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Wikileaks judge gets Pirate Bay treatment

We're bulletproof, Your Honor

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Analysis Every now and again, an event comes along and takes our breath away by reminding us just how far out of step the legal system can be with today's changing world. The latest example is last week's attempt by a federal judge in California to shutter Wikileaks, a website devoted to disclosing confidential information that exposes unethical behavior.

Almost a week after US District Judge Jeffrey White unequivocally ordered the disabling of the guerrilla outfit, it remains up, and its foot soldiers are as defiant as ever. More to the point, it continues to host internal documents purporting to prove that a bank located in the Cayman Islands engaged in money laundering and tax evasion - the same documents that landed it in hot water in the first place.

It remains doubtful that Wikileaks will ever be shut down. That's because the site, as reported earlier by the The New York Times Bits blog, is hosted by PRQ, a Sweden-based outfit that provides highly secure, no-questions-asked hosting services to its customers. It has almost no information about its clientele and maintains few if any of its own logs.

Oh yeah, PRQ is also run by Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij, two of the founders of The Pirate Bay, the BitTorrent tracker site that, as a frequent target of the Hollywood elite, has amassed considerable expertise in withstanding legal attacks from powerful corporate interests.

Not that attorneys from the Julius Baer Bank and Trust, the bank accused of the misdeeds, haven't demanded PRQ disconnect the site.

"We have the usual small army of stupid lawyers that think we will piss our pants because they send us a scary letter," Svartholm said in a telephone interview. "We do employ our own legal staff. We are used to this sort of situation."

Also making a take-down difficult, Wikileaks maintains its own servers at undisclosed locations, keeps no logs and uses military-grade encryption to protect sources and other confidential information, according to an unidentified individual who answered a press inquiry sent to Wikileaks.

"Wikileaks certainly trusts no hosting provider," the person wrote.

There's a name for arrangements such as these. It's called "bulletproof hosting," and it's historically been used to insulate online criminal gangs against take-down efforts by law enforcers or private parties. As Wikileaks has demonstrated, the measure can also be used by those engaging in civil disobedience. Wikileaks uses a different term: "an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking."

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