behave this way, but this is … a clear violation of rights.”
Google, for its part, argues that the FBI placed a gag order on them, preventing them from informing the WikiLeaks staffers about the handover of their accounts until last month. In a statement to the Guardian, a spokesperson for Google said,
“Our policy is to tell people about government requests for their data, except in limited cases, like when we are gagged by a court order, which sadly happens quite frequently. We’ve challenged many orders related to WikiLeaks which has led to disclosures to people who are affected. We’ve also pushed to unseal all the documents related to the investigation.”
In a recent press conference, WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison (one of the three targeted by the FBI) said that nobody from WikiLeaks would ever use their Gmail for sensitive information, accusing the US government of,
“…blanket going after a journalist’s personal account, fishing for something that could help them.”
Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, is part of Assange’s legal team here in the US.
According to Ratner, WikiLeaks has sent a letter to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt demanding a detailed explanation as to why Google took so long to inform the WikiLeaks staffers who were targeted in the FBI’s order.
Ratner says that Google’s response to this letter will determine what type of legal action (if any) WikiLeaks will take moving forward.
Read the full story from The Guardian.