As for why this California judge ordered the whole site taken down over a few documents, that's not clear. As the BBC reports, "The case was brought by lawyers working for the Swiss banking group Julius Baer. It concerned several documents posted on the site which allegedly reveal that the bank was involved with money laundering and tax evasion." Why didn't the judge just didn't order the documents taken down instead of the whole site? We hope to get some expert guidance on the question.
Update: Just spoke with Steve Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy, who offered a clue. "My hunch is that the action was dictated by the practical options. [The judge and Julius Baer] don't know who wikileaks.org is or who the responsible parties are upon whom a court order could be served. What they did know was the U.S. based internet service provider." So they got the ISP to shut the site down. "If they had known who to serve the order to – who represents Wikileaks --, then they might have chosen a more targeted action." Nevertheless, he thought the judge's move was "extraordinary," based as it was on the bank's contention that these were legally protected documents.
One of the problems that a secret site faces is that the domain name system, the service that converts web names into the IP addresses that the servers use, requires a real person to be registered as the owner, even if the location of the physical server is hidden behind layers of obscuring technology.
The Wikileaks team approached John Young, a New York based architect who has run his own public disclosure site at Cryptome for many years, and he agreed to help out.
Unfortunately he began to be suspicious of the motives and capabilities of the organisers, and after they failed to reassure them he pulled out - pausing only to publish all of the contents of the supposedly secret wikileaks mailing list on his own site.
The BBC understands that Julius Baer asked for the documents to be removed because they could have an impact on a separate legal case ongoing in Switzerland.
The court documents show that no lawyer has stepped forward to defend Wikileaks in the case, and that Wikileaks did not respond to Julius Baer's legal filings, including the original complaint, which was filed February 8th.
Judge White’s order disabling the entire site “is clearly not constitutional,” said David Ardia, the director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School. “There is no justification under the First Amendment for shutting down an entire Web site.”
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