​Google did fight WikiLeaks gag order, says lawyer

Google says it fought to have a gag order, related to warrants for emails from three WikiLeaks staffers, lifted.

A lawyer for Google claims the company did push back against a gag order that prevented it from alerting WikiLeaks staffers about a search warrant for access to their email.

WikiLeaks earlier this month blasted Google for failing to tell three of the whistleblower site's staffers that it handed over their email to the US government nearly three years ago as part of an investigation into WikiLeaks staff.

While Google was prevented from telling the targets about the warrant, WikiLeaks believed the company should have fought to have it unsealed as Twitter successfully did in 2011.

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Google's official response last week was that it always checks to see of a court order "meets both the letter and the spirit of the law before complying", but it didn't say whether it pushed to have the warrants unsealed.

However, Albert Gidari, a lawyer representing Google, this week told The Washington Post that Google had in fact contested the gag order on the WikiLeaks warrants since January 2011.

"From January 2011 to the present, Google has continued to fight to lift the gag orders on any legal process it has received on WikiLeaks," Gidari said.

Gidari added that Google's challenges to date included the three gag orders applied to search warrants for WikiLeaks staffers issued in March 2012.

Google told WikiLeak's staffers Sarah Harrison, Joseph Farrell, and Kristinn Hrafnsson on 23 December 2014 that it handed over contents of their personal accounts to the US government.

Google is currently seeking to have the affidavits and applications underlying the orders unsealed, Gidari said.

In a letter to Google chairman Eric Schmidt last week, WikiLeaks' lawyers at the Center For Constitutional Rights said they were "astonished and disturbed that Google waited over two-and-a-half years to notify its subscribers that a search warrant was issued for their records".

According to Gidari, the reason for the delay stems from public backlash towards the US government after Twitter won an appeal to have the warrants unsealed. Gidari is a partner at Perkins Coie, which also represents Twitter.

"The US attorney's office thought the notice and the resulting publicity was a disaster for them," Gidari told The Washington Post. He said "they went through the roof" after the prosecutor's name and phone number were disclosed.

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