Three years ago, Google, under a secret search warrant from a federal judge, shared the emails and personal data of three WikiLeaks staffers with the US government reports The Guardian. Google was unable to say anything to the group about it doing so until Christmas Eve of 2014, at which point the company told the activist publisher of secret information that it had complied with a Justice Department order from 2012. WikiLeaks wants to know why it took so long.
WikiLeaks today published a letter it sent to Eric Schmidt, asking why the Mountain View corporation didn’t notify them sooner and questioning whether or not the company had taken any legal initiative against the warrants. The letter says that WikiLeaks is “astonished and disturbed” that it took Google almost three years to “notify its subscribers that a search warrant was issued for their records.” The letter references the fact that Twitter challenged the government when presented with similar demands, and a conversation between Julian Assange and Eric Schmidt in included in which Schmidt recognized that WikiLeaks requested Google do the same.
It is assumed that these government requests are part of an ongoing investigation that began in 2010, which was initiated due to the publication of hundreds of thousands of US secrets coming from Chelsea Manning.
The data grab is believed to be part of an ongoing criminal investigation into WikiLeaks that was launched in 2010 jointly by the US departments of Justice, Defense and State. The investigation followed WikiLeaks’ publication, initially in participation with international news organisations including the Guardian, of hundreds of thousands of US secrets that had been passed to the organisation by the army private Chelsea Manning.
Google won’t say exactly what information it handed over, but the warrants were “shockingly broad” and probably meant the collection of basically any and all information the company had on these three staffers, according to Alexander Abdo, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Julian Assange says that this is Google yet again carelessly complying with what the US government asks, and he believes that this entire investigation by the federal government is a “seriously wrong attempt to build an alleged ‘conspiracy’ case against me and my staff’.”
In his view, though, Google is the real problem. the Mountain View company is entrusted with far too much information and it is “rolling over yet again to help the US government violate the constitution – by taking over journalists’ private emails in response to give-us-everything warrants.”