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Infowar Launced On WikiLeaks

By Stephen C. Webster

04 December, 2010
Raw Story

WikiLeaks.org domain taken down: DNS host cites ‘mass attacks’ as site vanishes from Web.

Update: The site has relocated to Switzerland, and is now available at Wikileaks.ch. Read more about the move at the New York Times here. Service on the domain was spotty by mid-Friday.

Second update: Since being kicked off Amazon's cloud, WikiLeaks had been hosted in-part by French firm OVH. French Industry Minister Eric Besson said Friday in a letter seen by Reuters that the government was investigating a way to ban French servers from hosting WikiLeaks.

Third update: The site is now accessible via an IP address: Mirrors pointing to the address have popped up at WikiLeaks.de, WikiLeaks.fl, WikiLeaks.nl.

Fourth update: US Library of Congress blocks staff, visitors from accessing WikiLeaks, citing 'potential malicious content'.

Final update: Electronic Frontiers Foundation co-founder says 'The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.'

Amid international pressure and a series of crushing denial of service attacks, the site WikiLeaks.org has finally slipped underneath the waves. Its DNS host, EveryDNS.com, killed the domain late Thursday night, according to an update posted to WikiLeaks' Twitter account.

The host cited "mass attacks," the whistleblower organization said.

The take-down is another in a long line of setbacks for WikiLeaks, which has in past months completely upturned historical precedent in the successful release of more secret US government information than anyone else ever before.

It's not the first technical snag WikiLeaks has encountered in recent days. The site was down entirely most of Wednesday after its host, Amazon.com, abandoned WikiLeaks as well, forcing them to move back to a mirror in Sweden. Service on the domain has been sporadic since then.

WikiLeaks later criticized the site -- which cited a violation of their Terms of Service agreement for the takedown -- saying that if Amazon were "so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books."

Assange told British newspaper The Guardian that he'd chosen the Amazon cloud server as a host in part to test their commitment to freedom of speech. However, even his Q&A with the paper was interrupted by high server traffic. It wasn't clear if The Guardian was under a denial of service attack, the Associated Press noted.

Word of the take-down came days after the site said it was feeling the effects of a series of massive denial of service attacks, which is what forced the switch-over to American servers. One sustained attack exceeded 10 Gigabits per second, according to WikiLeaks.

"According to a study by Internet security company Arbor Networks, the average denial of service attack over the past year was 349 megabits per second, 28 times slower than the stream Wikileaks reported," CBS New York noted.

In the US, officials are investigating both the source of a trove of leaked State Department diplomatic cables, and whether US law would allow for the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It's unlikely, however, as a relevant Supreme Court ruling gave rather explicit protections to the media when dealing with disclosures that are highly embarrassing to the government.

Recent reporting on the State Dept. cables showed that the US covered up its culpability for a bombing in Yemen that killed 21 children, along with the first official confirmation that the Bush torture program was a principle motivating factor in at least 250 Saudi men's attempt to join extremists in Afghanistan.

Documents also revealed that US diplomats to the United Nations engaged in behavior critics are calling "spying," collecting foreign dignitaries' call logs, contact lists, Internet accounts and passwords, and even DNA. While US officials maintain that none of their diplomats are intelligence assets, a Thursday evening report citing newly released cables revealed that diplomats had taken marching orders from the US Central Intelligence Agency itself.

In lieu of the domain take-down, WikiLeaks encouraged support via a site hosted on datacell.com. A whois domain lookup showed the site was hosted out of Basel, Switzerland, registered to one Andreas Fink.

WikiLeaks' Assange, currently wanted for questioning in Sweden over a possible charge of rape, was said to have been in the UK most recently. An arrest order had not been issued. His lawyer said that Sweden's laws required police to investigate an inquiry they'd received as rape, even though the allegation is merely engaging in unprotected sex, not a forcible assault.