by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 25th 2013 11:33pm
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 18th 2013 2:03pm
WSJ Claims That Wikileaks Is Not Journalism But Espionage By Taking A Bunch Of Quotes Out Of Context
from the reporting! dept
It looks as if Pfc. Bradley Manning and Julian Assange will go down in history as outliers, not trend setters. There have been no copycat leaks of massive quantities of diplomatic and intelligence documents, despite how easy the Internet makes it to leak and the fact that more than four million Americans have clearance to access government secrets.Um, might that have something to do with the fact that the US government went absolutely apeshit over the release and charged Manning with a variety of offenses that have the possibility of capital punishment? We've already discussed the fact that the administration's reaction likely created massive chilling effects for whistleblowers around the world. Pointing to the lack of anyone willing to step into that breach doesn't mean Manning was necessarily an "outlier." It just means the government's intimidation campaign against whistleblowers may have been quite effective.
Furthermore, requiring an exact "copycat" as the standard for whether or not leaking government docs was a one-time ordeal is just silly. Prior to Manning's leak, Wikileaks had a regular stream of important documents leaked to it, so I'm not sure what Crovitz thinks he's proving here.
Among the prosecution's more than 100 witnesses will be a Navy SEAL who participated in the raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. He'll testify to finding Manning-Assange documents on the terrorist leader's computer. Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.How much do you want to bet that terrorists have read the Wall Street Journal as well at times? How does that matter?
The key element of this espionage charge is intent: Did Pfc. Manning mean to give intelligence to the enemy? In his 35-page plea, Pfc. Manning describes himself as a whistleblower, but he doesn't explain what he was blowing the whistle on. The documents didn't disclose government wrongdoing. Instead, WikiLeaks posted unedited diplomatic and intelligence cables that identified by name Iraqis, Afghans and others who were helping the U.S. war effort. People were outed as homosexuals in countries where that makes them a target for deadly violence. Prosecutors will identify a long list of victims.And here, Crovitz is just lying. Either that or he's ignorant. First off, Manning highlighted some key things that he was blowing the whistle on in both his chat with Adrian Lamo and in his plea. Things like the "collateral murder" episode, in which US military helicopters shot reporters. I'd consider that (and the ensuing coverup) to be "government wrongdoing." Furthermore, it's simply untrue that Wikileaks just "posted unedited diplomatic and intelligence cables." Wikileaks worked with a small group of newspapers -- including the NY Times, The Guardian and others -- to sort through the leaked cables, redact sensitive information, and highlight which stories were important.
Building a case that Pfc. Manning knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy seems open and shut. The more interesting question is how this requirement of intent applies to Mr. Assange.No, it doesn't seem "open and shut" at all. Having the press report on something embarrassing is not "knowingly giving intelligence to the enemy." If it is, then shouldn't Bob Woodward and his White House sources be facing similar charges? After all, Woodward's book Obama's War was recommended by Al Qaeda for people to read after the death of Osama bin Laden. Woodward's book contained much more classified info, including the code names for NSA programs, details of CIA activities in Afghanistan, and details about Chinese hackers breaking into Obama's computers. But somehow that's considered legitimate reporting, but Manning's activities are "an open and shut case" of knowingly giving intelligence to the enemy? That's ridiculous. Manning gave information to the press. It may have embarrassed the US at times, but that's not the same as giving "intelligence to the enemy."
President Obama has used the Espionage Act often, invoking it six times to bring cases against government officials for providing classified information to the media—twice the number of such cases brought by other presidents since the law was passed in 1917. So it's at least curious that Mr. Assange hasn't been charged.It's not that curious at all when you realize that Wikileaks didn't "leak" information it had privileged access to, but rather worked with other news organizations to publish information that had been leaked to Wikileaks.
Bill Keller, a former executive editor of the New York Times, recently wrote: "As a matter of law I believe WikiLeaks and the New York Times are equally protected by the First Amendment." That misses the point. Unlike WikiLeaks, the mission of newspapers is to inform the public. Mr. Assange's stated mission is to undermine the U.S. That ought to make it much easier to prove that he intends to help the enemy.This is a total whitewash of actual history. We actually wrote about Wikileaks right when it launched, and its goal from the beginning was also to "inform the public." And, early on it had little interest in the US. When it launched, we noted that it was focused on Asia, the Middle East and Africa -- areas where they were interested in exposing corruption, which is a public service. It's only the rewriting of history that suggests Wikileaks was about anyone trying to "undermine the US." I'm sure that, now, having seen everything the US has done to go absolutely apeshit about Wikileaks, that Assange doesn't have pleasant feelings towards the country (of which he is not and has never been a citizen), but it seems like an incredible leap beyond basic facts to argue that the mission of Wikileaks was to "undermine the US."
"An authoritarian conspiracy that cannot think efficiently," [Assange] wrote in 2006, "cannot act to preserve itself."It might help to read where that came from, and note that it actually builds off a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, which says: "Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul this unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of statesmanship." Assange's "manifesto" may have been naive and silly, grandiose and full of itself, but that hardly makes it evidence of a plan to undermine the US specifically. It is a general call for stopping authoritarianism around the globe by increasing transparency and stopping the powers that be from communicating too much in secret, something that many people feel is a reasonable goal.
But news executives and media lawyers should think twice before treating Mr. Assange as if he were a journalist. If leaders in the news industry blur the distinction between their journalists and self-proclaimed enemies of the state like Mr. Assange, they may encourage prosecutors to make the same false equivalence.Frankly, I'm no fan of Assange, who often seems incredibly self-important for no good reason, but Crovitz's willingness to toss out the press freedom he relies on, based on taking a few quotes and actions completely out of context to claim that a media organization can be declared the "enemy of the state" for wishing to change government to make it more open and more responsive to the will of the people is really frightening. That he doesn't realize how that can be twisted and turned around on himself and the wider Wall Street Journal directly is even more troubling.
Just for fun, how difficult would it be to make the case that Crovitz himself is an "enemy of the state"? Let's make this clear: in the following paragraph I am deliberately taking Crovitz's comments out of context, in the same way he did with Assange's (though, unlike Crovitz, I actually link to the original sources -- Crovitz just implies what he thinks Assange and Wikileaks have said most of the time). Let's go: In one recent column, he supports "a march on Washington" to change US policy to make it more immigrant friendly. So, he's advocating attacking our own government for the aid of foreigners? Hmmm... In another column, Crovitz actively calls for tech companies to become "united to go after overreaching government." That same column complains about the US government and laws they pass. That sounds like a call for revolution and overthrowing the US government. Clearly, he's an enemy of the state. In another piece he calls for ramping up the police state in the US, cheering on entrapment, which seems to clearly go against American ideals. In another piece, Crovitz cheers on France while criticizing the US government. In another story, he calls for using US taxpayer money to help Iran and China!
And that's just with a very, very quick stroll through some of Crovitz's recent opinion pieces. Meanwhile, the organization he writes for, The Wall Street Journal, is in the news today for supposedly bribing Chinese officials. Hmm...
Yes, my paragraph about Crovitz is totally bogus, but if he's willing to toss out freedom of the press, and twist statements about seeking more transparency and being against authoritarianism as being an "enemy of the state", well, he shouldn't be surprised when people show that he, too, is an enemy of the US.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 13th 2013 3:49am
from the wow dept
Specifically, Keller argues first, that Manning was trying to dump all of the information he had, indiscriminately, and the wise reporters at the NY Times would have figured out what was really important: "If Manning had connected with The Times, we would have found ourselves in a relationship with a nervous, troubled, angry young Army private who was offering not so much documentation of a particular government outrage as a chance to fish in a sea of secrets." Furthermore, he argues that Manning's motivations in making his speech to the court last week somehow contradict the only other clear statement into Manning's motivations: his 2010 chat logs with Adrian Lamo that Lamo turned over to the government, leading to Manning's arrest. Those chat logs were leaked to the press, and Keller argues that Manning's reasoning for leaking the material is not clear, summarizing it as:
His political views come across as inchoate. When asked, he has trouble recalling any specific outrages that needed exposing. His cause was "open diplomacy" or — perhaps in jest — "worldwide anarchy."Furthermore, Keller insults the many people who have supported Manning by suggesting that Manning has created his current views based on what his supporters have told him.
However, as multiple people shot back, this is simply untrue. Author Greg Mitchell points out that Keller is flat out "wrong" and that if he actually read the chat logs, Manning lays out his reasoning, which is entirely consistent with his statement in court. He points out that contrary to Manning "having trouble recalling any specific outrages," Manning has no problem doing so, pointing to examples of corruption in favor of Iraqi prime minister Maliki (rounding up dissidents who were just exercising basic free speech rights), along with the now famous Collateral Murder video. Mitchell points out that for Keller to claim that Manning had not mentioned anything specific, is simply wrong:
More from the Lamo chat log: It virtually opens with Manning saying he had seen evidence of "awful things" such as at Gitmo and Bagram. Then he mentions "criminal political dealings" and cites the "buildup to the Iraq war." He details what he saw on the "Collateral Murder" video and why he wanted it released ("I want people to see the truth"). He wants to get this and much else out (he IDs more) because it might "actually change something." As for the State Dept. cables, he hopes they will spark "worldwide discussion, debates and reforms." Yet Keller claims this was all "vague."When Nathan Fuller, a supporter of Manning, emailed Keller about all of this, Keller doubled down and stood by his original assessment, saying nothing more than that he believed his characterization is "fair." When pressed, Keller reveals his general attitude towards Manning's supporters, claiming that they have "assembled a coherent political motivation by fishing here and there in the Lamo file." As opposed to Keller who quoted five whole words from the transcripts and took even those out of context?
Meanwhile, Daniel Ellsberg, who probably identifies with Manning more than anyone else in the world, having famously given the Pentagon Papers to the NY Times decades ago, has responded angrily to Keller (video) stating that: "It shows him as an arrogant, ignorant, condescending person. A very smart person who manages to be stupid in certain ways.... What we've heard are people like the NY Times who have consistently slandered [Bradly Manning]."
He, personally, had access to material higher than top secret, higher than Bill Keller has ever seen.... He chose not to put out the top secret communications intelligence, to which he clearly had access. He put out only material that he felt would be embarrassing [rather than harmful], and which, three years later we can say, only was embarrassing.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 5th 2013 10:01am
Bradley Manning Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize As People Begin Realizing How Damaging His Case Is To A Free Press
from the wake-up-people dept
A country's constitutional culture is made up of the stories we tell each other about the kind of nation we are. When we tell ourselves how strong our commitment to free speech is, we grit our teeth and tell of Nazis marching through Skokie. And when we think of how much we value our watchdog press, we tell the story of Daniel Ellsberg. Decades later, we sometimes forget that Ellsberg was prosecuted, smeared, and harassed. Instead, we express pride in a man's willingness to brave the odds, a newspaper’s willingness to take the risk of publishing, and a Supreme Court’s ability to tell an overbearing White House that no, you cannot shut up your opponents.Yet, in the case of Manning, the government is going much, much, much further. It is trying to make leaking information to the press the equivalent of espionage and aiding the enemy -- a capital offense. If you want to create chilling effects on free speech and a free press, this is how you do it. If you believe in the stories above, about the fundamental respect for the First Amendment, then the nature of the prosecution should worry you a great deal.
As for those who claim that leaking to Wikileaks is not like the Pentagon Papers or leaking something to the press, Benkler's detailed analysis shows why that's bunk. Since Wikileaks released some of the material that Manning sent them, the organization has been painted as being this evil anti-American organization, and there's also been a big spotlight on Julian Assange, who is certainly not presented as a particularly likeable character. But, as Benkler points out, before Wikileaks got that material, it was regularly seen as an upstart media property, and a great place for whistleblowers to go to expose fraud and corruption. In other words, the idea that Manning chose to go to Wikileaks to harm the US seems quite unlikely. His story of exposing wrongdoing by the US and forcing a debate on how to have America live up to its principles has more credibility when you realize just how Wikileaks was portrayed prior to Manning's material being submitted:
The reputation that WikiLeaks has been given by most media outlets over the past two and a half years, though, obscures much of this—it just feels less like “the press” than the New York Times. This is actually the point on which I am expected to testify at the trial, based on research I did over the months following the first WikiLeaks disclosure in April 2010. When you read the hundreds of news stories and other materials published about WikiLeaks before early 2010, what you see is a young, exciting new media organization. The darker stories about Julian Assange and the dangers that the site poses developed only in the latter half of 2010, as the steady release of leaks about the U.S. triggered ever-more hyperbolic denouncements from the Administration (such as Joe Biden's calling Assange a “high-tech terrorist”), and as relations between Assange and his traditional media partners soured.It's sometimes difficult to remember that, given everything that happened in the past two and a half years.
In early 2010, when Manning did his leaking, none of that had happened yet. WikiLeaks was still a new media phenom, an outfit originally known for releasing things like a Somali rebel leader’s decision to assassinate government officials in Somalia, or a major story exposing corruption in the government of Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya. Over the years WikiLeaks also exposed documents that shined a light on U.S. government practices, such as operating procedures in Camp Delta in Guantanamo or a draft of a secretly negotiated, highly controversial trade treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. But that was not the primary focus. To name but a few examples, it published documents that sought to expose a Swiss Bank’s use of Cayman accounts to help rich clients avoid paying taxes, oil related corruption in Peru, banking abuses in Iceland, pharmaceutical company influence peddling at the World Health Organization, and extra-judicial killings in Kenya. For its work, WikiLeaks won Amnesty International's New Media award in 2009 and the Freedom of Expression Award from the British magazine, Index of Censorship, in 2008.
Benkler goes on to point out that the "precedents" that the US tries to rely on to argue that whistleblowing to the press is a form of aiding the enemy are ancient, obsolete and laughable. Many of the arguments go back to some Civil War-era precedents, and even then, when you look at the details you realize they were discussing something extremely different than what happened with Manning (i.e., the cases involved using the press to send coded messages about confidential info, not releasing the info to the public).
In the end, Benkler makes a powerful point:
If Bradley Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, the introduction of a capital offense into the mix would dramatically elevate the threat to whistleblowers. The consequences for the ability of the press to perform its critical watchdog function in the national security arena will be dire. And then there is the principle of the thing. However technically defensible on the language of the statute, and however well-intentioned the individual prosecutors in this case may be, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror of this case and ask: Are we the America of Japanese Internment and Joseph McCarthy, or are we the America of Ida Tarbell and the Pentagon Papers? What kind of country makes communicating with the press for publication to the American public a death-eligible offense?Given all of that, you can see why some have nominated Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize. While it is highly unlikely that Manning will be given serious consideration for the prize, the more you look at the case, the more you realize how dangerous the US government's own argument is here, and how much of an attack it is on fundamental principles we supposedly believe in and fight for here in the US.
What a coup for Al Qaeda, to have maimed our constitutional spirit to the point where we might become that nation.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 23rd 2013 11:08pm
from the fishing-expedition dept
We've already discussed how Wikileaks bizarrely outed Aaron Swartz as a possible source, and that's leading to other speculation as well, including a question as to whether or not the grand jury investigation into Swartz was really more about the fishing expedition against Wikileaks, rather than the whole MIT/JSTOR effort. The Emptywheel blog (linked above) notes that Swartz's defense indicated it was aware of a much deeper investigation concerning Swartz that went beyond MIT and JSTOR to Twitter, Google, Amazon, the Internet Archive and possibly more -- and asked the government to turn over such materials:
Given all of that, it's leading some to wonder if this was more about the big fishing expedition a grand jury has supposedly been working on for quite some time, trying to sniff out anything that can be used against Wikileaks. There is no confirmed connection to the Wikileaks investigation, but Emptywheel notes some oddities in the timing -- such as the grand jury investigation into Aaron seeming to ramp up just as it appeared that the big Wikileaks grand jury was coming up empty. In fact, as Emptywheel showed in a different post, it looked like the investigation into Swartz was going absolutely nowhere... until the grand jury suddenly showed renewed interest long after the arrest. The post notes that the Secret Service didn't even bother searching the laptop onto which Swartz had downloaded the JSTOR material for weeks after getting involved in his case.
These paragraphs request information relating to grand jury subpoenas. Paragraph 1 requested that the government provide “[a]ny and all grand jury subpoenas – and any and all information resulting from their service – seeking information from third parties including but not limited to Twitter. MIT, JSTOR, Internet Archive that would constitute a communication from or to Aaron Swartz or any computer associated with him.” Paragraph 4 requested “[a]ny and all SCA applications, orders or subpoenas to MIT, JSTOR, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Internet Archive or any other entity seeking information regarding Aaron Swartz, any account associated with Swartz, or any information regarding communications to and from Swartz and any and all information resulting from their service.” Paragraph 20 requested “[a]ny and all paper, documents, materials, information and data of any kind received by the Government as a result of the service of any grand jury subpoena on any person or entity relating to this investigation.”
Swartz requests this information because some grand jury subpoenas used in this case contained directives to the recipients which Swartz contends were in conflict with Rule 6(e)(2)(A), see United States v. Kramer, 864 F.2d 99, 101 (11th Cir. 1988), and others sought certification of the produced documents so that they could be offered into evidence under Fed. R. Evid. 803(6), 901. Swartz requires the requested materials to determine whether there is a further basis for moving to exclude evidence under the Fourth Amendment (even though the SCA has no independent suppression remedy).
Moreover, defendant believes that the items would not have been subpoenaed by the experienced and respected senior prosecutor, nor would evidentiary certifications have been requested, were the subpoenaed items not material to either the prosecution or the defense. Defendant’s viewing of any undisclosed subpoenaed materials would not be burdensome, and disclosure of the subpoenas would not intrude upon the government’s work product privilege, as the subpoenas were served on third parties, thus waiving any confidentiality or privilege protections.
But what happened in between the arrest and the sudden decision to really look into Swartz? The DOJ drew a big, fat blank against Wikileaks. The timeline:
- Swartz was arrested on January 6th, 2011.
- On February 9th it was reported that the Justice Department had drawn a blank on anything it could use to go after Wikileaks.
- That same day, February 9th, the Secret Service suddenly got around to issuing warrants to search Swartz's hardware
I will say that I'm far from convinced there was a full connection here. There is way too much speculation and conjecture and it is quite possible (even probable) that the timing is all a coincidence. But the timing is at least worth noting, since it seems that more and more information keeps coming out about this.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 27th 2012 4:57am
from the uh...-what? dept
Meanwhile, Assange himself was able to address the UN via video, in which he lashed out at the hypocrisy of the US government, defending freedom of speech with one breath, while at the same time seeking to bring down Wikileaks.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 7th 2012 5:15am
from the how-we-got-into-this-mess dept
This Court should find that such an arrangement is uncon-stitutional. More than thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a presumptive right of access to criminal proceed-ings. See Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 573 (1980) (plurality opinion). As discussed below, the Court has reiterated its holding repeatedly, and the nation’s military courts have applied the same reasoning to extend this right of public access to courts-martial. Amici recognize that various interests, including the need to protect national security information, may justify sealed records in certain circumstances. They do not, however, general-ly justify complete secrecy. In fact, previous disputes about claims of national security have been litigated in the open: “Briefs in the Pentagon Papers case and the hydrogen bomb plans case were available to the press, although sealed appendices discussed in detail the documents for which protection was sought.”Hopefully the court recognizes the significant public interest here and makes such documents public by default.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 6th 2012 1:41am
Did The US & Sweden Team Up To Get Cambodia To Arrest The Pirate Bay Founder... About Something Unrelated To TPB?
from the wouldn't-put-it-past-them dept
Either way, let's start with the basics. First, Cambodia has admitted that it will be deporting Svartholm, even though there's no extradition treaty between Cambodia and Sweden. Of course, deportation and extradition are not the same thing, and you don't need an extradition treaty to deport someone. But it is still notable.
But then there are two bits of news that seem like quite the coincidence. First up: Ron Kirk, the US Trade Rep, and the main US government official responsible for ACTA and the TPP... just happened to be in Cambodia the very day that Svartholdm was arrested... and, the very next day, Sweden just happened to announce a $59 million "aid package" with Cambodia. Is it any wonder that some are asking if Sweden basically paid Cambodia to arrest Svartholm... and if the US had a helping hand in all of this?
At this point, it certainly could all be a coincidence -- which is the direction I tend to lean for the time being -- but it is quite a coincidence. We already know that the US government has been heavily involved in getting Sweden to put The Pirate Bay on trial. In fact, the US's deep involvement in Swedish copyright laws and policies has been a source of friction with some Swedish officials. Furthermore, Ron Kirk's entire role is about negotiating agreements and treaties between countries -- so the fact that a Swedish/Cambodia deal came together just as he was in the country? It certainly wouldn't be shocking to find out that he had a hand in making the deal happen.
But, let's add in one more bit of info. Svartholm's fellow TPB'er Peter Sunde is claiming that the arrest is not related to The Pirate Bay, though other reports claim otherwise. Some other friends are also insisting that it's not related to TPB, though I will admit to being skeptical. More surprising, perhaps, is Sunde's suggestion that the arrest may actually have more to do with Wikileaks, which Svartholm's company used to host, rather than The Pirate Bay... Of course, if that's the case, it doesn't discount the involvement of the US or Sweden (and might only reinforce it). Though it does add an element of... oddity to the whole situation.
Of course, even if the arrest is about something else, if he does end up being shipped back to Sweden, the TPB issue won't just go away. And it's likely that whoever is involved -- whether it's these other two governments or not -- recognizes that as well.
Update: TorrentFreak is now reporting that the arrest is about a tax hack:
Svartholm’s arrest is related to a hacking operation that may date back to 2010.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 29th 2012 7:11am
from the hypocrisy dept
Case in point: there's been significant concern in India, as the government has been censoring Twitter accounts of certain journalists and political groups, as well as blocking certain websites (sometimes just blog posts, other times, full websites). As that last link explains, the content targeted for censorship tends to have to do with content around "communal issues and rioting," and thus there's an argument to be made that the censorship is for the benefit of the public, to prevent riots. Even so, of course, one can question whether or not such censorship is even effective, let alone the rather obvious temptation for those in power to overblock for their own benefit. Indeed, that last link explains that there have been "egregious mistakes" in how the blocks have been carried out.
And what about the US? With plenty of attention being paid to the debate over this Indian censorship, the US State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, was asked her thoughts about what was happening, and trotted out the standard line about internet freedom:
"On the larger question of Internet freedom, you know where we are on that issue, and we are always on the side of full freedom of the Internet," she said.Which sounds great, of course, but if Nuland thought that such a blanket statement would let her off, she was mistaken. Reporters immediately hit back, pointing to examples of the US fighting against internet freedom in its own back yard. And Nuland apparently wasn't happy, and pulled out the "but that's different!" excuse:
But when she was probed on the issue of WikiLeaks, Nuland snapped: "WikiLeaks didn't have to do with freedom of the Internet. It had to do with the compromise of US government classified information."To be fair the US government has not "blocked" Wikileaks. It has blocked it on certain government computers and has used public pressure to have its hosting and payment processors cut it off. Whether or not that's to the same level as to what's happening in other countries may be debatable, but it certainly opens up the US to criticism on that point. And that's the real issue here. Even if you argue "but that's different," just the fact that the US has opened itself up to such an easy retort any time it argues for internet freedom in countries that espouse censorship, it makes it that much harder for the US to seriously push an internet freedom agenda abroad.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Jul 12th 2012 9:10am
from the economic-censorship dept
It's been about a year since Wikileaks filed its complaint against Visa, Mastercard and Paypal for cutting off all payments to the site following the infamous leak of the State Department cables. Wikileaks saw this is a clear attempt to censor the site using an economic workaround, and a violation of their contract—and now at least one court has agreed. Today Wikileaks announced a significant victory in the case against Visa, with the court giving them two weeks to start processing payments again:
In a case against Valitor, formerly VISA Iceland, Reykjavík District Court just ruled the company had violated contract laws by blocking credit card donations to Wikileaks. After WikiLeaks' publications revealing U.S. war crimes and statecraft in 2010, U.S. financial institutions, including VISA, MasterCard, Bank of America, erected a banking blockade against WikiLeaks wholly outside of any judicial or administrative process. The blockade stripped away over 95% of donations from supporters of WikiLeaks, costing the organization in excess of USD 20M.
The court ruled that the donation gateway should be reopened within 14 days otherwise Valitor will be penalized with a fine of 800 000 ISK daily. WikiLeaks is persuing several actions against the blockade and a European Commission preliminary investigation into the blockade was started last July. A Commission decision on whether to pursue the financial services companies involved in the blockade is expected before the end of August.
This is a big win for Wikileaks and a bad sign for the other companies complicit in the payment blockade. Whatever you may think of Wikileaks, cutting off their access to donations at the payment-processing level is a highly questionable shortcut—and hopefully the courts recognize this in the cases against other payment providers.