A New Public- PrivateThreatto the InternetCommons Dædalus, the Journal ofthe American Academy of Arts & Sciences
damaging to the security of troops andhuman rights workers, but as time passed,formal Pentagon assessments sent toCongress suggested that no such harmhad occurred.
On November 28, Wiki-Leaks and its traditional-media partnersbegan to release documents selected froma cache of about 250,000 classi½ed cablesthat U.S. embassies around the world hadsent to the State Department. In late No-vember and December they published,in redacted form, a few hundred of thesecables. WikiLeaks’s decision to publish thematerials, including when and how theywere published, was protected by FirstAmendment law. Indeed, precedents es-tablished at least as far back as the
case support the propositionthat a U.S. court would not have orderedremoval or suppression of the documents,nor would it have accepted a criminal pros-ecution of WikiLeaks or any of its editorsand writers.
Despite the constitutional privilege thatallowed WikiLeaks to publish the leakeddocuments, American political ½gureswidely denounced the disclosures. More-over, critics appeared to blame only Wiki-Leaks, even though traditional outlets suchas
The New York Times
were providing ac-cess to the same cables, and in the sameform. The most effective critic, Chairmanof the Senate Homeland Security Com-mittee Senator Joseph Lieberman, urgedcompanies providing services to Wiki-Leaks to cease doing so. Senator Lieber-man issued his call on December 1, 2010,following a well-crafted letter from theState Department to WikiLeaks sent No-vember 27, 2010. That letter did not takethe legally indefensible position that Wiki-Leaks itself had broken the law. Instead,it correctly asserted that the law had beenbroken (by someone), insinuating thatWikiLeaks was the offending party. Notsurprisingly, implicated service providerswere among those who misread the let-ter. In a critical move, PayPal discontin-ued its service to WikiLeaks; a vice pres-ident of the ½rm, commenting publicly,pointed to the November 27 letter, not toSenator Lieberman’s call, as the reasonthat PayPal believed WikiLeaks had bro-ken the law, thus triggering the ½rm’s de-cision to stop payment service to Wiki-Leaks.
The State Department letter wascomplemented by a series of public state-ments that tried to frame WikiLeaks’s em-bassy cable release as international ter-rorism. Secretary of State Hillary Clintoncalled the release of the cables “an attackon the international community.” VicePresident Joseph Biden explicitly statedthat Julian Assange, the founder of Wiki-Leaks, was “more like a high-tech terror-ist than the Pentagon Papers.” SenatorDianne Feinstein wrote a
Wall Street Jour-nal
editorial calling for Assange’s pros-ecution under the Espionage Act. Someright-wing politicians simply called forhis assassination on the model of U.S.targeted killings against Taliban and AlQaeda leaders.
Against the backdrop of this massivepublic campaign against WikiLeaks, Sen-ator Lieberman’s December 1 public ap-peal was immediately followed by a seriesof service denials:
Amazon removesWikiLeaks materials from its cloud-storage facility.
WikiLeaks moves stor-ageto
registrar serving the WikiLeaks.org do-main, stops pointing the domain nameto WikiLeaks’s server.
WikiLeaks uses nu-meric
addresses updated throughTwitter and begins to rely more heav-ily on WikiLeaks.ch
as well ason mirroring by various volunteersthroughout the Net.
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