| ALEXANDRIA, Va.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. Feb 15 U.S. prosecutors on
Tuesday clashed in federal court with associates of WikiLeaks
founder Julian Assange over a request for their Internet
records in a probe into the leaking of secret U.S. diplomatic
Prosecutors in Virginia obtained a court order on Dec. 14
requiring the social media site Twitter to turn over records
for Assange, U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning who
is suspected of the leak and several others.
Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's Parliament, and
two others who were among those targeted by the court's order
sought to quash it and demanded the court unseal orders for
their records from other service providers so they could also
seek to quash them too.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan, who issued the Dec.
14 order, did not rule from the bench on Tuesday after more
than an hour of oral arguments between the two sides. She said
she would issue a written opinion but gave no timetable.
Prosecutors, who in court described the investigation as in
its "preliminary stages," have been casting a wide net to
determine whether Assange broke any laws related to his
publication of thousands of leaked diplomatic cables on his
Manning is suspected of leaking the documents and is in
military custody. WikiLeaks published the classified cables,
some of which offered candid and embarrassing assessments of
foreign leaders, and also military documents related to the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Buchanan's order sought about seven months of information
from Twitter about the targeted individuals, such as whom they
communicated with and when, whom they followed, and who
followed them regardless of any connection to WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors also sought data about how they logged in,
which could identify their location.
Lawyers for Jonsdottir and the two others argued that the
prosecutors' requests were too broad, violating rights under
the U.S. Constitution that protects free speech and freedom of
association and that limits searches.
"If they want to go on a fishing expedition, they should
get a search warrant or a subpoena," said John Keker, a lawyer
for those targeted in the order. He argued that the prosecutors
"couldn't justify an order as broad" as granted by Buchanan.
Prosecutors defended their request for the information as
akin to a routine request in seeking telephone records and
emphasized they were not seeking the content of the
conversations between the individuals.
"This is a standard investigative measure used every day of
the year all across the country," said John Davis, representing
the prosecutors, adding that the requests were for the records
of a handful of individuals, "no showing of overbreadth."
Lawyers for Jonsdottir and the others, Dutch activist Rop
Gonggrijp and American computer security researcher Jacob
Appelbaum, also pressed the judge to release any other similar
orders for records.
They argued that because the Twitter order was released,
there was no harm to the investigation by unsealing any others
Prosecutors opposed that request as well, telling the judge
that it would "damage the ongoing investigation."
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)