Wikileaks is asking for explanations, in a letter written to #Google boss Eric Schmidt, about not being informed that private emails and communications from three members of their staff had been released to the FBI. Their concern is that several “privacy and journalistic rights” of their staff may have been violated by Google and the US Justice Department. Court orders are usually disclosed to its subjects immediately, to give them a chance to challenge them.

These warrants were issued in March 2012 and the three Wikileaks staff members targeted were only informed just before Christmas Eve, this year. In its letter, Wikileaks says “it’s astonishing and disturbing” that it took almost two and half years for the search engine giant to disclose that it had handed over private information.

The members of staff targeted were the spokesperson for the organisation, Kristin Hrafnsson, one of its senior editors, Joseph Farrell and investigations editor, Sarah Harrison. She is a British citizen and told British newspapers that Google helped the US government hide “the invasion of privacy into a British journalist’s personal email address”. They are not living up to their own laws and rhetoric”. She added that “knowing the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over someone dying in the family makes me feel sick”.

The warrants caused shock and doubts on many lawyers and specialists because of their wide nature, covering basically all communications by the trio. All sent, received, deleted and drafted emails as well as their source and destinations with date and time. Also all details about their #Internet accounts, including IP addresses, phone and bank account numbers or even the time they spent online.

Google has not revealed which information was actually handed over or if they tried contesting the warrants, like Twitter, in 2012, when the US Justice Department tried a similar ‘data grab’ with another Wikileaks volunteer. Google says it had a gagging order and was unable to inform its users.

These warrants issued by the Department of Justice are believed to be an integral part of a wider investigation into alleged ‘conspiracy’ and ‘espionage’ from Wikileaks and their staff following its publication of secret cables and information, that had been passed to the organization by army private Bradley Manning, in 2010. The federal judge responsible for the warrants is John Anderson, the same who in 2013 issued the arrest warrant for Edward Snowden.