On Christmas Eve, as the National Security Agency was releasing a report on NSA employees’ abuses of surveillance technology, Google was telling WikiLeaks about another sort of surveillance. According to a statement by WikiLeaks on Twitter, Google informed the organization on December 24 that the Gmail mailboxes and account metadata of a WikiLeaks employee had been turned over to law enforcement under a US federal warrant.
Update: WikiLeaks did not respond to initial requests for more details on the notification. However, WikiLeaks journalist and Courage Foundation acting director Sarah Harrison displayed a redacted copy of the warrant during her presentation on source protection at the Chaos Communications Congressyesterday in Hamburg, Germany. The warrant was dated for execution by April 5, 2012 by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and it was apparently part of the continuing investigation by the Justice Department into criminal charges against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
Details on whose e-mail was searched were not provided, and the organization does not share information about most of its employees. According to a statement on the organization’s website, “Given the high level assassination threats against WikiLeaks staff, we cannot disclose exact details about our team members.”
Google also would not comment on the warrant. In an e-mail statement to Ars, a Google spokesperson said, “We don’t talk about individual cases to help protect all our users. 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. And if it doesn’t we can object or ask that the request is narrowed. We have a track record of advocating on behalf of our users.”
This is at least the second time a U.S. warrant has been served at Google for data from someone connected to WikiLeaks. A sealed warrant was served to Google in 2011 for the email of a WikiLeaks volunteer in Iceland. And the Justice Department has also previously sought to get metadata from WikiLeaks-connected Twitter accounts, and won a court battle with Twitter three years ago to force the service to provide that metadata.
Ars will update this story as more details become available.