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Court Orders Whistle-Blowing Web Site Taken Down

February 18, 2008

A California court has ruled that a popular whistle-blower Web site that allowed users to anonymously post official government and corporate documents online must now be taken down.

The Web site, Wikileaks.org, was disconnected Friday night following the ruling in a case brought by lawyers working for the Swiss banking group Julius Baer.  The dispute concerned several documents posted on the Wikileaks that allegedly revealed that the bank was involved with money laundering and tax evasion.

The documents were purportedly posted by Rudolf Elmer, former vice president of the bank’s Cayman Island’s operation.

BBC News reported that Julius Baer had asked for the documents to be removed from the Web site because they could impact a separate ongoing legal case in Switzerland.

Judge Jeffery White presided over the case, and ordered Dynadot, the company that controls Wikileak’s domain name, to follow six court orders. These orders include taking the main Web site offline and removing all traces of Wikileaks from its servers, and “prevent[ing] the domain name from resolving to the wikileaks.org website or any other website or server other than a blank park page, until further order of this Court.”

The court hearing took place last week and as of Friday evening Dynadot had blocked all access to Wikileaks. However, other versions of the Web site hosted in other countries such as India and Belgium are still accessible.

Wikileaks has objected to the ruling, claiming the order was “unconstitutional” and that the site had been “forcibly censored”.

A spokesperson for Julius Baer said he could not comment on the case because of “pending legal proceedings”.  Wikileaks said it was not represented at the hearing because it was “given only hours notice” via e-mail.

Wikileaks was founded in 2006 by dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and technologists from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa, and claims to have posted more than 1.2 million documents.  But the company has been controversial from its very beginning, with many questioning the motives of the site’s founders.   Most recently, the site made available a confidential briefing document regarding the collapse of Britain’s Northern Rock bank.

BBC News said Dynadot had not yet responded to requests for comment.

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