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

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

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

The warrants caused shock and doubts on many lawyers andspecialists because of their wide nature, covering basically all communicationsby the trio. All sent, received, deleted and drafted emails as well as theirsource and destinations with date and time.

Also all details about theirInternet accounts, including IP addresses, phone and bank account numbers oreven the time they spent online.

Google has not revealed which information was actuallyhanded over or if they tried contesting the warrants, like Twitter, in 2012,when the US Justice Department tried a similar ‘data grab’ with anotherWikileaks volunteer.

Google says it had a gagging order and was unable toinform its users.

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