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Shutting Down a Source of Leaked Documents

POSTED: 07:04 AM ET, 02/25/2008 by The Editors

Here's how it once worked: A former State Department official and military analyst decided that the world needed to see the Pentagon's secret and highly disturbing history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. So Daniel Ellsberg gave the 7,000-plus pages of classified documents to the New York Times and then The Washington Post. The Supreme Court ruled that the Nixon administration could not stop them from publishing.

If the Internet had been around, maybe Ellsberg would have considered posting his documents directly online?

For a year or so, a little-known Web site called Wikileaks has invited people around the world to post "classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance." Last week, the site gained some publicity when a federal judge in San Francisco decided to shut it down for posting papers purporting to show money laundering and tax evasion schemes at the Cayman Islands branch of a Swiss bank.

Because the owners and operators of Wikileaks are anonymous, the Julius Baer Bank filed an innovative lawsuit against Dynadot, a California-based company that registered the site's domain name. The judge ordered Dynadot to disable access to www.wikileaks.org.

The Wikileaks Web site cited Ellsberg as the prime example of "principled leaking" it aimed to encourage. The site said it was established by "Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa." It claimed to have 1.2 million documents, including some that have resulted in news stories such as a secret prison camps manual for Guantanamo Bay and a manual of U.S. military rules of engagement in Iraq.

Judge Jeffrey White has come under criticism for a decision that some see as violating the First Amendment. In any case, it seems, people around the Internet have found ways to get to the Wikileaks site despite the judge's ruling.

Whatever the outcome of the Wikileaks case, remember that tips and ideas for the Washington Post investigative team can be sent to investigations@washpost.com or to individual reporters and editors who can be found on our staff page. That applies to you too, Mr. Ellsberg.

By The Editors |  February 25, 2008; 7:04 AM ET
Previous: Arizona Congressman Indicted | Next: Questions About a Mosque Leader

Comments

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Well, now, we live in a free society where we aren't allowed to read information that should be available to every citizen, since we PAY for this stuff through our taxes. What is this? Nazi Germany? They claimed to be a "free" society, all the while sequestering anything and everything that would put the governemnt in a bad light. Hmmmm.....seems strangely familar....the similarities are astounding to what we know as "authoritarian" governments that suppress the people's right, much like modern Russia and their version of Bush, Potin.

Posted by: Thomas | February 25, 2008 8:42 AM

Want to see how far down the road we have traveled toward a police state? Read "The End of America" by Naomi Wolff. Page after page she shows documented comparisons between America today and repressive regimes throughout history. Draw your own conclusions.

Posted by: Jess | February 25, 2008 1:04 PM

Be careful about sending email in some countries. Some of the tricks that you call "innovative" are actually pretty easy. For example, an email server in can be set up to intercept emails sent to investigations@washpost.com and forward or BCC them to tips@secretpolice.pakistan.gov, tips@fbi.gov, etc

Posted by: Ed | February 25, 2008 9:52 PM

By an American Judge ?? SO this is the new American idea of Free Speech ? As long as it does not make the government and the big Corporations look bad ?? That Is CENSORSHIP!
Tax payers are paying our government salaries and we are paying them to regulate the behavior of our Corporations like Enron, Arthur Anderson, The Real Estate Companies etc. Etc. They conveniently turn a blind eye to that but then a judge is happy to force a website to shut up for making our Corporations and our government look bad ?

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