Attacks on freedom of speech
Court Shuts Down Whistleblower Site
Feb 20th 2008  
by Tim Stevens

Nobody likes a snitch, but the whistleblower, someone who exposes corruption, is
often held in quite high regard. There's a fine line between the two types of
tattletales, but most everyone is almost always happy to see shady and illegal back
room dealings exposed.

Everyone, it seems, except the American courts. The U.S. Supreme Court made
exposing misdeeds a little more dangerous last year when it ruled that whistleblowing
employees had no protection against retaliation from employers. Now, a California
District Court judge has ordered the online anonymous whistleblowing site,, to shut down.

Wikileaks, which is currently available at the address, launched in
December of 2006 as a place for the anonymous posting of information by
whistleblowers. It was responsible for the revealing of the controversial "Standard
Operating Procedures for Camp Delta" at Guantanamo Bay, which exposed some
potential civil rights violations. The site hosts thousands of other posted documents,
which range from supposed e-mails from U.S. Ambassadors to videos showing a
nuclear accident in Japan.

Last week's ruling from the California judge is in response to a lawsuit by the Julius
Baer Group, a Swiss bank that was alleged to be involved in money laundering. The
allegations were backed up by documents posted -- illegally, according to the bank
-- to Wikileaks. The judge ruled that the domain name could no longer
be renewed or resolved.

Given that the site is mirrored in many countries around the world with suffixes
besides ".org," however, it's likely that Wikileaks won't be affected too much by this
immediate ruling. All that said, we expect a more concerted effort against this site in
the not too distant future, given that the site's main purpose of exposing secrets
more less always creates enemies.

From Computerworld and Wikipedia

Scott says:
Speaking of "concerted efforts", the injunction was preceded several hours earlier
by both a 500Mbps distributed denial of service attack and a fire at the website's ISP.

02/20/08 11:37 AM

Keith J. Mohrhoff says:
This is ridiculous!! What ever happened to freedom of speech? That aside, by not
protecting whistleblowers, we are forcing ordinary working people to become part of
the crime by continuing to protect their employers interests regardless of their

02/20/08 11:57 AM

Kate says:
"Freedom of speech" sometimes actually means "libel". There's no proof of anything
these people have written or put up (plus it doesn't sound as though this is a solely
US site, and our constitutional freedoms do not protect us against a foreign
government) - if they want to be real whistleblowers and not just disgruntled
employees they should contact the appropriate authorities, not post anonymously on
a website.

02/20/08 12:05 PM

warren garrison says:
Naturally they don't want anyone blowing the whistle, they might be targeted
themselves. It's like the sorry ass Pima County Attorneys office in Tucson Arizona. A
disgruntled mother who worked at a convenienct store falsely accused me of things I
did not do because I had called the cops on her two boys vandalizing first the local
laundry, and then the car wash so this was a chance to get even with me rather than
thanking me. As I began to gather up my disclosures to defend myself I made the
mistake of saying to a prosecutor, "when you see the tape you'll see I did nothing
and was falsely arrested", my first arrest in 54 years, and then I added that I was
going to sue the county because of how they treated me. Guess what? Before one
of the receptionist realized what was going on she told me she had the tape and if I
would bring $10 and a blank she would make me a copy, but by the time I got down
to the county attorneys office, it had disappeared. BUT, you have to understand that
Barbara LaWall's office has pulled some pret-ty shady and underhanded things in
this town and yet they continue to get away with it. And if you want to take a shot at
me bitch, this is Warren Garrison writing this, come on!!!!!!

02/20/08 12:11 PM

Ann says:
IT'S OBAMA 2008!!!!!!!!!
GO OBAMA, GO,GO,GO!!!!!!!!!

02/20/08 12:21 PM

Carol Levy says:
Whistleblowing is necessary and so is protection.
In my medical malpractice against Dr, Peter J. Jannetta nurses told me they would
not testify against him because they were afraid for their jobs. Doctors said they
would not testify because he is so big in the neurosurgery world.
The Pa. Superior Court called Dr. Jannetta's testmony re: the risks of the surgery,
an MVD or 'Jannetta Procedure', perjurioous * yet no one cared that he committed a
felony by lying under oath. The Court did not sanction him nor did the state or
medical societies. (In fact my lawyer forced me, literally, to settle out of court for a
pittance that does not even cover my lifetime medical expenses. The lawyer, Michael
Fishbein, as an offcer of the court, should have made a criminal complaint for
Maybe if people felt safe coming forward when they see illegal or unethical
prosecutable acts the court systems would not be so clogged up - the proof would
be out there. The guilty would be pleading guilty.
* "We have little difficulty in concluding that Dr. Jannetta's testimony at deposition
was different than, or inconsistent with, the testimony at trial." Levy v Jannetta, CCP
Allegheny County, GD 81-7689; appeal -J. A370017/92 Levy v Jannetta et al, No.
00150 Pittsburgh, 1992. settled, 1995

02/20/08 12:23 PM

nationalsecuritymatters says:
If this site is posting material that would directly impact United States national
security, it should be shut down in a heartbeat.

02/20/08 12:28 PM

Keith J. Mohrhoff says:
Kate: the problem is that since the Supreme Court denies any protection to
whistleblowers, "Going to the authorities" is impossible! It is now to the point where
the only people who can afford to do the right thing are those with enough financial
resources to whether the fallout.

Hence, anonymity is necessary and may serve a useful purpose. If an employee can
go on-line and post anonymously about the illegal actions of their employer, then
maybe, someone from the authorities can investigate and discover the proof.

02/20/08 12:42 PM

PG says:
Another example of the Bush Adminstration and the GOP ruining this country. This
Supreme Court is a disgrace. Thomas is an embarrasment, and Scalia, Alito, and
Roberts should be nowhere near the Court. Bush goes in less than a year, but we'll
be stuck with these losers for years.

02/20/08 12:48 PM

Joe Alt says:
I can't believe that there are so many people out there who THINK that there is still
free speech in The United States.

02/20/08 1:00 PM

Jim from Michigan says:
We need to discuus issues like this (and many others) and have a mechanism
nationally to use our collective ideas to "reinvent and actually implement" some
forward thinking. Thsis and antithesis on many issues like this.

What if a standing committee of congressmen/women (and their humongous staff)
reviewed anonymous whistleblowing cases without publication to see if a basis of
truth exists?

02/20/08 1:02 PM

Bob says:
While this ruling makes me a bit uncomfortable as well, people have brought this
upon themselves. People have abused the whistleblowing system as a tool of
retaliation and political smear. To make it legal to leak sensitive information about
our country just for selfish political motivations is wrong and I've seen too much of
this. Furthermore in our country we have a right to see who our accuser is, and for
someone to be able to just throw something out there to destroy somebody without
having to respond to is wrong. Think about this, if you are an employer and you
have a disgrutled employee who decides to go on a site like this and falsely name
you as a child molester, there is nothing you can do. Even though there is no proof,
the very suggestion has ruined your repution and your life and there's nothing you
can do because this person would be hiding behind some whistleblower law.

02/20/08 1:02 PM

Joe Alt says:
"Free Speech" vanished along with our Right to Vote way back in 2000.

02/20/08 1:04 PM

Joe Alt says:
"Free Speech" vanished along with our Right to Vote way back in 2000.

02/20/08 1:05 PM

TIM says:

Do you shake in your pants when someone on TV speaks the word Terroist or
maybe believe in the fairy tale (The sky is falling ) that is what the Repubican party is
trying to do to americans is take away there rights and say everything is
nationalsecurity so they bring out the BOGGYMAN talk every other week to scare
your simple minded people.

02/20/08 1:06 PM

Jim says:
So let's see...Supreme Court allows domestic spying to go on unabated but shuts
down a snitch site that PROTECTS PEOPLE. We the people are keeping score of
the parasitic LEETCH known as "our" so-called government. Like every other
government before it that played the same game, it too shall someday fall.

02/20/08 1:12 PM

Kate says:
First off, you don't need a website aimed at whistleblowers to go online and post
whatever you want about whomever you want. So the judge's decision is really moot.

Secondly, if you don't protect whistleblower's from retaliation, either from their
company or coworkers, we will no longer find out about tainted beef like the story in
the news now.

How much protection do you want to give companies that routinely lie and cheat?

02/20/08 1:34 PM

Carol Levy says:
To Bob, a few bad apples does not mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater.
If whistleblowers had not, and continue to be retaliated against for telling the truth,
for exposing $100.00 toilet seats paid for by our tac dollars there would be no need
for sites where they can go. My name has been sullied by some people without any
proof. I on;t like it but I am not going to shut them up. It's their right to be liars but
there must nbe recourse to prove accusations to be false. If no one listens then a
website may well be the only answer.

02/20/08 1:35 PM

Earl Bailey says:
Before retirement I worked in manufacturing. A defect in the product was detected
but, having been unsure of it's effect on performance, I needed access to testing
equipment that was locked up on the off shifts. The shift supervisor would only allow
me access if I agreed not to devulge the test results until the following day. I refused,
and, as a result, the factory manufactured defective product for 24 hrs. "Boy was he
holding his breath to find out if I'd told the truth the next day. (All involved were
called in )

02/20/08 1:35 PM

djknugget says:
Has anyone ever considered:

A. The fact that the constitution clearly states that if we are not happy with the
government we can dismantle it. Right now it seems like people are so fed up with
the government that we should just go ahead and scrap it, and make a new one.

B. Sueing the supreme court for failing to obey the constitution.

C. That Ron Paul is a republican who voted against illegal wiretapping, the patriot
act, raising taxes, against the war in Iraq, and has never voted for anything that is
protected by the constitution.

Sorry to put in my little political add, but for all of the republican bashers, keep him in
mind! He actually stands for what the republicans are supposed to stand for: small
government and the freedoms gaurenteed by our constitution. There is always the
Judge orders
offline, then
backs off

February 19th, 2008
by Richard Koman  
February 19, 2008

The site
is offline today,
following a series of
orders from a US
District Court in San
Francisco. WikiLeaks
had posted numerous
documents “allegedly
reveal secret Julius
Baer trust structures
used for asset hiding,
money laundering and
tax evasion.”
(WikiLeaks press
release, Feb. 18,

JB sought the injunction
because “several
documents posted on
the site … allegedly
reveal that the bank
was involved with
money laundering and
tax evasion. The
documents were
allegedly posted by
Rudolf Elmer, former
vice president of the
bank’s Cayman Island’s
operation.” (BBC,
“Whistle Blower Site
Taken Offline.)

In a somewhat
confusing flurry of
orders, the court first
ordered operator
Dynadot LLC to
“immediately disable
domain name and
account to prevent
access to and any
changes from being
made to the domain
name and account
information, until
further order of this
Court.” (Order Granting
Permanent Injunction,
Feb. 15, 2008.))

That order was the
result of a stipulation
(that is, agreement)
between Dynadot and
the plaintiff in the case,
Swiss banking group
Julius Baer.

But hours later the
court amended the
order, removing the
requirement to disable
the entire WikiLeaks
domain but ordering
that all JB documents
be removed from all
servers. This new order
is a temporary
restraining order,
where the first order
was a permanent
injunction. Both orders
were issued after an ex
parte hearing, to which
WikiLeaks says it
received only hours

It seems that WikiLeaks
lawyers were able to
convince the judge that
something was amiss
here, because the
second order, a TRO,
provides WikiLeaks an
opportunity to answer
(by Feb. 20) and JB to
respond to that answer
(by Feb. 26.) One
question is whether JB
lied about there being a
stipulation for
WikiLeaks to go offline,
since WL compained so
vociferously about it
and the order was so
quickly amended.

A hearing on the
injunction is scheduled
for Feb. 29 at the U.S.
District Court in San

As a lawyer and
technology writer,
Richard Koman brings a
unique perspective to
the blog's intersection
of law, government and
Christian Science Monitor says closing down
WikiLeaks will probably have reverse effect
The Christian Science Monitor
February 22, 2008
By Ben Arnoldy

Close of Wikileaks website raises free speech concerns

A US judge's move to close the dissident site Wikileaks only showed the limits of enforcing
national laws in cyberspace.

Internet activists this week gave a Swiss bank and a San Francisco judge a powerful
demonstration of the "Streisand Effect."

<strong>That's Internet jargon for any effort to suppress online information that backfires by
drawing much wider publicity.</strong>

In this case, the Julius Baer Bank sought an injunction against Wikileaks, a website that
anonymously publishes whistleblower documents, for posting papers purporting to show money
laundering and tax evasion schemes at the bank's Cayman Islands branch. A federal district judge
late last week took the unusual step of shutting down the entire site instead of removing just the
bank's documents.

What followed was an explosion of interest in the relatively obscure website, with many online
activists helping to redirect curious eyes to alternative sites where the content had been reinstated.

The Wikileaks case points to the difficulty of enforcing national norms on a global, decentralized
Internet. Having weathered the first ruling, it's now unclear if Wikileaks's elusive representatives
will even bother to mount a defense at the next court hearing.

"I think we are seeing the limits of a jurisdiction-based judicial system as it faces a relatively
borderless Internet," says David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project, a Harvard-linked
group advocating for free speech.

The court orders are stunningly broad, he says, and suggest a lack of seriousness about the First
Amendment. Rather than addressing just the handful of bank documents brought up by the case,
Judge Jeffrey White tried to shut down the entire Wikileaks site, which claims to have received over
1.2 million documents "from dissident communities and anonymous sources."

If this kind of order had been given in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, says Mr. Ardia, the court
would be ordering the Teamsters to park their trucks and permanently refuse to deliver any copies
of The New York Times.

The decision was taken without Wikileaks representatives at the hearing, perhaps because
Wikileaks failed to give the bank contact information to serve papers. The bank tracked down
Dynadot, the California-based company that registered the site's domain name, and which was
ordered by the judge to disable the Web address.

The judge may have taken a stronger stance against Dynadot because Wikileaks's proprietors
weren't present, suggests Steven Aftergood, head of the Project on Government Secrecy in

<strong>Nevertheless, disabling the site was a "disproportionate response," that has heightened
free speech concerns, he says. First Amendment law carves out boundaries for personal privacy,
and the court could have used that to target just the confidential banking records. </strong>

But Wikileaks also seems to have an "absolutist" stance on free speech, says Aftergood.
"Apparently censorship [to them] means any restriction on disclosure of information regardless of
the laws of any particular nation." That stance may lock them into a position of defiance, he notes.

Efforts to contact Wikileaks failed, but in a press release, the company stated that "given the level
of suppression ... [it will] step up publication of documents pertaining to illegal or unethical
banking practices."

In the past, Wikileaks has posted documents on US policy at Gauntánamo and in Iraq.

When contacted, Bank Julius Baers spokesman Martin Somogyi emphasized that the bank
brought the suit on defamation grounds, not protection of trade secrets.

The Wikileaks case is part of a larger cat-and-mouse game being played between file-sharing
sites and dissidents on the one hand, and corporations and governments on the other. As
Napster has shown, lawsuits have their effect, but "I don't know that the end result was any
different," says Ben Gross, an expert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"Essentially things are redesigned in reaction to censorship," he says.
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