Wikileaks Criticizes Google for Secretly Turning Emails Over to the FBI

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Wikileaks slammed Google Monday morning as news surfaced that the Internet giant turned over private emails and other digital information belonging to Wikileaks to the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) nearly three years ago.

Google is under recent scrutiny for secretly turning over data belonging to three Wikileaks journalists staffers, warrants for the journalists were granted for the DoJ to investigate the editors, which including British citizen Sarah Harrison (PDF), Wikileaks spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson (PDF), and one of Wikileaks senior editors Joseph Farrell (PDF).

Google was granted access to reveal the three search requests the company initially received three years ago, due to the strict conditions imposed under the gag order that was forced upon Google.

As Google has remained silent on the recent news, Google previously claimed they were unable to speak on the conditions of the investigation, but were only granted approval for public release Christmas Eve of 2014. Google revealed that the company complied with the Department of Justice’s requests to catch and turn over all digital data the company had belonging to the three journalists, including emails and IP addresses related to the individuals.

It was also revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) demanded all records relating to the internet accounts of the three individuals, including phone numbers, IP addresses, details and durations of online activities, alternative email addresses, and email contents. The bureau even went as far as to obtain credit card and bank account numbers associated with the three Wikileaks journalists.

One of Wikileaks New-York-based lawyers, Michael Ratner, wrote a letter to Google on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights demanding a list of the materials the company was forced to turn over to the FBI, including details on whether or not Google proposed any actions to challenge the search warrants and if the company has received any further data demands addressed towards the three individuals.

“While it is too late for our clients to have the notice they should have had, they are still entitled to a list of Google’s disclosures to the government and an explanation why Google waited more than two and a half years to provide any notice,” read the letter from the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of WikiLeaks, which was addressed to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and General Counsel Kent Walker.

Google has yet to release any public statements regarding the recent news.

Although Google chose not to reveal which documents and data were handed over to the FBI in 2012, Google did inform the three Wikileaks individuals that the company provided, “responsive documents pursuant to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.”

The three warrants to investigate Sarah Harrison, Kristinn Hrafnsson and Joseph Farrell were granted by an unnamed Federal Judge in the eastern district of Virginia, where a grand jury was set for a criminal investigation into the freedom foundation, Wikileaks. The investigation had been active and ongoing as recent as May of last year.

The ongoing “criminal investigation” against the Wikileaks foundation was initially launched back in 2012, with the backing of the United States Department’s of Defense, Justice and State. The investigation followed Wikileaks publication, coincided with the online news publication the Guardian, of a large amount of US secrets that had been exposed by the whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, a previous United States Army soldier who released the largest set of U.S. classified documents at one time.

The amass leak of classified documents included embassy cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and a video of a helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed several civilians.

The warrants issued against the three Wikileaks staffers that forced Google to surrender swaths of data cite an an alleged violation in the 1917 Espionage act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Ironically enough, on same grounds under which Manning was prosecuted.

Some may argue that large tech companies such as Google are honest and disclose how many legal requests the companies receive from authorities, and the actions they may take against them, but it remains rare if the company will ever disclose on what grounds they complied under. Some even may have limited breathing room on what details they can disclose.

For those unknowing of Wikileaks and the foundations actions, the Wikileaks foundation is a non-profit journalistic organisation which publishes news, leaks, and classified information for the public to read. The company has landed the founder, Julian Assange, a wanted man for exposing the secrets and classified documents pertaining to governments around the world.

Sources:
Reuters

Photo via WikiLeaks Truck/Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

About Author

Brandon Stosh is the founder and CEO of www.freedomhacker.net. Stosh is a cyber security researcher and professional consultant who strives to provide reliable news on cyber-security based topics.

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