The US justice department has told Twitter to hand over all details it possesses concerning the accounts of a number of WikiLeaks members and supporters.
Investigators want to have a trawl through Julian Assange's private messages, and fired a subpoena at the micro-blogging site asking for the information, as well as access to the account of Bradley Manning, the US army intelligence analyst currently being tortured by US gaolers who believe he leaked documents to the whistle-blowing site. Also named in the subpoena is a member of the Icelandic parliament, Birgitta Jonsdottir, who was once a WikiLeaks volunteer.
"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," Assange said in a statement issued today.
A copy of the court order, dated 14 December has been posted on the web at Salon.com, here.
"It is further ordered that the application and this order are sealed until otherwise ordered by the Court, and that Twitter shall not disclose the existence of the application or this Order of the Court, or the existence of the investigation, to the listed subscriber or to any other person, unless and until authorized to do so by the Court," says the subpeona, but it appears that Twitter's standard legal response may have scuppered that request.
The outfit has not commented on the development, other than to state that it notifies users of government requests for information "where possible".
WikiLeaks said the order was unsealed "thanks to legal action by Twitter".
Birgitta Jonsdottir tweeted that she had "no intention to hand my information over willingly".
"I have nothing to hide and have done nothing wrong," she wrote on her Twitter page.
Also named in the subpoena are Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp "I wonder if the subpoena is merely a front to legally introduce evidence captured by the confirmed NSA wiretaps two blocks from Twitter HQ?", muses Applebaum.
Wikileaks says: "Note that we can assume Google & Facebook also have secret US government subpeonas. They make no comment. Did they fold?"