U.S. officials have issued a subpoena to demand details about WikiLeaks' Twitter account, according to court documents obtained Saturday. WikiLeaks says other American Internet companies may also have been ordered to hand over information about its activities.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. to hand over private messages, billing addresses and connection records of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and other alleged associates — including the U.S. Army intelligence analyst suspected of handing classified information to the site and a high-profile Icelandic parliamentarian.
Assange blasted the order, saying it amounted to harassment.
"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," he said in a statement.
A copy of the court order, dated Dec. 14 and sent to The Associated Press by Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir, said the information sought was "relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation" and ordered Twitter not to disclose its existence to Assange or any of the others targeted.
But a second document, dated Jan. 5, unsealed the court order. The reason wasn't made explicit but WikiLeaks said it had been unsealed "thanks to legal action by Twitter."
Twitter has declined to comment on the topic, saying only that its policy is to notify its users, where possible, of government requests for information.
Those named in the order include Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private suspected of being the source of some of WikiLeaks' material, as well as Jonsdottir, a one-time WikiLeaks collaborator known for her role in pioneering Iceland's media initiative, which aims to make the North Atlantic island nation a haven for free speech.
The U.S. is also seeking details about Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp and U.S. programmer Jacob Appelbaum, both of whom have previously worked with WikiLeaks.