Yesterday a federal judge ordered WikiLeaks off the internet.
You see, on Friday the secrecy-shrouded leaked-document Web site posted documents and an accompanying article claiming numerous examples of financial hanky-panky and whistleblower harassment by a Cayman Islands bank with Swiss ties. The bank did not take this kindly, and asked a U.S. court to kill the site’s account at a San Mateo-based host.
The judge—against both law and common sense—obliged.
I say law because the action seems a pretty blatant violation of the First Amendment, especially ample case law forbidding “prior restraint” of publication. And I say common sense because WikiLeaks was designed to circumvent just this sort of governmental injunction.
The project epitomizes today’s world, where information can be transmitted, collected, and stored without much regard for national borders. There are mirror sites hosted in Belgium and on the Christmas Islands, post office drop-boxes in Australia and Kenya, and false domain names designed to fool firewalls. So despite the boneheaded move, WikiLeaks hums on—and a sleepy bank story is getting a lot more notice than it deserves.
The New York Times has cited WikiLeaks twice, most recently in a February 5 semi-exclusive. Today the paper looks like it’s returning the favor in an article that covers all the right bases. Not only do the authors mention that the site (and, of course, the bank documents) remain available on at least three mirror sites, they printed the sites’ URLs—again, all three of them.
And for good measure they printed the site’s slightly-more injunction-proof IP address. Best I can tell, the Times hasn’t printed an IP address in the national section since October 1998.
So there you have it—four addresses to reach a “blocked” site, all printed in one of the world’s most prestigious newspapers. Probably not what the bank lawyers had in mind.Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.