Saturday, January 8, 2011

US demanding our Twitter data: WikiLeaks

US officials have issued a subpoena to demand details about WikiLeaks' Twitter account, the group announced Saturday, adding that it suspected other American internet companies were also being ordered to hand over information about its activities.

In a statement, WikiLeaks said US investigators had gone to the San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. to demand the private messages, contact information and other personal details of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and other supporters, including the US Army intelligence analyst suspected of handing classified information to the site and a high-profile Icelandic parliamentarian.

WikiLeaks blasted the court order, saying it amounted to harassment.

"If the Iranian government was to attempt to coercively obtain this information from journalists and activists of foreign nations, human rights groups around the world would speak out," Assange said in the statement.

A copy of the court order, dated Dec. 14 and posted to, said the information sought was "relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation" and ordered Twitter not to disclose its existence to Assange or any of the others targeted.

The order was unsealed "thanks to legal action by Twitter," WikiLeaks said.

Twitter has declined comment on the claim, saying only that its policy is to notify its users, where possible, of government requests for information.

Others named in the order include Pfc. Bradley Manning, the US Army private suspected of being the source of some of WikiLeaks' material, as well as Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic lawmaker and one-time WikiLeaks collaborator known for her role in pioneering Iceland's media initiative -- which aims to make the North Atlantic island nation a haven for free speech.

The US is also seeking details about Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp and US programmer Jacob Appelbaum, both of whom have previously worked with WikiLeaks.

Assange has promised to fight the order, as has Jonsdottir, who said in a Twitter message that she had "no intention to hand my information over willingly." Appelbaum, whose Twitter feed suggested he was traveling in Iceland, said he was apprehensive about returning to the US.

"Time to try to enjoy the last of my vacation, I suppose," he tweeted.

Gonggrijp expressed annoyance that court officials had misspelled his last name -- and praised Twitter for notifying him and others that the US had subpoenaed his details.

"It appears that Twitter, as a matter of policy, does the right thing in wanting to inform their users when one of these comes in," Gonggrijp said. "Heaven knows how many places have received similar subpoenas and just quietly submitted all they had on me."

WikiLeaks also voiced its suspicion that other organizations, such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc., had also been served with court orders, and urged them to "unseal any subpoenas they have received."

Google and Facebook's London offices did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

US officials have been deeply angry with WikiLeaks for months, for first releasing tens of thousands of US classified military documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then more recently posting thousands of classified US diplomatic cables. US officials say posting the military documents put informers' lives at risk, and posting diplomatic cables made other countries reluctant to deal with American officials.

Although its relations with the US government have been ugly, WikiLeaks and its tech-savvy staff rely have relied heavily on American Internet and finance companies to raise funds, disseminate material and get their message out.

WikiLeaks' Facebook page, for example, counts 1.5 million fans and its Twitter following is upward of 600,000 followers. Until recently, the group raised donations via PayPal Inc., MasterCard Inc., and Visa Inc., and hosted material on's servers.

But the group's use of American companies has come under increasing pressure as it continues to reveal US secrets.

US officials have been examining possible charges against WikiLeaks and its staff following the series of spectacular leaks, which have embarrassed officials and tarnished Washington's image.

WikiLeaks denies US charges that its postings could put lives at risk, saying that Washington merely is acting out of embarrassment over the revelations contained in the cables.

Read more: US demanding our Twitter data: WikiLeaks - The Times of India

Southern Sudan’s Kiir rules out return to war

Southern Sudan’s Kiir rules out return to war as he seeks ‘co-existence’ with North

Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir has ruled out a return to war with the North irrespective of the outcome of his region’s independence referendum which begins today.

Addressing a press conference at his Juba palace on Saturday, Mr Kiir said there was no alternative to peaceful co-existence anywhere in the world.

“There will be no return to war. The referendum is not an end of a journey, but the beginning of another long journey of positive development,’’ said Mr Kiir.

He appealed to the Southern Sudanese to come out in large numbers wherever they were to vote in the week-long exercise that will determine whether or not they remain part of what is currently Africa’s largest state.

“I promise you an atmosphere of peace and calm as you exercise your democratic right,’’ he told his fellow Southern Sudanese.

The plebiscite, in which 3,930,000 registered voters are expected to participate, is the culmination of a five-year unitary state experiment for the Sudanese, prescribed by a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the country’s warring factions.

Mr Kiir’s sentiment came even as President Omar al-Bashir warned that Southern Sudan will face instability if it votes to secede from the North.

The BBC quoted President al-Bashir as telling Al-Jazeera Television the South did not have the ability to create a stable state or provide for its citizens.

In comments expected to infuriate the Southern leadership, Mr al-Bashir said: “The south does not have the ability to provide for its citizens, or create a state or authority.”

“The south suffers from many problems. It’s been at war since 1959. They believe that the cause of all this suffering is that the south is under the control of the north and they think that they can only end this suffering by separating the north from the south,” he said.

US Senator John Kerry also addressed the press conference, saying that President Barack Obama’s administration was fully committed to supporting all Sudanese for a better future. Mr Kerry commended the entire Sudanese leadership and other stakeholders for making the referendum a reality.

He expressed optimism that all the outstanding issues, particularly the Abyei border dispute, would be resolved by the Sudanese amicably.
Euphoria gripped the regional capital Juba on the eve of the launch of the week-long polling as people feted the looming end of the long and often difficult countdown.

Seize the opportunity

At candle-lit roadside tea stalls and outside darkened corrugated-iron shacks, one of the world’s most impoverished populations sat around late into the night eagerly waiting to seize the opportunity to break away from rule by Khartoum.

But the celebrations were dented by deadly clashes between the southern army and renegade militiamen in remote Unity State on the border with the north, whose oilfields were a key fighting point in the 1983-2005 civil war.

Southern troops killed six militiamen and captured 32 in the two days of fighting without sustaining casualties, military spokesman Philip Aguer said.

Unity state is an area where renegade militiamen remain active, and the bloodshed highlighted the fragility of the uneasy peace that has been established over most of the south.

The regional government deployed 60,000 troops and police for polling day as it welcomed a host of world figures, including Hollywood actor George Clooney and former US president Jimmy Carter as well as Western envoys.

The deputy chairman of the referendum organising commission, Chan Reec, told a news conference in Juba that all the preparations for the “historic moment” had been made.

“This is something that has never happened ever since the world was called to creation,” Reec said. “Nobody ever bothered to ask the people of south Sudan as to what their destiny should be.”

Gurgaon gears up for war of wards

While the dates for first-ever municipal elections in Gurgaon are yet to be announced, political parties have already started preparing for their campaigns to get first first-mover advantage.

States main political parties like Congress, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) claim to have finalized the list of candidates for all 35 municipal corporation  wards.

While a full-fledged campaign is still to take-off, politicians are working round the clock to chalk out a winning formula. Considering the fact that migrants mainly hailing from neighboring states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Bihar form a majority of population in Gurgaon, political parties are trying to woo them while keeping locals happy.

Our focus areas would be Rajendra Park, Laxman Vihar and Surat Nagar where the migrant people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh live. Colonies like Rajiv Nagar and Prem Nagar are dominated by people from Rajasthan while most of the Punjabi population can be seen in areas like Bhim Nagar, Ram Nagar and Camp area. We have decided to fight the elections on our party symbol and will soon announce the list of candidates, said Kulbhushan Bhardwaj, state secretary and head, legal cell, BJP.

Leading state opposition party plans to show its strength in the upcoming elections. Part leaders believe that victory in Gurgaon could be symbolic gesture of the voters mood in Haryana.

Congress government and officials dont have the will to hold local elections in Gurgaon. If they so desire these elections can be held in a months time, said Gopi Chand Gehlot, senior INLD leader.

Residents, however, have some other wish list: No one knows what will ultimately emerge as main issue in these elections, but I hope politicians will focus on civic problems and development, said a Shushant Lok resident.

There are around 3.5 lakh voters in the 35 wards drawn by the MCG and there will be a total of 402 polling booths. Each booth will have around 800-1000 voters and in every ward there will be around 10,000-12,000 voters. We will hold a meeting on Wednesday to see if any changes are to be made. The meeting will be attended by all joint commissioners of MCG, said a senior MCG official.