A federal judge in California has pulled the plug on Wikileaks.org, a Web site that specializes in posting leaked documents often provided by whistleblowers.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White on Friday ordered that the domain name be disabled at the behest of a group of Swiss bankers who filed a lawsuit alleging that confidential information appeared on Wikileaks.org.
White's order to Dynadot, the registrar with which Wikileaks appears to have been associated, says:
Dynadot shall immediately lock the wikileaks.org domain name to prevent transfer of the domain name to a different domain registrar, and shall immediately disable the wikileaks.org 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.
Dynadot shall immediately disable the wikileaks.org domain name and account such that the optional privacy who-is service for the domain name and account remains turned off, until further order of this Court.
Dynadot shall preserve a true and correct copy of both current and any and all prior or previous administrative and account records and data for the wikileaks.org domain name and account.
In addition, White granted a restraining order against Wikileaks itself, saying the defendants were "enjoined from displaying, posting, publishing, distributing, linking to and/or otherwise providing any information" that the Bank Julius Baer considers to be confidential. The bank boasts that it is the "leading dedicated wealth manager in Switzerland."
If the first few weeks of this lawsuit are any indication -- it was filed on February 6 -- it could easily spiral out of control. The folks behind Wikileaks have chosen to remain anonymous, and have said in the past that they are developing "uncensorable" countermeasures to defend against legal attacks.
One countermeasure was registering the domain anonymously; it's now, however, listed as registered to a "John Shipton" in Nairobi. Another is using anonymous email addresses at hush.com. Yet another was trying to transfer the domain name away from Dynadot (which does not seem to have been done in time). For more, here's an excerpt from a legal brief that the bank filed last week:
In order to hide their location, the Wikileaks Defendants use non-traceable "anonymous" e-mail addresses and operate a Website for the express stated purpose of providing "uncensorable," "simple and straightforward means for anonymous" and "untraceable mass document leaking," regardless of legality or authenticity. In fact, in self-response to a question they posted on their own Website, "Is Wikileaks concerned about any legal consequences?", they state that "... we are prepared, structurally and technically, to deal with all legal attacks..."
The long-standing Internet trick of mirroring is working, at least until Bank Julius Baer escalates the lawsuit by naming a whole slew of potential defendants. (Remember, in the DeCSS case, the DVD Copy Control Association sued 500 "John Does.")
The cryptome.org site, run by architect-turned-free-expression-activist John Young, has posted a 3MB Zip file of the Bank Julius Baer documents. They're on BitTorrent, of course, and some Wikileaks supporters are urging others to mirror or use the http://22.214.171.124/wiki/Wikileaks numeric IP address instead.
Wikileaks' summary of the leaked documents centers on Rudolf Elmer, the former chief operating officer of Bank Julius Baer in the Cayman Islands. The summary alleges the bank supports "ultra-rich's (sic) offshore tax avoidance, tax evasion, asset hiding and money laundering." The bank has refused to comment.
For now, the allegedly incriminating bank documents remain online, barring an escalation of legal activity by the bank's lawyers. In addition, Wikileaks seems to have prepared for this day by registering a slew of domain names (although the number of actual servers being used right now is far smaller):