WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US government obtained secret court orders to force Google Inc and a small Internet provider to hand over information from email accounts of a WikiLeaks volunteer, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.
The US request included email addresses of people that Jacob Appelbaum, a volunteer for the campaigning website, had corresponded with in the past two years, but not the full emails, the newspaper said, citing documents it had reviewed.
Internet provider Sonic said it fought the government order legally and lost, and was forced to turn over information, the company’s chief executive, Dane Jasper, told the newspaper.
Appelbaum, 28, has not been charged with any wrongdoing, the daily said.
Google, the world’s No1 Web-search engine, declined to comment on the matter, the Wall Street Journal said.
WikiLeaks last year angered the US government by making public tens of thousands of secret US files and diplomatic cables that embarrassed Washington, as well as a classified video of a contested American military operation in Iraq.
The Google order dated Jan 4, 2011, directed the search giant to turn over IP address from which Appelbaum logged into his Gmail.com account and the email and IP addresses of the users with whom he communicated dating back to Nov 1, 2009.
It isn’t clear whether Google fought the order or turned over documents, the Journal said.
The controversial court orders are expected to add fuel to a growing debate over a controversial law — the Electronic Communications Privacy Act — that allows the US government to secretly obtain information from people’s email and cellphones without a search warrant.
This year, micro-blogging website Twitter fought a similar court order to hand over details of the accounts of several WikiLeaks supporters, including Appelbaum, as part of a criminal investigation launched by the Department of Justice into the major leaking of confidential US documents.
Appelbaum is a developer for the Tor Project Inc, a nonprofit organisation that provides free tools that help people maintain their anonymity online, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Twitter has not turned over information from the accounts of the Wikileaks supporters, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the investigation.