The Guardian reports WikiLeaks has written to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt to protest the company’s delay in reporting that it had been forced under warrant to give the documents to federal authorities. WikiLeaks claims it took Google nearly three years to disclose the handover.
The reported targets of the warrants were: Sarah Harrison, WikiLeaks’ British editor; Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokeswoman; and senior editor Joseph Farrell.
“Today, WikiLeaks’ lawyers have written to Google and the US Department of Justice concerning a serious violation of the privacy and journalistic rights of WikiLeaks’ staff,” the site said in a statement reported by Agence France-Presse.
The letter was written by Michael Ratner, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. Ratner asked Google to list everything it forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In the letter, WikiLeaks said Google could and should have challenged the warrants. It also said it is “astonished and disturbed” that Google waited so long to inform its subscribers of the warrants, which were served in March 2012, potentially impeding their ability to protect their right to “privacy, association and freedom from illegal searches.”
WikiLeaks claims that Google said it was unable to comment on the warrants due to a gag order imposed earlier, although the company later said the non-disclosure orders had been subsequently lifted. The company did not say when this occurred.
Harrison said she was sickened by the thought of the government reading her emails.
“Knowing that the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over a death in the family makes me feel sick,” she told the Guardian. Harrison also accused Google of “the invasion of privacy into a British journalist’s personal email address.”
“Neither Google nor the US government are living up to their own laws or rhetoric in privacy or press protections,” she asserted.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is living in exile in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, called the warrants part of a “serious, and seriously wrong attempt to build an alleged ‘conspiracy’ case against me and my staff.” The real conspiracy, Assange said, is “Google 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.”
The US government’s aggressive targeting of WikiLeaks has led to conflicts with America’s allies, most notably in 2011 when Iceland’s interior minister asked eight or nine FBI agents to leave the country after they traveled there on false pretenses to investigate WikiLeaks.