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, Wikileaks.org, to shut down.
Wikileaks, which is currently available at the address Wikileaks.be, 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 Wikileaks.org 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 legality!!
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: THIS IS "KING GEORGE" AND "UNCLE DICK'S" AMERICA FOR YOU; CALIFORNIA USED TO BE OK, BUT NOW WE SEE THIS HALF-WIT REPUBLICAN GOVERNING IT WHO SITS SO PRETTILY EMBROIDERED IN A LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC FAMILY; ENOUGH OF THIS B*****IT!!!!!!!DOWN WITH THIS MOCKERY!!!!!!!! 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 perjury.) 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: nationalsecuritymatters
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 write-in. www.RonPaul2008.com
The WikiLeaks.org 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, 2008.))
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 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.” (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 notice.
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 Francisco.
As a lawyer and technology writer, Richard Koman brings a unique perspective to the blog's intersection of law, government and technology.
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 Washington.
<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.