Google waited six months to tell WikiLeaks about government surveillance

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Google had a federal magistrate’s approval to inform WikiLeaks employees that their emails had been the subjects of sealed search warrants, but waited six months.

A judge agreed last May to unseal orders issued in 2012, giving the US govt access to the personal accounts of three WikiLeaks journalists, for the limited purpose of informing them that their Gmail and and other intimate data had been compromised, investigative journalist Alexa O’Brien reported this week.

But while Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson authorized Google to make that disclosure on May 15, 2014, according to public records seen by O’Brien, Wikileaks acknowledged recently it was not made aware of the warrants until this past December.

Copies of the search warrants published by WikiLeaks reveal that in March 2012 the US govt served Google with an order requiring the company to hand over details of accounts opened by Wikileaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, and two editors — Sarah Harrison and Joseph Farrell — along with gag orders intended to indefinitely prevent their presence from being revealed. Harrison alluded to the warrants during an address at a hacker conference in Germany shortly after Christmas 2014 and further details were revealed during a press conference in Switzerland late last month.

“I believe this is an attack on me. As a journalist for now almost 30 years, I think this is an attack on journalism,” Hrafnsson said in Geneva.

Hrafnsson told RT this week that “Google wasn’t able to tell us, they claim, until a day before Christmas last year, and so they waited for 2.5 years to inform us that they had handed over information.”

“They claim that they tried to resist this,” Hrafnsson told RT, “but we have had no information about that and our lawyers in the US have demanded information from Google pertaining to that.”

Attorney for Google, Albert Gidari, told the Washington Post that it has “continued to fight to lift the gag orders on any legal process it has received on WikiLeaks” dating back to 2011. O’Brien now reports that Google may have been able to reach out to WikiLeaks much earlier.

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