Guardian: U.S. politicians told Amazon to remove Wikileaks

When Wikileaks twittered that Amazon's removal of its website from its servers was a "free speech" issue, it seemed an odd turn of phrase: after all, Amazon is a private company and is free to host what it likes. The Guardian has just reported, however, that it did indeed remove Wikileaks after being pressured to do so by the U.S. government. Ewan MacAskill writes that U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman offered a prepared statement, announcing Wikileaks' removal from Amazon's server, as the plug was pulled.
The United States struck its first blow against WikiLeaks after pulled the plug on hosting the whistleblowing website in an apparent reaction to heavy political pressure. ... "[Amazon'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," [Lieberman] said. "I call on any other company or organisation that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them." The department of homeland security confirmed Amazon's move, referring journalists to Lieberman's statement.
Funny how Amazon spent days loudly refusing to delete a pedophile guidebook on free speech grounds, but this happened behind the scenes and the company is refusing to comment. Must be the Joementum. WikiLeaks website pulled by Amazon after US political pressure [Guardian. Thanks, Richard!]


  1. Hypocrisy from Amazon you say? maybe. One must think, hard, about what kind of threat the US government offered Amazon to have them act so quickly on an issue that is clearly more than even the government can handle, and is afraid that the more time it’s exposed the more people will read and finally take some of the power back, after all, people vote for their representatives and they can vote them out as well. (power to the people should never dwindle.)

  2. Well if what we are led to believe is true then Wiki-leaks should soon have another dozen servers offering to host.

  3. “…to distribute its illegally seized material.”

    What ever happened to the presumption of innocence and due process?

    1. Okay, lawyer here:

      This could actually be great (long term) insofar as what an eventual court ruling will mean in this case.

      Before, you had a private entity (Wikileaks) disseminating state department cables (among other information) on their own for anyone to pick up. Now, however, the claim that there’s something uniquely newsworthy about this information is bolstered by the fact that the information was picked up and carried on other servers owned by other companies and entities. NPR did a pretty solid job highlighting the legal challenge here, but didn’t touch on crux of the First Amendment issues that are really in play here:

      To start, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s challenge to the release of the Pentagon Papers back in 1971 on–you guessed it–free speech grounds. Read the case here–it’s the one that strikes me as the most factually similar to what we’ll come up against in any legal battle we’ll see from here on out:

      Some will try to draw a distinction here because Wikileaks is making the RAW INFORMATION available, rather than filtering that information through credible reporting that can eliminate or limit the dissemination of information that could harm American interests. But watch for some interesting fireworks if SCOTUS was ever called upon to draw a distinction between “potentially harmful” speech and benign (albeit somehow still newsworthy) leaks.

      What I *haven’t* seen, for all the fireworks about the release so far, is the down-and-dirty roll call of just what leaks were made that are *so* damaging to American interests: most of the diplomatic cables I’ve read about seem pretty standard, and not so different from what you would have EXPECTED the parties at play (notably Saudi Arabia) to say anyway.

      Can someone please fill me in on this?


      1. Since you are a lawyer, perhaps you can clarify something for me. Since Wikileaks received it’s documents from a source and then published them, how are they any more or less liable than other groups publishing, commenting on, linking to, or quoting the documents?

        In other words, if Wikileaks is considered guilty of disseminating state secrets, why wouldn’t Amazon or the NYT or even BB also be guilty?

      2. Interesting thoughts. Have a question about this distinction: “Wikileaks is making the RAW INFORMATION available, rather than filtering that information…” If WiliLeaks releases everything it has the capacity to leak, in unexpurgated form, then it may not be protected as a free press organization? But if WL selects information, then it could claim itself to be a credible reporting agency? 2nd: While the Afghan leak was sadder and more wrenching, it seems to me the diplomatic cable leak, while having none of the gravity of the former, is arguably more harmful to the interests and function of the State Department. Maybe the information was not surprising to you, but certainly the very capture and release of confidential communications by an outside org could be seen as harmful or potentially harmful to the US. You disagree?

  4. Man, Lieberman — wouldn’t you like to see his unredacted file! Find out where his loyalties are for real.

    Does the New York Times have its own servers? They should be volunteering to host the Wikileaks material. It is a real shame that some people view the release of this material as something other than a good thing.

    1. I hate to break it to you but the New York Times is firmly in the pocket of the US political cartel The following was taken from an interview between Keller, the Executive Editor and a former diplomat to the UN. [1].

      > KELLER: “…We are serially taking all of the
      > cables we intend to post on our website to
      > the administration…”

      > Ross: “…one shouldn’t go to The New York
      > Times for these telegrams — one should
      > go straight to the WikiLeaks site. It’s
      > extraordinary that the New York Times is
      > clearing what it says about this with the
      > U.S. Government…”

      Also the Guardian did an expose on “Frago 242”, a military order to not interfere directly in cases of torture by non-US officials. This story was big across Europe: 150+ search results for the Guardian [2], and we get a single hit buried in a comment section for the New York Times [3].

      I can only conclude that the NYT cannot be trusted with any story on Wikileaks. Notice they pushed the allegations against Assange and it is editorial policy to never allow the word “torture” in an article. Further damning evidence is they weren’t part of the initial group of publishers to get pre-access to the cables. I would go one step further and be suspicious of any politically based article from that source.


  5. I think its totally understandable—the gov could cause a lot of trouble for Amazon, and hey it’s peak shopping season, they have other stuff to worry about. As far as the pedophile guidebook, I’m guessing they don’t want to be responsible for content, they would have actually read every book that was loaded onto their site. In both cases they acted in a way that was to their own advantage. Now that the gov is just shutting down websites for kicks I wouldn’t want to tick them off either.

  6. I had about 10 items in my wish list for Xmas gifts. I will empty it today and no longer make purchases on Amazon.

  7. Is it just me, or is the land of the free curiously afraid of free information flow? Considering the info we have of what was leaked, its not even material somehow connected directly to Iraq or Afghanistan…

  8. “…to distribute its illegally seized material,” [Lieberman] said.

    Wow. “seized” material?

    Is that sort of like the stolen data in the last round of wikileaks that the government was demanding “be returned”?

    “Can I have my drawing of a spider back then please?”

  9. Well, okay, lesson learned for me then: never attribute to pragmatic decision making what might be just more political bullshit.

  10. I guess the US govt. has no legal basis for requiring Amazon for ceasing to host the Wikileaks articles, otherwise it would be a simple case of putting it through the courts and turning the cogs.

    So what was it that they said to Amazon? Threats against their business, about how difficult they could make things for them?

    I’m almost certain that US politicians (along with their supposedly civilized Western bretheren) are always banging on and on about the ‘rule of law’.

    When it suits, I guess.

    1. In reply to your question as to how politicians would have the power to coerce/threaten Amazon, it’s because big companies like Amazon need politicians in their pocket to get favorable tax breaks, shipping legislation, whatever… Being a persona-non-grata to politicians can be deeply damaging to a giant company.

  11. In all the recent discussion about governments (and, apparently, individual hackers: wanting to ‘take Wikileaks down’, there has been no mention of their ‘insurance file’. Aren’t we to assume that the insurance file contains information so unsettling that governments will not want to risk having it decrypted by the (presumably hundreds or thousands of) people who have already downloaded it? Is this Wikileaks’ ace in the hole? Any thoughts? [BTW, I agree that if the evidence we already have of government-sanctioned torture, extraordinary rendition, wire-tapping, civilian murder, etc. is not enough to bother the US government or concern its citizens, then it is hard to imagine what the insurance file might contain that would bother them.]

    1. Probably who shot JFK, what the aliens at Area 51 REALLY wanted, where they’re holding Amelia Earhart, where they relocated Elvis when he decided to disappear… things like that.

  12. Wouldn’t WikiLeaks do better to distribute their material as BitTorrent files or to create some other sort of swarming/sharing client? That way, a DDOS becomes impossible and thousands of people would pretty quickly have copies of the whole mess on their hard drives.

    Watch the FBI/CIA/Joe-Lieberman flip out as they try to figure out how to go after countless Plain Old Americans.

    Of course, that might damage Assange’s ongoing ability to… stroke his ego?

    1. I read your comment and was thinking the same thing. I went to the wikileaks website and you can get the torrent file There is a torrent of it all already actually. You can find it at the bottom of the wikileaks page:

      Not really sure what eliminating Amazon as a host will do, except move off shore where the US has even less control over it. Maybe it’s easier to “spy” on data coming from outside the country and analyze who’s interested in it if it originates outside national ips. Otherwise, the action of moving the US mirror into the arms of others seems to defeat the intention of defeating the information boogeyman.

    2. They do. Some are doing their part to help by seeding. Think VPNs, seedboxes hosted in other countries (Iceland,The Netherlands, Russia, Sealand?) and Sneaker-nets.

      Once something is in digital form (0’s & 1’s baby!) AND “in the wild” you can never get it back. You can’t outlaw a number, even a really long one. Any attempts to keep it secret will only draw more eyes:

  13. “senator calls for boycott of WikiLeaks by companies”

    So what happens to the donation I just made via PayPal? (from one European country to another) Is that still safe?

  14. From what the politicians and officials have been saying about wikileaks and this move by Amazon I would bet that the U.S. is getting ready to declare a terrorist organization.

    They will probably attempt to use State Secrets laws to circumvent free speech issues at the same time.

    and @Addy regarding damages. The thing politicians and officials love is ‘plausible deniability’ and the leaking of their true thoughts makes that impossible. Sure, everyone knows this is the way people are thinking and leaders are acting, but that is all hidden behind the pomp. Here they are more naked than someone in an airport scanner.

    The funny thing is most of this bull is only important to the posturing players, removing their mantle of haughty importance. Unfortunately, in their embarrassment they will continue to increase censorship and suppression, not use it as a way to bring truth and transparency into their own behavior.

  15. If you haven’t caught on yet, the chief action that the government is using against wikileaks and it’s hosts is very illegal. It’s called distributed denial of service and they’ve been running it on wikileaks for a while now and at a ridiculous (unprecedented?) scale.

    Frankly, Amazon didn’t have a choice in stopping hosting wikileaks. Political requests and demands had nothing to do with it. The government decided to wage an all out information war on one of their servers. I think the story is here as much as anything.

    Who else has as great an interest in seeing that these files are not hosted and distributed?

    1. If you haven’t caught on yet, the chief action that the government is using against wikileaks and it’s hosts is very illegal. It’s called distributed denial of service and they’ve been running it on wikileaks for a while now and at a ridiculous (unprecedented?) scale.

      Why would the government bother doing something so worthless as a DDoS when they know all the cables have already been sent to several news agencies? Taking wikileaks offline doesn’t take Le Monde offline.

      I haven’t actually seen any evidence of a DDoS. Given Wikileaks’ history of self-promotion and sensationalism, it wouldn’t shock me if they made up the whole thing to get more press attention.

  16. Anyone old enough to remember the Vietnam war, Watergate and Nixon isn’t shocked nor surprised by recent events. Ever read the Pentagon Papers? ( Do…if you can find a copy…now) The huge difference today is that now we have the internet to discriminate all this information and post public comment.
    If the appointed officials et. al. keep trying to strong arm nations and media corporations into doing their bidding again—they are validating what WE’VE so very recently read saw and heard! The global political communities and NOW THE AMERICAN ELECTORATE TOO are watching how they really operate and who these ELECTED officials believe they answer to!….But our single votes put them in office and our vote can take them out!

    You’ve got to wonder if they are simply too jaded, and power-drunk to realize that finally they’re political “SHOCK AND AWE” is falling all around them and they’ve got NO WHERE to hide.


    P.S. I can help our budget crisis….Come home, quit bullying other countries, and put the Military on a fiscal diet!

  17. Big woop, Amazon. Here’s a little clarification for your mind, if you are wondering how in the heck did the US Gov’t get Amazon to do what it did.

    “Amazon, you are hosting material that we consider potentially treasonous. Unless you would like to be considered a party to treason, well… you know what to do.”

    Not that I agree with that sentiment, necessarily. But it’s easy to see how little the government had to lean on Amazon. Just a mere mention of treason is enough to scare anyone. WHICH IS WHY THE DO IT.

    Like what happened after 9/11, I say that anyone who cavalierly accuses anyone else of treason… should be punished as if they’d committed treason.

  18. The data visulisations linked from the cablegate front page (Cables by Subject, Cables by Country etc) on seem to be not working too. Wouldn’t find this sinister except for context.

    The torrent link doesn’t seem to be there this second. I’d understood it as being of the current state of the site rather than ‘of it all’.

  19. Joe Lieberman has this uncanny ability to be a complete and total tool at every possible opportunity. It’s really quite a gift.

  20. Don’t worry they moved back to Bahnof here in Sweden. I would REALLY like to see the Swedish Gov trying to take it down (they won’t but also, they can’t). :D

  21. Love this thread.

    In response to Teller and one of the Anons:

    Yes, you’re entirely right–this last Wikileaks dump may have made the State Department’s job more difficult. Sure enough, “plausible deniability,” insofar as it is a tool of the trade for the State Department, will go out the window for some time because of this release.

    The link that was given to me when I asked for the most damaging disclosures in the dump surely will make the State Department’s job more difficult, and may hurt the State Department insofar as negotiation and posturing are concerned.

    But guess what? That’s what good journalism does: the fourth estate may make negotiations more difficult between nations; our State Department may have to cover their asses a bit more. In effect, they may have to suffer for being held publicly accountable for what they say and do, and that hurts their effectiveness.

    (Anyone who knows more about foreign policy should be a lamb and explain this a bit more to me.)

    But unless the government can show the disclosure DIRECTLY puts American lives at risk, or will result in some imminent threat to national security–as distinguished from merely making the State Department’s job more difficult–then Wikileaks may–and likely does–still have First Amendment protection.

    Look for disclosures of recent troop movements; pending assassinations or military actions; secret information compromising the physical safety of foreign agents. THOSE are the kinds of disclosures that don’t have First Amendment protection, which would allow the federal government to show that the newsworthiness of the disclosure is outweighed by national security interests.

    (I’d say there’s a good 50% chance I’m right about what I just said. #yesimalawyer)

    1. In order to prosecute anyone, wouldn’t the US first have to acknowledge that the leaks are official documents.

      And wouldn’t that acknowledgment leave them liable for the criminality exposed, such as spying on the UN, knowingly supporting a coup in Honduras, or (from the Iraq leaks) facilitating torture carried out by Iraqi military/police?

      How can they have it both ways?

      And again, what is the difference between NYT or Amazon reporting/hosting these documents alongside Wikileaks? Why is only Wikileaks is being singled out for potential prosecution when their actions are essentially the same as other news media?

    2. Aren’t assassinations by the government illegal? Damn straight revealing pending assassinations should be protected, if not under first amendment, under whistle blowing statutes.

      1. You do realize that it wouldn’t be protected under either since it’s illegal right? That would be like saying it’s illegal for a guy to tell the police that another guy is planning to off his wife.

      2. “Aren’t assassinations by the government illegal?”

        Kind of. The US agreed to stop after many embarrassing failures with Castro and Russia agreed to stop after many successful assassination were linked back to them.

  22. I will donate money to Wikileaks the day it is declared a terrorist organization. I will frame the receipt and stick it on my wall.

  23. Amazon is making a vague TOS violation claim.

    They might as well have just flicked a booger at Wikileaks. The domain name isn’t essential to publishing the leaks, and attempts to cut it off or DDOS it are just Streisanding this whole thing, and encouraging donations to flow to Wikileaks.

    The NYT and other MSM papes may be in the pocket of US gov interests, but they’re making bank off of publishing these leaks. It’s like Assange showed up at their door and said: “Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll double it.” In return, they collectively cast their lot with Wikileaks, as it will be quite difficult to single out Assange for criminal acts, and not every big newspaper in the world.

  24. well, it probably won’t matter to Amazon, but won’t be supplying the presents in this home (I had a list set up of most of the stuff I needed to buy, guess I’ll have to go through other retailers).

  25. Oh, somebody (maybe the Government) just asked. Or Amazon just decided they didn’t want the business anymore. If wkileaks don’t like it, they can sue…or maybe get their site up again…

    When does mere embarrassment justify violent action?

    For sometimes I’d like to resort to violence against those who embarrass me, too.

  26. what about charging the USA, UK, officials with war crimes?

    remember kids its only terrorism when they do it, our government/military murder, torture and rape with the justification of god…

    A great interview on the topic with Noam Chompsky can be found here noam is at 26min:

    FTA: Noam Chomsky: WikiLeaks Cables Reveal “Profound Hatred for Democracy on the Part of Our Political Leadership”

  27. I can’t really blame Amazon for this one. It would be great if Amazon fought Lieberman on the point, but they aren’t in the business of contentious hosting, and they have no reason to want to spend the time and energy battling a senator. Between the DDoS and the widespread mention of it being hosted on Amazon, they would have taken it down long ago if Amazon was actually against it. Most hosts, however they feel about wikileaks, would do exactly the same thing.

  28. Amazon can do what they want, and guess what, so can we. When I heard the news this afternoon, I wrote them a note telling them that I’d be doing my book shopping at B&N and Borders this Christmas, instead of with them. Since I might drop a couple thousand dollars there every year, it’s not a small threat. Imagine if everyone did the same. . .

  29. Why is Joe Lieberman still alive? Why hasn’t he been garrotted after some clandestine meeting with his Israeli handlers? Why isn’t he a registered agent of a foreign government?

    1. The CIA is still trying to translate his mumble-speak before they strike his ass. It could take decades.

  30. The cloud is great for managing demand instantaneously, but for something like this, you need your own iron.

  31. What are they so afraid of?

    Only criminals are afraid of the truth!

    That’s what the government keeps saying when they spy on us and molest our kids at the airport.

  32. If there was real Net Neutrality, Amazon couldn’t be forced to stop selling pedophile handbooks or take down Wikileaks.

    Robert Redford taught me both (a) why wikileaks is valuable
    (All the Presidents Men)
    and why wide release of sensitive material is safest
    (Three Days of the Condor).

    You know what they say about absolute power corrupting absolutely.

    The wider the Wikileaks material is spread, the harder it is to stop, so taking it viral by torrent is obviously a good thing.

    Of course up here in Canada we have government advisers who advocating the assassination of Julian Assange on CBC, our national public television network.


    Funny how it used to be that it was the Terrorists who advocated assassination of the opposition.

  33. I’m very curious, and I’d love to hear what people think.

    If governments are asking for JA to be ‘accidented’, is this a case of – get rid of the leader, everything else falls apart (as everyone just takes their orders from them, heirarchically) and WL just falls down?

    I assume this, as most/all governments and their workers think along lines of … i dunno, ordering. The one thing that always made me laugh at a Reclaim the Streets all dem years ago was the complete bamboozlement to find a ‘leader’. Loved it everytime. Did their head in. Now I own a car, I’d just be annoyed if an RTS happened on my way to work, but anyway….

    Does anyone really believe that JA not being around is going to stop WL? I imagine, or rather, I assume that most or all in WL knows this, and operates on more cell-lines…

    I imagine that losing JA would take away someone important, but the org dissappering or not leaking anymore to the same capacity, no. If yes, I’d be putting that one on the agenda at the next meeting.

    Just asking/saying/wondering….

  34. Curse you, Mr. Lieberman! Nobody is going to be able to find these documents on the internet now.

  35. I’m sorry, but how is this a free speech issue?

    Wikileaks did not write those documents and does not appear to be saying much in the way of commentary about them.

    How is simply publishing the documents online exercising “free speech?” How is that even considered “speech?”

    1. That’s right, jesse: publishing anything online is free speech: and to have it taken down, find a law which opermits its removal: and such a law violates the principle of free speech: maybe it’s a legitimate law, but ususally it isn’t.

      How do the employees of the government of free countries have any right to secrecy at all in the performance of their duties to the public?

      I know. I know. In a despotism or monarchy or empire the subject only has the rights which she is given.

      Some of us, though, are used tto breathing the air of freedom.

      Posting any info online is an exercise of free speech: the question is, shall it be permitted? Or punished?

      Does that depend in turm on whether the information presented is itself “forbidden” (Can anybody really “forbid” the utterance of truth?). Shall we punish as well as those who dare to repeat it, those whom we merely suspect of possessing it, this “forbidden” information, this “forbidden” truth?

    2. Apparently, for you Government secrecy for ANY reason at all is A-OK and no problem: and is it yet so, even if that reason for Government secrecy, is to cover up crimes against people? Or does the reason for State secrecy fall only where those crimes are against “their own people” ( to use the language of bigots)?

  36. I have e-mailed Amazon to let them know I will no longer do business with them. Cowering to government threats is unconscionable. Amazon should have stood strong in the face of these bullying tactics.

  37. Amazon made the right choice here. People have been calling Assange a terrorist. If that sticks in any meaningful way then Amazon could have been charged with providing support to a terrorist organization.

    That’s really really bad.

  38. I still don’t understand the hero worship of Wikileaks and Assange.

    Between the rape charges and his own, massive ego (even Wikileaks employees don’t want anything to do with him), how can anyone believe anything he says?

    1. – The rape charges are at least as likely an attempt to tarnish his image, as they are likely to be substantiated.

      – To put yourself on the line like he does you need a bit of an ego. Rumors about internal Wikileaks disputes may be fabricated as well.

      This guy has so many extremely powerful enemies that I´m willing to give him the benefit of doubt anytime.
      Or, as someone wrote in another forum: “I like this man. He has big brass ones.”

  39. Freedom of speech does not include the right to demand that anyone distribute that speech for you. Freedom of the press includes freedom NOT to print.

  40. This is a non-story, except it just illustrates the declining power of govts., which is the whole point. Wikileaks only needed a couple of hours on multiple webservers worldwide to get their info out, and they got that. The takedown is too late. And Wikileaks will do this again. Just establish a shell with a bland name, have them go to AmazonWS and get a virt.server, put some innocuous content on it, then add the important stuff. Then send email with URLs to the big newspapers. Damage done, no way to prevent it.

  41. I came here wanting to make a rad comment about the whole pedo’s guide to pedoing, but I was beaten to the punch about ten thousand times, even in the original post.


  42. I have a thought: what if Wikileaks did not leak the documents and they were leaked to The Guardian, Le Monde, The New York Times (who have stated publicly that they didn’t receive the leaked documents from Wikileaks, etc.). Rumors in the newsmedia are an interesting trap actually. Sometimes they can even trap the government who is holding a young soldier. Perhaps he didn’t leak the documents.

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