Rights groups: Forcing Wikileaks.org offline raises 'serious First Amendment concerns'

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have sided with Wikileaks.org and will defend them against a lawsuit which took the site off line in the United States. Wikileaks is a website dedicated to hosting leaked documents that are "anonymous, untraceable, uncensorable."

On February 18, 2008, a permanent court injunction issued in the California Northern District Court in San Francisco by judge Jeffrey White, California to Bank Julius Baer (BJB), a Swiss Bank, took the domain name offline. However the site remained online via its IP address and alternative domain names. Wikileaks previously published hundreds of documents obtained from a whistleblower of the Swiss Bank, "purportedly showing offshore tax evasion and money laundering by extremely wealthy and in some cases, politically sensitive, clients from the US, Europe, China and Peru."

"Blocking access to the entire site in response to a few documents posted there completely disregards the public's right to know," said Ann Brick a lawyer for the ACLU. At least 18 other organizations have signed documents in defense of Wikileaks. Those documents have been forged into a 'joint Amici Curiae ("friends of the Court") brief; which will be submitted to the court and used as defense evidence in a hearing scheduled for Friday February 29.

Despite the attempts by the ACLU and others, Bank Julius Baer says that their lawsuit has nothing to do with the rights of free speech.

"This action has been brought solely to prevent the unlawful dissemination of stolen bank records and personal account information of its customers. Many of those documents have also been altered and forged," said the Bank.

Recently the Bank has made allegations that they have been "unable to negotiate with Wikileaks" at all before or during legal proceedings. Wikileaks, in a press release denies the allegations.

"Wikileaks at all times responded with grace and dignity to BJBs highly irregular demands and left communication open," said Wikileaks which also adds that the correspondence with the Bank is available on its website on servers in Denmark. "BJB did not submit the correspondence to the court, although it must be absolutely central to the issues held there. We wonder why?"


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