Photo: wikipedia commons
In its pursuit of WikiLeaks, the U.S. government issued secret court orders requiring Google and Sonic.net Inc. to hand over information on the email accounts of WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum.Appelbaum, 28, is a computer scientist employed by the University of Washington and though he was dubbed ‘The Most Dangerous Man in Cyberspace‘ by Rolling Stone in 2010, he has yet to be charged with any crime and his records were demanded without his knowledge.
The Wall Street Journal has reviewed a series of court documents that show the government acquired email addresses of everyone Appelbaum corresponded with over the last two years.
The Attorney General’s office obtained the records without a search warrant, and while Google and Sonic fought to inform Appelbaum of the investigation, the court ruled against them. The entire process calls into question the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
The Electronics Communications Privacy Act which allowed the government to achieve its request was passed three years before the birth on the Internet in 1986 and was designed to protect electronic correspondence as well as physical mail.
With new technology, however, law enforcement needs now show only “reasonable grounds” that material will be “relevant and material” to the pursuit of a suspect and it can obtain email far more easily than traditional mail.
Most alarmingly the government is no longer legally compelled to provide copies of search warrants. Today, the warrants are sealed and the full investigation proceeds without the suspects knowledge.
Because the government’s process is so secretive it’s unknown how often the methods are employed, but Google began disclosing the number of requests it receives in December 2009.
In the last six months of 2010 the Internet giant received more than 4,600 requests, search warrants, and subpoenas complying with them 94 per cent of the time.
Read the extensive story at The Wall Street Journal.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.