PayPal VP: Wikileaks blocked after State Department letter

PayPal VP Osama Bedier apparently told an audience in Europe that his company shut down Wikileaks' account after the U.S. State Department declared it illegal. [TechCrunch]

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  1. In some ways, this is worse than the initial reports that the US State Dept leaned directly on PayPal. Instead, PayPal seem to have acted unilaterally on the basis of hearing what the USSD had said to WikiLeaks. So we have an unproven assertion, which PayPal acted on as hearsay.

    I’ve written before about Cloud computing terms of service; most of them aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on, because of the incredibly broad and vague terms by which online providers reserve the right to chuck you off pretty much at their whim.

    (Yes – PayPal is arguably a Cloud service, or at least a Cloud-enabled service. It lets you outsource payment and money-handling and is available over the Internet, and charges on the basis of how much you use it. It’s ‘Money Handling as a Service’, if you like.)

    1. Anonymous will hear this news and it’ll surely calm things down with them.

      —-

      In more recent years, I thought it was silly to see some businesses set up their own servers, etc. when cloud services like Paypal are cheaper/easier options.

      I was wrong. Depending on corporatist asshats is just asking for trouble. Hello servers and merchant accounts, how ya doin’?

      As a matter of fact, the public really needs to build its own wireless Internet ASAP by sharing specialized “wide-area” wifi routers with each other and only rely on companies for crossing oceans & other expanses on the fringes of the peer-to-peer network Internet.

      The government is realizing the public is too powerful when they utilize the Internet and you can expect far more draconian clampdowns on the traditional Internet soon. And, if you’ve been watching, you know they’ve already started that process.

      The terrifying truth for the corporatist elite is that they KNOW they can’t win this war unless they further cow and subdue the public. The last thing they want is for our government to be FOR the people and BY the people… and they can go fuck themselves, because many of us have HAD ENOUGH.

  2. If things like this never go to trial, then the judges never get a chance to tell one side or the other that they’re full of crap.

    1. Indeed. In France, it did come to trial: last week, the minister in charge of IT tried to pull a Liebermann. Learning that Wikileaks had an account for cloud-computing services with French-based Internet company OVH, he declared that Wikileaks was engaged in “illegal activities” and that he wanted to “ban” them from the country.

      Huge uproar, of course. But what’s interesting is that OVH went straight to a judge and asked for a ruling on the legality of providing Internet services to Wikileak. The judge promptly declined, on the grounds that there was no legal grounds to forbid a French company to do business with Wikileaks – since neither Wikileaks nor its founders had commited a crime here.

      For those who read French, there’s a article about the case here:
      http://www.pcinpact.com/actu/news/60721-ovh-eric-besson-wikileaks-lcen.htm

  3. [S] Of course, lawyers for companies and governments *never* send out letters with vague legal threats and exaggerations that they suspect/know would not hold up in a court of law. [/S]

    So, Wikileaks has the cables, and has already distributed them to major media around the world. The cat is very much out of the bag. Why wouldn’t it be good damage control for the State Department to try to help (as requested?) and have a small panel give a “we don’t care” or “please sit on this a while longer” on the various cables?

    Oh, that is right, they are trying to maintain that it is patently illegal. Right.

  4. I can’t wait for Wikileaks to leak the documents showing how the US government plans on taking down Wikileaks.
    Gonna happen.

  5. Having read the State Dept letter to Robinson and Assange, I am left with one question.

    What responsibility do foriegners have to protect US Government secrets?

    Let me rephrase that:

    What responsibility do Americans have to protect North Korean government Secrets?
    What responsibility do Brits have to protect Ecuadorean government secrets?

    What legal meaning does US TOP SECRET have in the rest of the world?

    1. That´s a good point!

      It´s all like “Everybody should keep OUR secrets secret! Because if not, they would not be secret! And we love secretness!”

      IMO it´s just a huge case of butthurt…

    2. “What responsibility do foriegners have to protect US Government secrets?”

      Good point. And there’s at least one politician in the world able to grasp it: Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd, who doesn’t “give a damn” about the leaks and thinks that if the cables were so sensitive, the US govt should have guarded them better!

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11945558

  6. China and Russia will also be happy when an international law president is set forcing countries to send them people they feel have spoken out against their interests.

  7. Not surprising that there is pressure on Visa and Mastercard, esp. when a ‘cable’ shows the US put pressure on Russia for these 2 companies:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/08/wikileaks-us-russia-visa-mastercard

    “The cable, dated 1 February 2010, states that the Obama administration took up the companies’ plight with senior Russian government officials. Earlier this year Moscow unveiled plans to create a new National Payment Card System (NPCS) that would collect all credit card fees on domestic transactions – depriving Visa and MasterCard of a major chunk of revenue.”

  8. So if the US govt can pressure banks, Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal to cease doing business with a particular group (that has broken no law), what is to stop the US from doing the same to the NRA, MoveOn.org, or any other political group the US govt. does not like? Cutting off electronic funds is just as devastating as actual censorship.

    Thus, money is treated as speech in the US, and so this is very much a first amendment issue.

    1. Worse, they’re not cutting off his funding, they;re cutting off his LEGAL DEFENSE FUNDING.

      He’s not a convict.

  9. Anonymous will hear this news and it’ll surely calm things down with them.

    —-

    In more recent years, I thought it was silly to see some businesses set up their own servers, etc. when cloud services like Paypal are cheaper/easier options.

    I was wrong. Depending on corporatist asshats is just asking for trouble. Hello servers and merchant accounts, how ya doin’?

    As a matter of fact, the public really needs to build its own wireless Internet ASAP by sharing specialized “wide-area” wifi routers with each other and only rely on companies for crossing oceans & other expanses on the fringes of the peer-to-peer network Internet.

    The government is realizing the public is too powerful when they utilize the Internet and you can expect far more draconian clampdowns on the traditional Internet soon. And, if you’ve been watching, you know they’ve already started that process.

    The terrifying truth for the corporatist elite is that they KNOW they can’t win this war unless they further cow and subdue the public. The last thing they want is for our government to be FOR the people and BY the people… and they can go fuck themselves, because many of us have HAD ENOUGH.

  10. I wonder if PayPal VP Osama Bedier has had any issues flying lately?

    @Cowicide: Regarding your idea about the public building its own mesh-network Internet. There is an effort to have DNS distributed in a peer-to-peer network over many user’s machines. I just read about this recently, but I can’t remember its name or where I read it. I’m sure it’s easy to google though. There are also experiments with doing this with cell phones.

    1. Thank you, chawke. I thought of something like this many years ago, but I haven’t really kept up with it. I’ll check it out under “mesh-network”, thanks again.

        1. That is really interesting, thanks for the link. What I’m talking about would be even further decentralized to the point where most people wouldn’t even need an ISP at all, just a router that can pick up signal from other routers.

          Everyone would connect through everyone else’s routers and everything would go through encrypted protocols as the standard connection. It’s really complex utilizing lots of distributed, encrypted caching built into the routers (everyone would have pieces of the “Internet” in their routers hard drive (yes, every router would have a hard drive), with redundancy, encryption, etc.) … similar to the way bittorrent works nowadays. If someone even did manage to crack the encryption, the fake site wouldn’t propagate because it wouldn’t match up with all the other redundant routers.

          It would still feed off the traditional Internet where it can, but the ISP would have no idea where it’s being weezed from (which would be all over the place). If anyone tries to shut down a site and it can no longer be weezed from the traditional Internet, then it would exist solely distributed on the routers. There would be a key that was embedded within the traditional site that only the site holder has that would allow the site holder to continue to edit the site, etc. in the pure-router Internet.

          sigh… I had a lot of it figured out and a lot of concerns were taken care of… but…

          I wrote about it in detail many years ago, but for the life of me I can’t find it online. It appears to be have been deleted from the Internet or something. I used to be able to Google it, but it appears to have been removed from the index. I’m sure ISPs and the corporatist elements of the U.S. Government would absolutely hate this.

          Maybe with some time, I’ll try to remember as much as I can and put it together again and distribute the text around.

  11. The petition to support a boycott of PayPal and Amazon deserves more attention:
    http://www.change.org/codepinkalert/petitions/view/support_wikileaks_boycott_amazon_and_paypal

    After being asked by Sen. Joe Lieberman to bump WikiLeaks from its servers, Amazon.com has complied. WikiLeaks did not violate Amazon’s terms of service and received no notice that their site would be unceremoniously kicked to the curb. Amazon is free to make choices about what to do with its servers, but we do not have to support the company in its complicity with the censorship of WikiLeaks that government officials now seek.

    In another attack, PayPal has chosen to permanently restrict the account of the German foundation that accepts donations for WikiLeaks, claiming that the latter was in violation of PayPal’s terms of service which disallows “activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”

    WikiLeaks has not yet been charged with any crime, but the organization is being squeezed from all sides for its efforts to reveal the truth about government activities and officials. In revealing the potentially illegal activities of the powerful, WikiLeaks finds the finger pointed back in the other direction. It’s a clear case of an attempt to kill the messenger.

    Again, PayPal is free to make choices about who they do business with… and so can we.

    Boycott Amazon and PayPal. Support WikiLeaks.

    Sign the petition to Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and PayPal’s CEO Patrick Dupuis.

  12. He is worse than a “convict”

    He is an enemy combatant.

    Convicts have rights . . . EC’s are marked men. Even representing them in court or petitioning on their behalf will plant you on the government’s shitlist.

    He’s better off in jail for the time being. I hope he finds asylum somewhere eventually . . .

    1. really? Nobody in the government (with that authority) has used that term, and rightly so, because it’s not appropriate.

      He’s not inciting anything, he’s not funding anyone, and he’s not taken up arms against anyone. He has no organized army or force… um… he’s just this guy, you know.

      He is a foreign national publishing in a third country. He just speaks and publishes, and the reaction to him reminds us all that the pen is indeed mightier.

    2. @Unmutual: Would a boycott of Amazon include a boycott of all companies that use Amazon Web Services to run their business on?

      There’s a partial list here, but it’s certainly incomplete – for instance, Dropbox uses AWS S3 for storage.

      Even if an Amazon-based service is free to you, you can be sure that the service provider is paying Amazon (probably funded by ads, or selling data about use patterns), so if you use that service, you’re paying Amazon.

      I’m not encouraging a boycott of all AWS-based services, by the way. I’m just pointing out that given how ubiquitous AWS is, it would be very hard to avoid using Amazon indirectly.

  13. Presumably the PayPal VP couldn’t refuse to comply with the US State Dept as his first name is Osama.

    Refusal would have proved he’s a terrorist.

  14. Re alternates…

    there’s I2P

    http://www.i2p2.de/

    “I2P is an anonymizing network, offering a simple layer that identity-sensitive applications can use to securely communicate. All data is wrapped with several layers of encryption, and the network is both distributed and dynamic, with no trusted parties.

    Many applications are available that interface with I2P, including mail, peer-peer, IRC chat, and others.

    The I2P project was formed in 2003 to support the efforts of those trying to build a more free society by offering them an uncensorable, anonymous, and secure communication system. I2P is a development effort producing a low latency, fully distributed, autonomous, scalable, anonymous, resilient, and secure network. The goal is to operate successfully in hostile environments. even when an organization with substantial financial or political resources attacks it. All aspects of the network are open source and available without cost, as this should both assure the people using it that the software does what it claims, as well as enable others to contribute and improve upon it to defeat aggressive attempts to stifle free speech.”

  15. The thing about the State Dept letter is that is doesn’t say that Wikileaks is in violation of the law.

    It says: “they were provided in violation of U.S. law” and goes on to say “As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing.”

    Which means that the person who provided the documents is in violation and that violation continues until the documents are retrieved.

    “furthering the illegal dissemination of classified documents.” also speaks to the illegal act of the provider.

    The letter then degenerates into baseless conjecture that lives will be lost and people harmed by the release of the facts, ignoring the possibility that lives will be saved and people will not be injured if a shift in public opinion caused by the leaks results in the wars ending sooner.

    This letter as written by the legal adviser to the State Department, presumably a lawyer, a person well equipped to say: Wikileaks is in violation of US law. He didn’t. Instead he crafted the impression that Wikileaks is in violation of US law.

    And armed with this impression the fact that it is US policy that put soldiers and others in jeopardy in the first place gets lost in the spin.

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