San Francisco - A federal district court judge in San Francisco today rescinded a controversial order that disabled the "wikileaks.org" domain name which had -- until two weeks ago -- pointed to Wikileaks, a website designed to give whistleblowers a forum for posting materials of public concern.
This week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) moved to intervene in the case, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). In a hearing in federal court today, EFF and its fellow intervenors and amici argued that the order infringed on the First Amendment rights of Internet users who have an interest in accessing material of public concern on the site. Ruling from the bench, Judge Jeffrey White cited concerns about the First Amendment, the effectiveness of disabling the wikileaks.org domain name, and the court's own jurisdiction over the case as reasons to dissolve his previous orders.
"We're very pleased that Judge White recognized the serious constitutional concerns raised by his earlier orders," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Attempting to interfere with the operation of an entire website because you have a dispute over some of its content is never the right approach. Disabling access to an Internet domain in an effort to prevent the world from accessing a handful of widely-discussed documents is not only unconstitutional -- it simply won't work."
Wikileaks permits third parties to post corporate and government documents that they believe expose wrongdoing. For example, in the past year individuals have posted materials documenting alleged human rights abuses in China and political corruption in Kenya.
The lawsuit began earlier this month, when Swiss bank Julius Baer filed suit against Wikileaks for hosting allegedly leaked documents regarding personal banking transactions of Julius Baer customers. Also sued was Wikileaks' domain name registrar, Dynadot LLC. On February 15, following a stipulation between Julius Baer and Dynadot, the court issued a permanent injunction, disabling the wikileaks.org domain name and preventing that domain name from being transferred to any other registrar.
In addition to dissolving the permanent injunction, which permits the wikileaks.org domain name to be reactivated, the court also declined to extend a previous temporary restraining order requiring Wikileaks to disable access to 14 disputed Julius Baer documents.
Joining the EFF, ACLU, and POGO motion to intervene was Wikileaks user Jordan McCorkle. The papers were filed in consultation with and on behalf of the intervenors by Steven Mayer of the law firm of Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin. Other attorneys on the case include Christopher Kao and Shaudy Danaye-Elmi of Howard Rice; Zimmerman, Cindy Cohn, and Kurt Opsahl of EFF; and Aden Fine and Ann Brick of the ACLU and ACLU-Northern California, respectively.
For the full order:
For more on the Wikileaks case:
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation