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US Government Seizes Email of WikiLeaks Volunteer 217

bs0d3 writes "The U.S. Department of Justice has forced Gmail and to hand over the personal information of Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks volunteer. Sonic says they fought to keep the DoJ out of Appelbaum's records, which was very expensive but 'the right thing to do.' Google said, 'we comply with the law,' although 'Both Google and Sonic pressed for the right to inform Mr. Appelbaum of the secret court orders, according to people familiar with the investigation.' The collected information and the nature of the investigation remain classified. Applebaum's Gmail correspondence seized by the DoJ dates back to November 1, 2009, which is believed to be the month that WikiLeaks contributor and Army Private Bradley Manning allegedly began communication with Julian Assange. Last year, federal prosecutors used a similar subpoena to obtain information pertaining to Applebaum's Twitter account."
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US Government Seizes Email of WikiLeaks Volunteer

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    1. Encryption

    2. Encryption

    3. Encryption
    • 1. No Free E-mail
      2. No Free E-mail
      3. No Free e_mail

      However, applause to (and to a lesser extent google) for fighting the DoJ (and at least fighting to inform the user).

      • I use as my ISP, and this is one of the reasons. They actually give a shit about their customers. I could probably get AT&T DSL for less, but I'm going to continue to support this company.
      • 1. No Free E-mail

        The government can seize a server from your home, your ISP or anywhere else they wish. This has nothing to do with email being free or not, but where the server is based, and whether your government has power (or influence) over the local law enforcement at that location.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @07:14PM (#37672382) Journal

      Even non-sensitive emails may have some value to a government on a witch hunt. It only takes six lines written by the hand of the most honest man...

      • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

        Even non-sensitive emails may have some value to a government on a witch hunt. It only takes six lines written by the hand of the most honest man...

        You're missing a few lines, please elaborate! :o)

        • You're missing a few lines, please elaborate! :o)

          I'm probably being trolled, but...


          “Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an excuse in them to hang him”
          Cardinal Richelieu

    • by __Paul__ ( 1570 )

      ...furthermore: don't leave your email on the server, use an ISP in a country that isn't hung up on trifling matters such as these and preferably an ISP that isn't organised enough to keep a copy of every email that goes in or out; use a VM, they're unlikely to archive the entire TCP stream going in and out of it.

    • Sure, that will stop the government: []

      This is a problem that can only be fixed by fixing the government, no technological solution exists.

    • That just gives them another thing to beat out of you - remember it is an offence not to hand over the encryption key if asked even if you don't know it.
      If you encrypted a document with an encryption key that was randomly generated and then wiped from all records it is still an offence to not hand over the key when asked for it - even though there is no way you could know it. This is the reality of the laws that are being passed nowadays in the wake of 9/11 security theater.
  • by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <chris DOT travers AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 10, 2011 @06:54PM (#37672166) Homepage Journal

    As I understand it, the 4th Amendment is generally extended to cover contents of communications, meaning a warrant is supposed to be required for such contents. However, as I understand it, the current laws make a difference between recent communications and less recent ones, meaning that old emails can be obtained at a lower burden (and via a subpoena) while newer emails may require a warrant.

    Note that all that is required for a subpeona is for the DoJ to say they think there is content in the emails which probably relates to an on-going criminal investigation..... So historical data is up for grabs just because someone thinks it might be relevant.......

    Note that these apply only to communications hosted on third parties. It seems to me prudent to actually download all your communictions and stop relying on either IMAP or webmail interfaces, so that the contents can no longer be subject to subpeona.

    • You are making the assumption that even if you don't use webmail or IMAP that there will not be old copies of your mail floating around. As we all know google does everything fast, except deleting data.
      If you really want to be secure I would suggest using your own mailserver, but this is not realistic for 99+% of the population.
      Heck, I don't even own my mailserver (though it is private, on a virtual host on another ISPs machine).

      • If you delete your emails, at least, then I would think that there might be stronger 4th Amendment grounds to challenge government possession of said emails via a subpoena. IANAL though.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @07:18PM (#37672438) Journal

      As I understand it, the 4th Amendment is generally extended to cover contents of communications, meaning a warrant is supposed to be required for such contents.

      There's no "supposed to be" about it. Warrants are required for legal access to personal communications.

      However, as I understand it, the current unconstitutional laws make a difference between recent communications and less recent ones


      • Do you have the option of not abiding by unconstitutional laws with impunity?
        • Define "impunity."

        • by gknoy ( 899301 )

          No. Disobeying unconstitutional or unjust laws is an act of civil disobedience: you do the crime, you then either accept the punishment or fight it in the courts. As the anonymous sibling said, "only if you have more firepower" - but I'd instead say it's more about if you have lawyers and money.

    • by anagama ( 611277 )
      Quit worrying about pesky things like amendments in the Bill of Rights. That so 1787.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Since the 4th Amendment doesn't have an unless they're old clause, I find that differing treatment to be highly suspect.

      If there could even be some logical reason to treat old communication differently, it would have to be relevance. Of course if the police want to see it, it clearly isn't old enough to have lost relevance yet.

      • I agree the jurisprudence is a problem here. But the issue comes from challenges in the 1970's to the Banking Secrecy Act where the court ruled that financial records in a bank were not protected by the 4th Amendment. In theory there isn't a close reason to see messages on a web server as being protected by the 4th Amendment if we accept that logic because they are stored in the commercial sphere, just like banking records, what cold medicine you buy, etc. Of course this is exactly why William O Douglass

  • Run your own mail server.
    • It would still be the same situation, they'd just come after you (probably break down your door even) to take it. A larger provider has the resources to fight a court battle.
      • Colocate a server that's using whole disk encryption? Although they would probably just compel you to give up the key, although I seem to recall the EFF was arguing that should be covered under the 5th amendment.

        • I imagine it would be a lot harder to get to a colocated server, because first they'd have to get past the colocation facility to get the actual server, then they'd have to get the encryption key from you. But as you say, they'd probably just "compel" you to give up the key....

          You COULD always plead the 5th to avoid giving them the key but in this day and age I imagine they'd probably throw you in jail or something worse.
        • In England they've already got that covered with the RIPA - which IIRC requires you to give up passwords, and denies you any whistle blowing.

      • They'd still need a warrant, which means a lot more than telling a judge they think there is probable evidence that is somehow relevant to a case in order to get a subpoena.

      • Your server your retention rules.
        • AHA! You are hereby charged with destroying evidence! You MUST be guilty if you're shredding everything that comes in right away.

      • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

        It's a lot harder to get a warrant to break down your door and take your computers than it is to subpoena records from Google.

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      Run your own mail server.

      Download it all to your own client and choose a good client.

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @07:02PM (#37672250)

    Isn't one of the requirements for legal action the notification of what specific charges one has filed against him, for the purposes of a speedy and competent defence?

    Since when does the government have the authority to conduct secret searches, siezures, and investigations of private citizens without disclosure of an offical charge?

    • I think the thinking goes that you are not required to be notified that you are a person of interest. If they do not charge or detain you, I don't think you are legally entitled to be notified (*should* be notified, yes, required? I don't think so). IANAL, if there is AL here I would appreciate it if they could confirm this.

      • Is this not in direct contravention of the 4th amendment?

        Was not the spirit of the 4th amendment to prevent abuses of government against private citizens?

        Are there not constitutional provisions preventing legal and judicial reprisals against witness testimonies?

        From what rational and legal, as defined by the terms granted by the constitution, does the federal government assert authority to demand such information and papers without first lodging a formal charge, and issuance of a proper subpoena via a lawfu

        • Is this not in direct contravention of the 4th amendment?

          The 4th Amendment doesn't always apply anymore, especially in high-profile cases (this relates to Wikileaks, i.e. front page news), or much at all in California, where the courts and Governor agree that your phone (think about what a smartphone does) can be searched without a warrant. If this doesn't scare you, it should. This exemplifies a recent and major swing in the balance of power, in favor of those in office or who already have the power. Most of us will still be okay most of the time, but if we piss

        • Where does the 4th amendment state that a formal charge is required before demanding information or papers? Warrants issue upon probably cause. That's a very low burden. Moreover, there's no requirement that only suspected criminals can have their papers and effects searched. If there is probable cause to believe a search will result in evidence of a crime, then a warrant can be issued, whether or not the person who owns the items being searched is thought to have committed the crime. Basically, if police h
        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          It certainly is a violation of the 4th. It's why the courts are joining the police in the steady loss of respect amongst the people.

    • Since when does the government have the authority to...

      Since the moment they decided to assume that authority, and nobody stopped them.

    • Since 1986 (It is all explained in the article). Further, he hasn't had any charges filed against him.

    • Three words: National Security Letter

    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      Since the US government used a terrorist attack to pass all kinds of new laws (most of which would not have helped stop 9/11)

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Since Bush in 2001. (PATRIOT Act). Extended by Obush in 2011.

      The terrorists won.

  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @07:03PM (#37672258)

    I will be soooo glad when that fascist George Bush is out of the White House! Shit like this will not happen when Obama is finally inaugurated! Change is coming!

    • Umm.... the law in question was signed by none other than Ronald Reagan. It's the Stored Communications Act, signed in 1986.....

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by anagama ( 611277 )

      Man, the Demoplican party must have a huge cache of mod points because anything that points out the truth about Obama gets modded down.

      Glen Greenwald had a great piece yesterday on how people who once vehemently attacked Bush for secret legal memos (*) and civil liberties violations, are doing the same things they decried with secret memos and worse civil liberties violations now that they are part of Obama's presidency. Civil liberties would have been safer with a Republocrat in office because then the De

  • Encrypt everything (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @07:14PM (#37672378) Homepage
    This is why if you're going to be doing stuff that you want to keep private, you encrypt it. If he was conducting wikileaks business over gmail using unencrypted email, that's very sad for Mr. Applebaum.
    • by gknoy ( 899301 )

      Encryption does very little when they wanted to know info in the (unencrypted) headers: who he was talking to, and where/when.

    • Encryption is great, but it is not the ultimate answer to preserving our rights. Yeah, it works to maintain privacy and security, until they compel you to hand over the keys and potentially incriminate yourself or be presumed guilty. The 1st and 4th amendments are being eroded severely, and the 5th is beginning to be assailed. The next inconvenience to eliminate will be the 6th amendment, which is itself integral to the 8th amendment. I'm no Libertarian, nor a Ron Paul wacko, but I am VERY suspicious of som
    • by snero3 ( 610114 )

      And when you're sitting in Jail for 30 days as a suspect terrorist I am sure you will be more than willing to give them your keys and passwords to all your encrypted information just to be free again. Encryption only prevents people from listening in, it is not very effective when you have been arrested or the law compels you to give over your password.

    • No, this is why you boot a LiveCD OS with MAC cloning capability, use public WiFi connections, and then only use web of trust networks to communicate with others.

      The trick is to avoid being caught in the first place; Encryption is a liability once you are.
  • At least they didn't just have a drone fire a hellfire missile into his apartment.
    • At least they didn't just have a drone fire a hellfire missile into his apartment.

      No, Lulzsec are doing that, now that they have control of the drone craft by way of their carefully crafted virus ;-)

  • by Josh Triplett ( 874994 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @07:26PM (#37672566) Homepage
    Why would *anyone* involved in something as sensitive as WikiLeaks trust a webmail provider of any kind, or any third-party email storage? Run your own mail server, download your mails immediately, and store all emails locally on an encrypted drive. That won't protect new emails in transit (that's what GPG is for), but it'll protect existing emails. I can understand people using webmail when they don't really care. But in this case, it seems ridiculous.
    • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

      Well, for one, Appelbaum travels a lot. Sometimes to the US. His laptop has been confiscated by CBP before, if I remember correctly. So your solution amounts to dramatically increasing both the likelihood that you lose all your e-mail and the likelihood that you have a ton of encrypted data that annoys border security. Which might be "the right thing" but is hardly convenient if you're a traveling volunteer.

      GPG won't do a damn thing to protect what the government asked for, which is e-mail headers.

      • Keep encrypted backups elsewhere that you can restore to a new laptop. And yes, GPG doesn't help you with email headers; if you want to mask the source and destination, you need something better than email, and we don't have anything like that sufficiently widespread.
    • Why would *anyone* involved in something as sensitive as WikiLeaks trust a webmail provider of any kind, or any third-party email storage?

      Good question, but what makes you think he used it for WL stuff?

    • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

      Especially a mail service located within the United States.

  • Ditto (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm frankly amazed that PGP / GnuPG hasn't caught on by now. I mean, it's almost 2012 for pete's sake - why are we still sending emails in the clear? Maybe events like this will make people rethink the importance of privacy in communication...

    • by gooman ( 709147 )

      Obviously, encryption only means you have something to hide.
      Add to that, you're posting as AC, what exactly are you hiding?
      We have verified your IP address, please stay put.
      Our agents will be with you shortly.

  • Jacob is a contributor to the tor project, I am sure he is extremely aware of the privacy issues of using an email provider.

    • Jacob is a contributor to the tor project, I am sure he is extremely aware of the privacy issues of using an email provider.

      You'd think so, but then why would he be anywhere near gmail?

      • If he used that address for anything security or privacy relevant, it's surely encrypted.

        This isn't scary for the threat to Jacob Applebaum's secrets so much as for the precedent and principle. We can't all afford, effort-wise, to be as security-conscious as tor developers are. Yet if our email records can be forced from us without charges filed, then we need to be in order to keep our privacy.

      • by anagama ( 611277 )
        Registration address? I have a yahoo email address I only check when I'm forced to register to buy something from a site. It usually has 10000 or so unread emails in it at any point in time.
      • Jacob is a contributor to the tor project, I am sure he is extremely aware of the privacy issues of using an email provider.

        You'd think so, but then why would he be anywhere near gmail?

        Why does anyone else use gmail? The issue is not what he may/may not have said in the email, the issue is why has the US replaced "probable cause" with a star chamber []?

  • by EnergyScholar ( 801915 ) on Monday October 10, 2011 @08:30PM (#37673260)

    I see a lot of talk about technical solutions, not using free email, et cetera. If you think things through, you will see that none of that matters at all. Firstly, it's a safe bet that someone in the US Government not hampered by even the pretense of following the law already had all Jacob's official correspondence, encrypted or not. As I've posted multiple times already (see my previous posts), AUSCANNZUKUS has had access to a production quantum computer system capable of cracking PKI for many years, running as a virtual quantum machine on a winner-take-all style recurrent topological quantum neural network based on a physical system composed of non-abelian anyons (e.g. solitons) in a two-dimensional electron gas (e.g. in a HEMT, now present in most computers). For insight into this little-known factoid, digest this [] published [] research []. Presumably, someone tipped off DOJ that there was something in Jacob's correspondence worth looking at. For those of you not yet willing to believe that PKI was cracked long ago, it's also rather trivial to inject a key logger onto most anyone's system, which is just as good as cracking PKI and ALSO defeats synchronous shared-secret cryptography. Personally, I'm disinclined to believe in such things, but I saw indirect evidence of it and figured out (after years of monomaniacal research) exactly what it must be and how it must work. Email me for details, or wait for the book.

    Second, to the silly posters who wish to teach Jacob security fundamentals, you should be aware that he MAINTAINS THE TOR PROJECT, and is a member of the cDc. He certainly knows more than you or I about security fundamentals, and I've been a CISSP for years, wrote banking software, and was a security lead for Symantec. Do you really think that the MAINTAINER OF THE TOR PROJECT does not know how to become anonymous online? Hacktivismo is a spin-off of the cDc, and Wikileaks is a Hacktivismo project. That detail still has not been in the media, as far as I can tell, but it is obvious to anyone who looks into the topic, and is certainly known to three-letter agencies. Just google for "disruptive compliance" and their mission statement floats right to the top (this is a Google hack, from the people who wrote Goolag). Consider Wikileaks, and then answer this question posed by that document in 2003 (the year the Wikileaks project began), "But what disruptively compliant, hacktivist applications shall we write?"

    Third, in case this hasn't been pointed out before, Wikileaks did not break any laws. If they had, you can bet the US DOJ would have ALREADY charged someone with something, rather than trumping up a sex offense at just the right time. FYI, the Swedish attorney who charged Julian Assange with a sex offense is the SAME Swedish attorney who represented the CIA for the Extraordinary Rendition [] trials, which makes him a CIA asset by definition. What Jacob Applebaum did was travel to Iceland and meet with other Wikileaks people for a few weeks. It's safe to say there was online correspondence, too. It's also safe to say, unless someone was downright stupid, that any truly sensitive communication was done anonymously. The ENTIRE POINT of Wikileaks was to set up the document submission policy to keep submitters anonymous, to make it IMPOSSIBLE to pressure the Wikileaks journalists into revealing sources (as governments have done to so many journalists recently). You can't tell what you don't know! If a source (e.g. Private Manning) is foolish enough to REVEAL THEMSELF then they are going to get in trouble. Even then, one can make a VERY STRONG argument that the documents he leaked (assuming he did it) reveal WAR CRIMES, in which case he was morally AND LEGALLY required to leak them, given that the usual chain of command was CLEARLY n

  • to think, why would anyone doing anything anti gov or illegal use a free email server or even keep the emails on the server. Cant be that hard to download all your emails from a hosted server and store them on an encrypted usb drive. Would it have been that hard to pay $20 per year for a shared hosting/vps not on US soil?

  • by rueger ( 210566 ) * on Monday October 10, 2011 @09:16PM (#37673680) Homepage
    How cute, arguing about whether or not the government is behaving properly.

    Accept the facts: the rules that apply to you do not apply to the government, especially the secret bits of it. Not because you can't find a statute to support your argument, but because they DON'T CARE and will ignore the rules when it suits them.

    And they have bigger, badder guns than you do, and are able to send you off to foreign prisons if they figure it will shut you up.

    In movies the Good Guys can win. This is real life though.
  • Considering the United States is already pretty much strip-searching him whenever he goes near a border, you'd think they already know far more about him than they wanted.

    Apparently there's a sort of "Do Not Fly Without TSA Harassment" list.

  • Jake, sorry to hear about you getting into trouble with the big dogs, and hopefully you get out of it. And if you talk to your sister Bonita Applebum, tell her she's gotta put me on.

    Bonita, Bonita, Bonita.
  • The point isn't "Jake's mail should be encrypted". Jake, being a pretty well known crypto advocate and analyst, knows this. The point is that the government has seized his records and communication, with no apparent cause. Likewise, he was one of three Wikileaks affiliated Twitter users who had all access records handed to the government, and DMs as well I believe. He's been detained at nearly every re-entry into the US for the last couple of years.

    The point isn't "sucker should use crypto" or "well

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner