Last Friday, a federal district court judge in San Francisco issued a stunningly broad injunction that brought down Wikileaks, a site that is developing what it describes as an "uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis."
The case was initiated earlier in the week by Julius Baer Bank and Trust Company, a Cayman Islands banking entity, which along with its Swiss parent company filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order seeking to enjoin Wikileaks from publishing or distributing copies of documents the plaintiffs claim contain "stolen or otherwise wrongfully obtained confidential and protected bank files and records."
On February 15, 2008, the court issued what it captioned as an "Order Granting Permanent Injunction." This order, which appears to be the result of a stipulation between the plaintiffs and Dynadot, Wikileaks' domain name registrar and web host, required that Dynadot immediately disable the entire Wikileaks.org domain name and account and remove all DNS hosting records.
Later that same day, the judge must have finally read the United States Constitution and then quickly issued an Amended Temporary Restraining Order that drops the requirement that Dynadot disable the entire Wikileaks.org domain. Among other things, the amended order enjoins the defendants from "displaying, posting, publishing, distributing, or linking to . . . all documents and information originating from [the plaintiffs' banks] which are internal non-public company documents and/or which contains private client or customer bank records." (I should note, however, that the original order is still listed on the court's docket and the amended order does not rescind -- or even mention -- the earlier order.)
As of February 18, 2008, the Wikileaks.org domain is still down, but the organization issued a press release through one of its mirror sites:
Transparency group Wikileaks forcibly censored at ex-parte Californian hearing -- ordered to print blank pages -- 'wikileaks.org' name forcibly deleted from Californian domain registrar -- the best justice Cayman Islands money launderers can buy?
When the transparency group Wikileaks was censored in China last year, no-one was too surprised. After all, the Chinese government also censors the Paris based Reporters Sans Frontiers and New York Based Human Rights Watch. And when Wikileaks published the secret censorship lists of Thailand's military Junta, no-one was too surprised when people in that country had to go to extra lengths to read the site. But on Friday the 15th, February 2008, in the home of the free and the land of the brave, and a constitution which states "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press", the Wikileaks.org press was shutdown.
The court has scheduled a hearing on the injunction for February 29, 2008. You can follow developments in the case by going to the CMLP's database entry: Julius Baer Bank and Trust v. Wikileaks.
UPDATE: I posted some additional commentary on the case: Making Sense of the Wikileaks Fiasco: Prior Restraints in the Internet Age.