How will wikileakS.org deal with its first legal takedown threat from Schillings ?

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How will the supposedly uncensorable wikileakS.org project survive its first acknowledged attempt to censor it through legal system threats ?

Apparently wikileakS.org have now received a threatening email (or perhaps a letter ?) from Schillings, an expensive London based firm of lawyers and public relations consultants, often used by minor media celebrities to defend alleged libels in the mainstream broadcast media and in print.

Although claiming expertise in dealing with the internet, they have been spectacularly counterproductive in trying to suppress former UK Ambassador to Uzbekisatan, Craig Murray's allegations about Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek born Russian billionaire supporter of the Putin regime in Moscow, allegedly with links to the brutal, corrupt dictatorial regime of Islam Karimov and family in Uzbekistan.

Schillings shyster threats even managed to cause "collateral damage" to blogs and websites, which had never mentioned the Usmanov affair before, and to infuriate hundreds and thousands of people who had never heard of their client before.

See Tim Ireland's Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair and Matt Wardman's blog archive of Alisher Usmanov category archive

Unlike the Usmanov affair, where no actual court order was involved, this time Schillings do seem to have applied for an Injunction of some sort issued in the High Court in London.

This is in relation to a copy of some information which the failing Northern Rock bank issued to potential buyers, which revealed the extent of the UK Government emergency debt guarantees.

wikileakS.org claim:

Schillings claim, in their letter to Wikieaks, that

"Pursuant to an Order of the Royal Courts of Justice dated 13th November 2007 ("the Order") no person shall publish or communicate or disclose to any other person (other than by way of disclosure to legal advisers instructed in relation to the proceedings for the purpose of obtaining legal advice), inter alia, the information contained within the "Northern Rock Executive Summary".

The Order also provides that any person who knows of the Order and disobeys it or does anything which helps or
permits any person to whom the Order applies to breach
the terms of the Order may be held to be in contempt of
court and may be imprisoned, fined or have their assets
seized."

...Furthermore, publication of the Northern Rock Executive Summary constitutes a copyright infringement.

We are willing to bet that those are not the actual words in the High Court Order, only Schillings' vested financial interest, partisan, over broad, claimed interpretation of the Order.

See the alleged document at

http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Project_Wing_-_Northern_Rock_Executive_Summary

but do not be stupid enough to expect to find this document here on this wikileak.org blog.

The deadline for the offer of sale of Northern Rock plc expired last Friday, and most of the board of Directors resigned. There there was an Emergency Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House of Commons on Monday, regarding this affair. so who and what this legal censorship is supposed to be protecting now is unclear.

The injunction was aimed originally at the Financial Times, but a further attempted injunction against the Daily Telegraph appears to have failed.

Why is Northern Rock continuing to waste public money (they have borrowed tens of billions of pounds from the UK Government) on Schillings' legal fees, in pursuit of a document which is common knowledge in the financial industry, and is now out of date and irrelevant to any future takeover or rescue plan ?

Will wikileakS.org or their internet service providers, succumb to the shyster threats from Schillings, even though, so far as we can tell the wikileakS.org website is not within the jurisdiction of a UK court.

One of the ethical issues surrounding the leaking of documents which are subject Court injunctions, especially under the draconian UK legal system, is the secrecy which surrounds them. How are, say, bloggers, meant to magically guess that a particular document is subject to any legal restrictions ?

There is no simple way of discovering exactly what is actually injunctions or contempt of court reporting restrictions - they are not even listed on the Her Majesty's Courts Service website, or the British and Irish Legal Information Institute for instance.

We will be checking our webserver logfiles for visits from the Schillings IP address range of 217.33.207.160 to 217.33.207.191

1 Comments

You're absolutely right to highlight these activities. As always Schillings propose to silence the messengers, to hide and obscure the activities of their entirely dubious clients, to ensure secrecy. Some of these people might be regarded as bordering on insane. Megalomania seems to be contagious.

I find it remarkable that a 'respectable' law firm - I use those terms very broadly - can bring itself to deal with these characters. Presumably they need the money. And make no mistake, this is not about principled moral behaviour, it's solely about cash.

Who else does the Schillings firm work for? The client list is no doubt quite revealing. Maybe they'd like to publish it in full - then again, maybe not.

About this blog

This blog here at WikiLeak.org (no "S") discusses the ethical and technical issues raised by the WikiLeakS.org project, which is trying to be a resource for whistleblower leaks, by providing "untraceable mass document leaking and analysis".

These are bold and controversial aims and claims, with both pros and cons, especially for something which crosses international boundaries and legal jurisdictions.

This blog is not part of the WikiLeakS.org project, and there really are no copies of leaked documents or files being mirrored here.

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LeakDirectory.org

Now that the WikiLeakS.org project is defunct, so far as new whistleblower are concerned, what are the alternatives ?

The LeakDirectory.org wiki page lists links and anonymity analyses of some of the many post-wikileaks projects.

There are also links to better funded "official" whistlblowing crime or national security reporting tip off websites or mainstream media websites. These should, in theory, be even better at protecting the anonymity and security of their informants, than wikileaks, but that is not always so.

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Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

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WikiLeakS.org Twitter feed via SSL encrypted session: https://twitter.com/wikileaks

WikiLeakS.org unencrypted Twitter feed http://twitter.com/wikileaks

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