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US government seizes Gmail of WikiLeaks volunteer

Published time: October 10, 2011 17:50
Edited time: October 10, 2011 21:51
A truck bearing the WikiLeaks logo, belonging to an Occupy DC demonstrator, is parked on the street near a makeshift camp in McPherson Square October 9, 2011 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Karen Bleier)

A truck bearing the WikiLeaks logo, belonging to an Occupy DC demonstrator, is parked on the street near a makeshift camp in McPherson Square October 9, 2011 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Karen Bleier)

Apparently volunteering isn’t always nice. At least not to the DoJ. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department forced Google and an ISP to hand over personal data pertaining to a human rights activist and WikiLeaks volunteer.

Jacob Appelbaum is no stranger to problems with the law. He’s been detained by US Customs multiple times and has had cell phones and laptops seized and searched. His affiliation with hacking collectives and WikiLeaks has made him a frequent target of federal probes, often without any real repercussions. Now it has been revealed, however, that the government successfully forced Google and Sonic, a small Internet Service Provider from northern California, to fork over personal data from Applebaum’s email account.

Sonic tells The Journal that they fought to keep the DoJ off of Applebaum’s Gmail records but eventually had to hand over the correspondence kept by their client for over a course of two years. It is believed that the investigation stems from Applebaum’s ongoing cooperation with Julian Assange’s whistleblowing operation WikILeaks, whom he represented during the HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference in 2010.

Dane Jasper, Sonic.net’s CEO, tells CNET that they were unable to fight off the authorities to protect Applebaum, but after a lengthy ordeal were about to unseal the order so that Applebaum could have slight insight into the probe. The actual information the government has on him, however, remains classified. Fighting for the privacy of their customer, Jasper adds to The Journal, was expensive but they “felt it was the right thing to do."

A representative for Google adds to CNET that “Obviously, we follow the law like any other company.”

“When we receive a subpoena or court order, we check to see if it meets both the letter and the spirit of the law before complying,” says Google. “And if it doesn’t, we can object or ask that the request is narrowed.”

Applebaum’s Gmail correspondence seized by the Department of Justice dates back to November 1, 2009, which is believed to be the month that WikiLeaks contributor and Army Private Bradley Manning allegedly began communication with Assange’s association before authorities claim he leaked over a million pieces of sensitive military data.

Less than a year ago, federal prosecutors used a similar subpoena to obtain information pertaining to Applebaum’s Twitter account.

In a tweet sent early Monday, Applebaum writes, “State Terrorism of our individual lives is the most relevant Terrorism to everyday Americans. We must resist it at every opportunity.”

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