After a morning of spotty service, Wikileaks reported Wednesday afternoon that Amazon.com had decided to stop hosting the controversial site on its cloud platform.
WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free–fine our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe.
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who earlier this week called for the federal government to shut down the site, cheered the move:
> This morning Amazon informed my staff that it has ceased to host the Wikileaks website. I wish that Amazon had taken this action earlier based on Wikileaks’ previous publication of classified material. The company’s decision to cut off Wikileaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies Wikileaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material.
I call on any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them. Wikileaks’ illegal, outrageous, and reckless acts have compromised our national security and put lives at risk around the world. No responsible company – whether American or foreign – should assist Wikileaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials. I will be asking Amazon about the extent of its relationship with Wikileaks and what it and other web service providers will do in the future to ensure that their services are not used to distribute stolen, classified information.
“Ultimately, as a private party Amazon has a right to decide what it wants to publish or not,” said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“That said, it is disappointing that Amazon under informal pressure would take down protected core political speech on the WikiLeaks site.”
WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, could face other legal threats, as the Christian Science Monitor reports:
Mr. Assange could be sent to prison for a very long time if the US is able to successfully prosecute him under the Espionage Act. The statute is a broad law that provides for harsh penalties, notes Stephen Vladeck, an expert in national security law at American University in Washington.
The real question may be whether the US Department of Justice wants to pursue the matter. Historically, the US has not prosecuted leak recipients. The US might not be eager to provide Assange a courtroom forum in which he can bring further attention to the contents of his trove of classified cables.
But the U.S. government has little power to make the site itself go away, say legal experts.
Any attempt by the U.S. government to exercise prior restraint on documents based merely on the fact that they are classified would fly in the face of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the First Amendment in the Pentagon Papers case,” EFF’s Bankston said.
Even if the original documents were obtained illegally, Bankston points out that recipients of those documents would still be protected under the First Amendment, based on the high court’s ruling in Bartnicki v. Vopper, a 2001 case where surreptitiously-obtained wiretaps were played over the radio.
John Morris, general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, agreed.
“If the WikiLeaks operators committed a crime, then we should arrest them,” he said. But shutting down an entire website because some of its content could be potentially harmful flies in the face of the First Amendment.
“As much as the government is unhappy about what WikiLeaks has done, there’s a lot of content on WikiLeaks that has nothing to do with the leaked documents.”