Judge orders WikiLeaks offline, then backs off

The WikiLeaks.org site is offline today, following a series of orders from a US District Court in San Francisco.

wikileaks.jpgThe WikiLeaks.org site is offline today, following a series of orders from a US District Court in San Francisco. WikiLeaks had posted numerous documents "allegedly reveal secret Julius Baer trust structures used for asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion." (WikiLeaks press release, Feb. 18, 2008.))

JB sought the injunction because "several documents posted on the site ... allegedly reveal that the bank was involved with money laundering and tax evasion. The documents were allegedly posted by Rudolf Elmer, former vice president of the bank's Cayman Island's operation." (BBC, "Whistle Blower Site Taken Offline.)
In a somewhat confusing flurry of orders, the court first ordered operator Dynadot LLC to "immediately disable the wikileaks.org domain name and account to prevent access to and any changes from being made to the domain name and account information, until further order of this Court." (Order Granting Permanent Injunction, Feb. 15, 2008.))

That order was the result of a stipulation (that is, agreement) between Dynadot and the plaintiff in the case, Swiss banking group Julius Baer.

But hours later the court amended the order, removing the requirement to disable the entire WikiLeaks domain but ordering that all JB documents be removed from all servers. This new order is a temporary restraining order, where the first order was a permanent injunction. Both orders were issued after an ex parte hearing, to which WikiLeaks says it received only hours notice.

It seems that WikiLeaks lawyers were able to convince the judge that something was amiss here, because the second order, a TRO, provides WikiLeaks an opportunity to answer (by Feb. 20) and JB to respond to that answer (by Feb. 26.) One question is whether JB lied about there being a stipulation for WikiLeaks to go offline, since WL compained so vociferously about it and the order was so quickly amended.

A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Feb. 29 at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

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