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DOJ Sets Eerie Precedent in WikiLeaks Case

by Scott Lindemann January 11th, 2012 | Cyber Culture
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And so it begins.

In what is sure to be a turning point in Internet law, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady has declared that Twitter must hand over the account information of several of its users to the Department of Justice in connection with the government’s ongoing investigation of WikiLeaks. Twitter, who opposed the demand, was forced into compliance on the grounds that the accounts in question were used by key supporters of WikiLeaks.

You read that last sentence correctly. If the government decides that you are an important supporter of a group that they don’t like, they will get access to your information, regardless of how much it violates the Constitution and due process. Needless to say, the ACLU is all over this one. They even took the case before a magistrate judge who, not surprisingly, ruled in favor of the Department of Justice.

You might ask yourself, “well why should I care?”

No matter your views on WikiLeaks, you should care, because this ruling sets the precedent that the government can have access to your personal information whenever they wish it, regardless of due process.

To compare to the real world (and I’m no lawyer, mind you, so this is purely speculative), let’s say you’re being looked at in a fraud case, and the government wants access to your banking information. They call up [Insert Random Bank Here] and request your banking information for the past year – where you’ve spent, how much you’ve spent, when you’ve spent, when you’ve paid, and how much. The bank tells the investigators to take a hike because their privacy policy states that they won’t just give your information to Uncle Sam like that. From what is understood, at this point, the government would need to take you to court in order to get that information, giving you the ability to defend yourself, with the investigators needing to prove legally that they should be privy to that information. That apparently doesn’t apply here.

With an ever-growing online presence for many people, including the places they visit, the people they know and interact with, photos uploaded, contact information saved in one’s account, credit card information in shopping accounts, the time is right for Americans to seriously consider both how much information they store on the web, and their government’s intentions.

Let’s take a look at it: The U.S. Government opposes WikiLeaks’s journalistic status simply because it’s a whistle-blowing entity. They’ve released thousands of documents proving that the United States committed war crimes during the Iraq War and is involved in some really shady back room dealings with foreign nations. The U.S. Government wants to pass online censorship bills such as SOPA and PROTECT IP, which will only serve the interests of corporations. They want so badly to push these laws through, which will give them control of the Internet, that these things get top billing while things like unemployment and the economy take a back seat.

So whose interests is the United States Government serving? Why, whoever gives them the most money, of course. Simply put, the United States Government has become so disturbingly corrupt, it’s going to take a miracle to keep us out of an Internet dark ages.

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