In a move sure to be welcomed by privacy and civil rights advocates, a US District Court judge on Friday lifted a previous permanent injunction that he had issued two weeks ago to disable the controversial Wikileaks.org whistleblower Web site.
Judge Jeffrey White also declined to extend a temporary restraining order he had issued on January 15 against Wikileaks. That order prohibited Wikileaks from displaying, posting, publishing, or distributing material that a Swiss bank, which had filed a lawsuit against Wikileaks, had claimed were illegally obtained and defamatory.
The wikileaks.org domain was reactivated today as a result of the decision.
Judge White cited two main reasons for rescinding his previous injunctions. In a seven-page ruling, 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.orf 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.
"The Court is not convinced that Plaintiffs have made an adequate showing that any restraining injunction in this case would serve its intended purpose," Judge White said. "In addition, there is evidence in the record that "the cat is out of the bag" and the issuance of an injunction would therefore be ineffective to protect the professed privacy rights of the bank's clients," he said.
The ruling comes two weeks after Judge White issued two injunctions against Wikileaks. The injunctions were in response to a lawsuit filed by the Julius Baer Group, a Swiss bank that, according to documents on Wikileaks, was involved in offshore money laundering and tax evasion in the Cayman Islands for customers in several countries, including the US.
Wikileaks claimed the documents had been leaked by a bank employee. In its complaint, the Swiss bank claimed that Wikileaks published hundreds of illegally obtained documents and confidential and copyrighted information belonging to the bank. The bank sued both Wikileaks and its domain registrar Dynadot.
In response, White issued a permanent injunction ordering Dynadot to immediately disable the wikileaks.org domain name and lock it to prevent the domain from being transferred to another registrar. The injunction also required Dynadot to immediately remove all DNS hosting records for the wikileaks.org domain name. The court asked Dynadot to prevent the domain name from resolving to the wikileaks Web site or any other Web site or server "other than a blank park page."