The Department of Justice tried to keep secret a court order that forces Twitter to release information and logs about several people known to be associated with WikiLeaks, including American hacker Jacob Applebaum and Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir.
Twitter was served with the order on December 14 and was explicitly prohibited to disclose its existence to anyone.
The company fought this restriction so it can notify the persons making the subject of the request, and surprisingly the judge agreed to unseal the order.
Three of the Twitter accounts which are of interest to prosecutors belong to Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror), Rop Gonggrijp (@rop_g) and Birgitta Jonsdottir (@birgittaj).
Jacob Appelbaum is a well known American hacker currently employed as a developer by the Tor Project to work on anonymizing software.
He is a known WikiLeaks volunteer and has spoken on behalf of the organization at the 2010 Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference in New York.
Appelbaum made news headlines last August when he was detained by customs officials as he returned to US in order to attend the Black Hat security conference in Vegas.
His three mobile phones were seized and he was questioned about the whereabouts of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. He refused to cooperate.
Rop Gonggrijp is a Dutch hacker and founder of XS4ALL, one of the oldest Internet service providers in the Netherlands. He is known to have helped WikiLeaks prepare the release of the "Collateral Murder" video.
Gonggrijp raises a very interesting issue on his blog. "Heaven knows how many places have received similar subpoenas and just quietly submitted all they had on me," he writes.
Birgitta Jonsdottir is a member of the Icelandic Parliament, where she seats on the Foreign Affairs Committee. She is also a member of the Icelandic delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Like Gonggrijp, Jonsdottir volunteered for WikiLeaks to help prepare the release of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike video.
"I got the letter from Twitter a couple of hours ago, saying I got 10 days to stop it. Looking for legal ways to do it. Will be talking to lawyers from EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] tonight," Mrs. Jonsdottir told WIRED.
The court order originated in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, the place where, according to rumors, the government is building a criminal case against Julian Assange.