Wikileaks Court Fight Heats Up

Global Integrity
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Update: Cnet.com reports that Wikileaks has won its domain name back after a 90-minute court proceeding.

There are now nearly a hundred fillings in the case Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd. et al v. Wikileaks et al, with a battalion of media outlets and activist groups filing friend-of-the-court briefs. You can read all of them here.

Both sides have abandoned their early low profile, with a Baer press release stating that Wikileaks is putting account holders at risk and that, “This matter has nothing whatsoever to do with censorship or The First Amendment.” Wikileaks has responded with a flurry of press releases of their own.

The following are press releases I received via email over the last week. They are presented as received and without endorsement. Global Integrity has not confirmed the facts represented here.

Julius Baer STATEMENT ON Wikileaks.org CASE

ZURICH / NEW YORK, February 28, 2008 — Julius Baer wishes to address certain misconceptions relating to a recent court decision to take the Wikileaks.org website off line.

This decision was arrived at only after a month long effort on the part of Julius Baer and its advisors had failed to identify and engage the operators of Wikileaks in a dialogue regarding the unlawful posting of stolen and forged bank records. This matter has nothing whatsoever to do with censorship or The First Amendment. Instead, Julius Baer’s sole objective has always been limited to the removal of these private and legally protected documents from the website.

The documents in question are protected and prohibited from unauthorized publication under U.S., California and foreign consumer banking and privacy protection laws. The posting of confidential bank records by anonymous sources significantly harms the privacy rights of all individuals.

It is not and has never been Julius Baer’s intention to stifle anyone’s right to free speech. Indeed, Julius Baer has specifically made no attempt to remove material on the website which refers to the organization but which does not include information personal to its customers. However, Julius Baer denies the authenticity of this material and wholly rejects the serious and defamatory allegations which it contains.

Contacts:
Neil Shapiro, Intermarket Communications, 212-754-5423 or 917-470-6570
Jenna Agins, Intermarket Communications, 212-754-5610 or 917-470-6563
Martin Mosbacher, Intermarket Communications, 212-754-5449

Wikileaks statement: Wikileaks_blasts_Cayman_Islands_bank

Thursday February 28, 2008

Bank Julius Baer & Trust — the Swiss-Cayman “private banking” entity currently attempting to sue Wikileaks before US Federal court Justice Jeffery White in San Francisco today released a press release onto the “Business Wire” vanity wire service. The press release was subsequently picked up by Reuters and other wire services.

Wikileaks responds.

Bank Julies Baer & Trust, from here on in, simply referred to as Baer, claimed in relation to Wikileaks:

“It wasn’t our intention to shut down the Web site”.

This is a lie.

Baer’s requests to the court to do just that are a matter of public record. The only change made by Judge Jeffery White to Baer’s proposed “Wikileaks.org’ takedown order was to cross out the word ‘proposed’! Baer also wrote-for-the-judge a separate order in relation to the documents alone, which was similarly granted. Further, at any time subsequent Baer could have asked the court that its earlier request on the shutdown order be rescinded. It has not done so. While one might be tempted to blame the bank’s Hollywood lawyers Lavely & Singer for running amuck, Baer continues to employ the same law firm. This can only be seen as an endorsement of its conduct.

A Wikikeaks statement also highlights court filings of graduate student Daniel Mathews, who says that he has been sued simply for moderating a Wikileaks discussion group on the social networking site Facebook. Coverage here.

Declaration of Daniel Mathews [Exerpt]

On February 13, 2008, I was served via email (and also personally) with the Summons, Complaint, and other papers in this action. The emails from Plaintiffs’ counsel stated that I was a “WL Officer.” I am not an “officer” of “Wikileaks” or any other formal or informal organization responsible for the administration or management of Wikileaks. The Wikileaks site lists members of an “advisory board,” but I am notlisted as, and am not, one of them. I immediately responded that I did not know why I was being served with the documents, but that I “presume[d]” plaintiffs’ counsel had served me with the summons “because I am a registered user ofthe wikileaks website and have written some material there. ButI have no other connection to this case, have not read the documents
– 4 –
from Bank Julius Baer which are the subject of this case, have not written anything about them, and generally know very little about the case.”

12. Plaintiffs’ counsel responded: “Wikileaks lists you as an officer of the company on its Facebook page. As an officer of a defendant in this action, my client is entitled to serve you a copy of the summons and complaint pursuant to Rule 4(h)(1)(B) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Facebook is a website created for college students (and now used by others) as a social networking site. The Wikileaks website had invited people to start discussion groups on Facebook and other websites. The Facebook page at issue had identified me as the “Stanford rep.” of the discussion group, and the Facebook term “officer” has no significance; the fact that I am an “admin” merely indicates that I was a moderator of that discussion group. I responded to Plaintiff’s counsel: “I am an officer of a facebook group, which is essentially a message board for discussion of issues relating to wikileaks. I am not, and never have been, an officer of wikileaks,and I request you not to represent that I am.”

Nevertheless, on February 22, 2008, Plaintiffs counsel declared to this Court that “Plaintiffs served a copy of the TRO and OSC on the Wikileaks Defendants via e-mail, per the Court’s prior order, … to the personal e-mail address for a listed officer of Wikileaks.”

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One comment on “Wikileaks Court Fight Heats Up”

  • Naming Daniel Matthews gave an opening for a fine brief. Here’s a quote:
    The crowning irony is that Plaintiffs – who purport to be shocked, shocked that Wikileaks has promised anonymity to leakers – are a Swiss bank and its Cayman Island subsidiary. They have brought this case to protect the “privacy” of their customers (although they also vaguely allege that an unspecified number of these documents are “forged”). No doubt the bank secrecy laws of Switzerland and the Cayman Islands are regarded as sacred in those countries – which is precisely what enables such offshore tax havens to offer the ability to hide assets from the prying eyes of creditors, taxing authorities, and courts.

    Reply

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