The US arm of Wikileaks, a website that makes it easy for whistleblowers to leak documents, has been cut off after hosting evidence that claimed a bank located in the Cayman Islands engaged in money laundering and tax evasion.
Dynadot, the US-based company that hosted Wikileaks' main site, not only severed wikileaks.org from the net; it also agreed to lock the domain name so it can't be transferred to another provider. A federal judge in San Francisco signed off on the agreement on Friday (15 Feb).
The agreement came in a lawsuit brought by bank Julius Baer, the parent company of the accused Cayman bank. After trying unsuccessfully to get Wikileaks to remove the documents, Swiss-based Julius Baer went after Dynadot, which according to this copy of the court order, agreed to roll over in exchange for the suit against it being dismissed. Dynadot also agreed to turn over records related to Wikileaks, including "IP addresses and associated data used by any person, other than Dynadot, who accessed the account for the domain name".
Wikileaks allows whistleblowers to post documents anonymously - at least when its webhost isn't coerced into turning over IP addresses and other information most customers would consider confidential.
According to this piece from Wired News, Wikileaks was unable to argue its position on the matter at a Friday court hearing because it only learned of the hearing a few hours before it started. Astonishingly, US District Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California signed off on the stipulation, anyway.
The episode is another reminder that an organization's security is only as good as the security of the people who provide its internet connection. Wikileaks claims that it is an "uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis". But this is true only if its webhosts can be trusted not to pull the plug on its customers or divulge sensitive client information.
In this case Julius Baer quickly realized it couldn't silence Wikileaks, so it went after a weaker link in the chain, which evidently was much less willing to put up a fight.
Wikileaks was founded in 2006 by people from a host of countries, including the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa. It has generated headlines by hosting documents exposing several high-profile scandals, including those related to the collapse of the UK's Northern Rock bank and to prisons in Iraq and and Guantanamo Bay. The site says it has posted more than 1.2 million documents.
According to Julius Baer, a former vice president called Rudolf Elmer posted the documents, which purport to show that the Cayman Islands bank helped customers hide assets and launder funds.
The contested documents remain available on Wikileaks websites hosted in other countries, including in here in Belgium and here in India. The site says here that over the past few days it has also withstood a 500 Mbps denial-of-service attack and a fire to its uninterruptible power supply.
Of course, there's no evidence that Julius Baer was behind either the attacks or the fire. But it's clear that Wikileaks hasn't been silenced, at least for now.
Hey, maybe there really is something to these claims about being uncensorable. ®