The very weakest of my ten perfectings is patience, but enough is too much already.
Just make it stop.
A federal magistrate ruled Friday that prosecutors can demand Twitter account information of certain users in their criminal probe into the disclosure of classified documents on WikiLeaks.
Three of the five account holders targeted by the government had asked the judge to reverse an earlier order she issued requiring Twitter to turn over the information to prosecutors. The Twitter users argued that the government was on a fishing expedition and its request amounted to an unconstitutional violation of their freedom of speech and association.
But in a ruling issued Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan said the government's request was reasonable and did nothing to hamper the Twitter users' free speech rights.
"The freedom of association does not shield members from cooperating with legitimate government investigations," Buchanan wrote in her 20-page opinion.
The efforts by the Twitter users marked the first legal skirmish in the Justice Department's criminal investigation of the WikiLeaks disclosures, but is unlikely to be the last. The Twitter users' lawyers, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation - had previously said they would appeal an unfavorable ruling from the magistrate to a trial judge.
A federal law - the Stored Communications Act - allows prosecutors to obtain certain electronic data without a search warrant or a demonstration of probable cause. Instead, the government must only show that it has a reasonable belief that the records it seeks are relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.
Prosecutors said the law is used routinely in criminal investigations, and that the WikiLeaks investigation is no different from any other criminal probe.
The U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which is investigating the WikiLeaks case, declined comment after Friday's hearing.
Buchanan agreed with prosecutors, and said the Twitter users had no reason to expect that the information sought by prosecutors would be kept private. The order does not seek the content of the tweets themselves, which are already publicly disseminated. Instead, it seeks certain "non-content" information, like billing records and IP addresses associated with the accounts.
"The Twitter Order does not seek to control or direct the content of petitioners' speech or association," Buchanan wrote.
Lawyers for the Twitter users had argued that people would be less likely to speak freely if they knew that doing so could result in their being subjected to a government investigation.
Twitter did not immediately respond Friday to questions about whether it now intends to turn over the information sought by prosecutors.
The original order issued by Buchanan in December 2010 at prosecutors' request sought account information from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is being held at Quantico Marine Corps Base amid allegations that he leaked classified documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to WikiLeaks.
Three other accounts belonging to American Jacob Appelbaum, Dutch citizen Rop Gonggrijp and Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's parliament, were also targeted. Those three challenged the court order. Assange has contended that, as an Australian citizen, he is not subject to American law.
Buchanan also rejected a request that would have required the government to disclose whether it sought similar records from other social networking sites like Facebook.