Judge Reverses His Order Disabling Wikileaks Web Site

The withdrawal of an order by a federal judge that led to the shutting down of the wikileaks.org website is by far the biggest story of the last few days. Originally the judge signed an order requiring the registrar Dynadot to disable the wikileaks.org domain name.In making his decision, “United States District Judge Jeffrey S. White appeared at times visibly frustrated that technology might have outrun the law and that, as a result, the court might not be able to rein in information disclosed online,” reported the New York Times.”We live in an age when people can do some good things and people can do some terrible things without accountability necessarily in a court of law,” Judge White said.Judge White cited two main reasons for rescinding his previous injunctions according to InfoWorld. According to InfoWorld, the “judge noted that both the plaintiff in the case and the owner of the Wikileaks.org domain name were foreign entities and therefore outside the court’s jurisdiction. Although there is no firm evidence of the citizenship of the owner of the wikileaks.org domain name, ‘counsel for the [owner] represented that the owner of the domain name wikileaks.org is a citizen of Australia and a resident of Kenya,’ the judge noted in his ruling. As a result the ‘Court is concerned that it may well lack subject matter jurisdiction over this matter in its entirety,’ Judge White noted in his ruling.”He also noted that the injunctions he had issued asking Wikileaks’ domain registrar Dynadot to disable the domain name was totally pointless. ‘The record currently before the Court indicates that even the broad injunction issued as to Dynadot had exactly the opposite effect as was intended,’ the judge noted in his ruling. Not only did the disputed material continue to be available via numerous mirror sites, the media attention generated by the case ensured that more people knew about the availability of the information on the Internet than before, he said.”Criticism of the original judge’s decision came from civil rights group such as the ACLU and EFF that revolved around First Amendment issues, and the judge’s decision means these “meaty” questions will not be addressed. The decision “was a home run for the 1st Amendment,” said Matt Zimmerman, attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.While William Briggs, attorney for the Zurich-based bank, Julius Baer & Co., that sought the injunction, said he was troubled by the judge’s action.”It’s a shame the judge abdicated judicial authority to the Internet,” Briggs said. “This bodes ill for the American public [because] things they consider to be private are now free rein if anyone on the Internet gets a hold of them.”The lawsuit that led to the dispute was brought by a Swiss bank and its Cayman Islands subsidiary against Wikileaks and Dynadot, the registrar for wikileaks.org. “The bank, Bank Julius Baer & Co., claimed that Wikileaks had displayed confidential, personally identifiable account information of its customers, as a result of possibly criminal actions by a former employee. Lawyers for the bank on Friday repeatedly told Judge White that Julius Baer clients had a right to keep their account information private and that there was no compelling interest to justify their disclosure. In this way lawyers for the bank set up a conflict between freedom of speech and the right to personal privacy,” reported the New York Times.While the judge appeared to be unhappy to withdraw his order, “he said that he feared the initial order suspending Wikileaks.org raised serious questions of unjustified prior restraint on free speech, and that in any event, once the documents were online, the court might well be powerless,” according to the New York Times.”Maybe that’s just the reality of the world that we live in,” Judge White said. “When this genie gets out of the bottle, that’s it.”Judge White’s decision about the court being powerless was amplified by the documents online and rapidly being republished around the world, reported AP.For more reading on the case and sources for the above story, see:

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