One of the most important web sites in recent months has been Wikileaks.org. Created by several brave journalists committed to transparency, Wikileaks has published important leaked documents, such as the Rules of Engagement for Iraq [see my The Secret Rules of Engagement in Iraq], the 2003 and 2004 Guantanamo Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures, and evidence of major bank fraud in Kenya [see also here] that apparently affected the Kenyan elections. Wikileaks has upset the Chinese government enough that they are attempting to censor it, as is the Thai military junta.
Now censorship has extended to the United States of America, land of the First Amendment. As of Friday, February 15, those going to Wikileaks.org have gotten Server not found messages. Today I received a message explaining that a California court has granted an injunction written and requested by lawyers for the Cayman Island’s Bank Julius Baer. It seems that the bank is trying to keep the public from accessing documents that may reveal shady dealings. Wikileaks was only given a couple of hours notice “by email” and was not even represented at the hearing where a U.S. judge took such a drastic step attempting to totally shut down an important information outlet. The result was this totally unprecedented attempt to totally wipe out the existence of Wikileaks:“Dynadot shall immediately clear and remove all DNS hosting records for the wikileaks.org domain name and prevent the domain name from resolving to the wikileaks.org website or any other website or server other than a blank park page, until further order of this Court.”
There have, of course, been previous attempts by the U.S. Government and others to block publication of particular documents, most famously in 1971 when the Nixon administration attempted to stop publication by the New York Times of excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. But trying to close down an entire site in this way is truly unprecedented. Not even the Nixon administration, when they sought to block publication of the Pentagon Papers, considered closing down the New York Times in response.
If this injunction stands, it will set an incredible precedent for all of us who use the web to unveil misbehavior by the rich and powerful. Fortunately, Wikileaks is fighting this unconstitutional attack on press freedom, aided by six pro bono attorneys in San Francisco. While Wikileaks has so far not issued any particular call for support, all who value freedom should stand ready to offer whatever support they need.
Meanwhile, Wikileaks still exists. Its founders, knowing that governments and institutions will go to extreme lengths to censor the truth, have created an extensive network of cover names from which one can access their materials or continue leaking the secrets of governments and the corrupt rich and powerful. Thus, everything is available at Wikileaks.be, among other names. Let the leaks continue!
The Wikileaks press release:
Wikileaks.org under injunction
Wikileaks Press Release
WIKILEAKS.ORG DOWN AFTER EX-PARTE LEGAL ATTACK BY CAYMAN ISLANDS BANK
Mon Feb 18 00:00:00 GMT 2008
The following release has not been proofed due to time constraints.
Transparency group Wikileaks forcibly censored at ex-parte Californian hearing -- ordered to print blank pages -- 'wikileaks.org' name forcibly deleted from Californian domain registrar -- the best justice Cayman Islands money launderers can buy?
When the transparency group Wikileaks was censored in China last year, no-one was too surprised. After all, the Chinese government also censors the Paris based Reporters Sans Frontiers and New York Based Human Rights Watch. And when Wikileaks published the secret censorship lists of Thailand's military Junta, no-one was too surprised when people in that country had to go to extra lengths to read the site. But on Friday the 15th, February 2008, in the home of the free and the land of the brave, and a constitution which states "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press", the Wikileaks.org press was shutdown:BANK JULIUS BAER & CO. LTD, a
Swiss entity; and JULIUS BAER BANK
AND TRUST CO. LTD, a Cayman Island ORDER GRANTING
entity, PERMANENT INJUNCTION
WIKILEAKS, an entity of unknown form;
WIKILEAKS.ORG, an entity of unknown
form; DYNADOT, LLC, a California
limited liability company; and DOES 1
through 10, inclusive,
[..]IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
[..]Dynadot shall immediately clear and remove all DNS hosting
records for the wikileaks.org domain name and prevent the
domain name from resolving to the wikileaks.org website or
any other website or server other than a blank park page,
until further order of this Court.
The Cayman Islands is located between Cuba and Honduras. In July 2000, the United States Department of the Treasure Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued an advisory states stating that there were "serious deficiencies in the counter-money laundering systems of the Cayman Islands", "Cayman Islands law makes it impossible for the supervisory and regulatory authority to obtain information held by financial institutions regarding their client's identity", "Failure of financial institutions in the Cayman Islands to report suspicious transactions is not subject to penalty" and that "These deficiencies, among others, have caused the Cayman Islands to be identified by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (The 'FATF') as non-cooperative in the fight against money laundering". As of 2006 the U.S. State Department listed the Cayman Islands in its money laundering "Countries of Primary Concern".
The Cayman's case is not the first time Wikileaks has tackled bad banks. In the second half of last year Wikileaks exposed over $4,500,000,000's worth of money laundering including by the former president of Kenya, Daniel Arap Moi (see http://wikileaks.be/wiki/The_looting_of_Kenya_under_President_moi which became the Guardian's front page story in September 2007 and swung the Kenyan vote by 10% leading into the December 2007 election and http://wikileaks.be/wiki/A_Charter_House_of_horrors reported in the Nairobi paper The Standard and now the subject of a High Court Case in Kenya).
To find an injunction similar to the Cayman's case, we need to go back to Monday June 15, 1971 when the New York Times published excepts of of Daniel Ellsberg's leaked "Pentagon Papers" and found itself injuncted the following day. The Wikileaks injunction is the equivalent of forcing the Times' printers to print blank pages and its power company to turn off press power. The supreme court found the Times censorship injunction unconstitutional in a 6-3 decision.
The Wikileaks.org injunction is ex-parte, engages in prior restraint and is clearly unconstitutional. It was granted on Thursday afternoon by California district court judge White, Bush appointee and former prosecutor.
The order was written by Cayman Island's Bank Julius Baer lawyers and was accepted by judge White without amendment, or representations by Wikileaks or amicus. The case is over several Wikileaks articles, public commentary and documents dating prior to 2003. The documents allegedly reveal secret Julius Baer trust structures used for asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion. The bank alleges the documents were disclosed to Wikileaks by offshore banking whistleblower and former Vice President the Cayman Island's operation, Rudolf Elmer. Unable to lawfully attack Wikileaks servers which are based in several countries, the order was served on the intermediary Wikileaks purchased the 'Wikileaks.org' name through -- California registrar Dynadot, who then used its access to the internet website name registration system to delete the records for 'Wikileaks.org'. The order also enjoins every person who has heard about the order from from even linking to the documents.
In order to deal with Chinese censorship, Wikileaks has many backup sites such as wikileaks.be (Belgium) and wikileaks.de (Germany) which remain active. Wikileaks never expected to be using the alternative servers to deal with censorship attacks, from, of all places, the United States.
The order is clearly unconstitutional and exceeds its jurisdiction.
Wikileaks will keep on publishing, in-fact, given the level of suppression involved in this case, Wikileaks will step up publication of documents pertaining to illegal or unethical banking practices.
Wikileaks has six pro-bono attorney's in S.F on roster to deal with a legal assault, however Wikileaks was given only hours notice "by email" prior to the hearing. Wikileaks was NOT represented. Wikileaks pre-litigation California council Julie Turner attended the start of hearing in a personal capacity but was then asked to leave the court room.
White signed the order, drafted by the Cayman Islands bank's lawyers without a single amendment.
The injunction claims to be permanent, although the case is only preliminary.
Wikileaks remains available publishing from non-US, non-Chinese jurisdictions including http://wikileaks.cx/ and http://wikileaks.be/. See http://wikileaks.cx/wiki/Wikileaks:Cover_Names for more.
This is big.
Spread the word.
The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.
-- John Gilmore
Wikileaks survives a fire, but is under Temporary Restraining Order partial censorship
It seems that there has been a fire in an Uninterruptible Power Supply, which took the WikiLeaks web servers offline for much of Saturday, at their Swedish co-location hosting company, PRQ Inet, which has experience of attempts at censorship, through their former hosting of the peer to peer filesharing and political phenomenon, The Pirate Bay.
[editor: shortly before the fire unknown persons launched a 500Mbps distributed denial of service attack. It is not known if or how the attack is related to the other events described in this article].
How suss does that sound hunh?