US demands Twitter release Assange details

Court in Virginia secretely subpoenas information relating to accounts of four WikiLeaks associates

Staff at the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks were last night preparing a legal challenge after discovering that US officials had issued a subpoena on their Twitter account to demand private messages, billing addresses and other details.

The group suspects that other social networking sites and email providers will also have been asked to reveal their private conversations.

The site's founder, Julian Assange, was one of four people associated with the group to have a subpoena on their account. He said: "If the Iranian government was to attempt to coercively obtain this information from journalists and activists of foreign nations, human rights groups around the world would speak out."

The revelation suggests that an investigation ahead of a possible US grand jury hearing is likely to have begun trawling for details of any WikiLeaks communications with Bradley Manning, the US army intelligence analyst suspected of handing classified information to the site. Also targeted were a high-profile Icelandic MP, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp and US programmer Jacob Appelbaum, all of whom have collaborated with WikiLeaks.

A court order issued on 14 December ordered Twitter not to disclose the existence of the subpoena to any of those targeted because it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Only after legal action by Twitter was the order made public.

Mark Stephens, Mr Assange's lawyer, said WikiLeaks will challenge the order in a court in Virginia, where it was first registered. "We are in the process of implementing a challenge to the subpoenas and flushing out any others. We think there are subpoenas for Facebook, Skype, internet service providers and other official media."

They have 10 days to challenge the subpoena from the moment they are first informed of it. Mr Assange has not yet been given formal notice of his, but Ms Jonsdottir received hers last Friday. Posting on Twitter, she said she had "no intention to hand my information over willingly".

Mr Gonggrijp said of the order: "It appears that Twitter, as a matter of policy, does the right thing in wanting to inform their users when one of these comes in. Heaven knows how many places have received similar subpoenas and just quietly submitted all they had on me."

Twitter has declined to comment, saying only that its policy is to notify its users, where possible, of government requests for information.

The US government has been furious with WikiLeaks since it published classified military documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The site's later release of tens of thousands of US embassy cables has not made them any more popular with US officials, who are now looking at what charges they can bring against the group.

Neither Google's London office nor Facebook returned calls and emails seeking comment.

Although relations with the US government have been ugly, WikiLeaks staff have relied on American internet and finance companies to raise funds, disseminate material and get their message out. WikiLeaks's frequently updated Facebook page, for example, has 1.5 million fans and its Twitter account has a following of more than 600,000. Until recently, the group raised donations via PayPal, MasterCard and Visa, and hosted material on Amazon.com's servers.

But the group's use of US companies has come under increasing pressure as it continues to reveal the country's diplomatic secrets – with PayPal and the credit card companies severing their links with the site. Amazon.com booted WikiLeaks off its servers last month.

The subpoena news comes as WikiLeaks and Mr Assange are in the final stages of hiring a public relations adviser to deal with the media attention. A team of four press officers are expected to start work next week and will hold weekly press briefings.

Mark Borkoswki, whose public relations company is tipped to be the one hired by WikiLeaks, said: "I'm trying to create a press office that can deal with the incredible interest there is on this."

Mr Assange will appear in a London court this week for the next stage of the hearing into Sweden's extradition request. Prosecutors there want to interview him about alleged sex offences against two women.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

C# .NET Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript HTML, CSS) Finance

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Develo...

MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh-£260/day

£230 - £260 per day + competitive: Orgtel: MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS, Crystal rep

£25000 - £30000 per annum + bonus+benefits+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment