US gov gains access to Twitter accounts

The US government has been given leave by a federal judge to have a rummage around the Twitter accounts of three friends of WikiLeaks.

The judge decided the government's 'criminal' investigation into WikiLeaks was legitimate cause for access to the accounts to be granted despite the fact that two of the users of the accounts are non-US citizens.

Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir, Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp and US computer programmer Jacob Appelbaum had all appealed against an earlier ruling arguing that they had the right to free speech. But government snoops want to have a ferret around their twitter accounts to see Internet protocol (IP) addresses and account details. That's because the three are associates of public enemy number one Julian Assange, or have spoken out in support of the whistle-blower-in-chief.

The judge decided that the rights to free speech and association do not mean freedom from legitimate government investigation.

"The Twitter Order does not seek to control or direct the content of petitioners' speech or association," Judge Theresa Buchanan wrote in her ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) representing the Twitter users, said they planned a further appeal.

In a statement, ACLU lawyer Aden Fine said: "This ruling gives the government the ability to secretly amass private information related to individuals' Internet communications.

"Except in extraordinary circumstances, the government should not be able to obtain this information in secret. That's not how our system works."