One of the most important web sites in recent months has been Wikileaks.org. Created by several brave journalists committed to transparency, Wikieaks 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!