SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — The Wikileaks website was championing nameless whistle blowers with renewed vigor Monday after a US judge ruled efforts to shut down the site violated constitutional rights to free speech.
Wikileaks is striving to be an "uncensorable" online compendium of "untraceable" documents that expose wrongdoing but not identities of those providing the information, its creators said in a website posting.
"Wikileaks.org is back," the posting said, claiming to have more than 1.2 million documents from dissident communities and anonymous sources.
"Our primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations."
Julius Baer & Co. on February 15 convinced federal judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco to issue an injunction ordering the website to shut down.
The Swiss bank went after Wikileaks in court after the website posted copies of internal documents indicating the company helped customers launder money illegally through the Cayman Islands.
Julius Baer denies any such accusations and argued in court that Wikipedia was violating law by displaying its private paperwork online.
White sided with the bank until a Friday hearing at which attorneys defending Wikileaks convinced him to lift his injunction in the name of freedom of expression as upheld in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
"We're very pleased that Judge White recognized the serious constitutional concerns raised by his earlier orders," said Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Matt Zimmerman, who joined in Wikileaks' legal defense.
"Attempting to interfere with the operation of an entire website because you have a dispute over some of its content is never the right approach."
The injunction failed to stop Wikileaks from operating because it uses computer servers outside the country's borders.
That fact raises legal questions regarding White's jurisdiction in the case as well as whether an injunction can be enforced. White cited those points as contributing to his decision to rescind the injunction.
"Disabling access to an Internet domain in an effort to prevent the world from accessing a handful of widely-discussed documents is not only unconstitutional it simply won't work," Zimmerman said.
Wikileaks is a legitimate and legal outlet for "third parties" to post leaked documents exposing suspected wrongdoing, according to Zimmerman.
WikiLeaks' website says the organization was founded by "Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa."
Wikileaks postings have included material documenting alleged human rights violations in China and political corruption in Kenya.
Instead of stifling the barely year-old website, the legal battle is shining a spotlight on it.
A day before the judge reversed his decision, Julius Baer issued a statement saying the "matter has nothing to do whatsoever with censorship."
"It is not and has never been Julius Baer's intention to stifle anyone's right to free speech," the company said in the release.
In a seeming contradiction, Julius Baer says that the documents posted at Wikileaks violate privacy laws because they are confidential bank records but at the same time says the paperwork is forged.
"Julius Baer's sole objective has always been limited to the removal of these private and legally protected documents from the website," the company said in its statement.
"However, Julius Baer denies the authenticity of this material and wholly rejects the serious and defamatory allegations which it contains."
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