Wikileaks, a whistle blower website, encourages and advertises anonymous tipsters to upload confidential documents to its site. But what if that document, or a portion of that document, were privileged by a court order?
Such a scenario could be heading for a disaster with Wikileaks at the helm. Wikileaks is widely known for its fancy San Francisco lawyers working pro bono for its First Amendment rights. Certainly, there is no First Amendment right to violate a court order.
Recently in the news, Wikileaks was credited with leaking a corruption report initiated from an investigation of the Turks and Caicos Islands' former government. Before the report was to be published, a judge in the islands ordered the corruption report redacted (edited) to protect the names of certain individuals who were named therein.
According to the Turks and Caicos governor, the report was hacked from the Turks and Caicos government website, which had published the redacted version. Evidently, some vulnerabilities in the document's format allowed a hacker to uncover the protected text. Subsequently, Shaun Malcolm, a controversial blogger on the islands, uploaded the unredacted document to the Wikileaks website. What makes this even more noteworthy is that Wikileaks published the unredacted document providing a summary of its origin and with a link to the court order enjoining publication of this document.
Recently, Wikileaks described the publisher of this document as "the most influential journal covering the Turks & Caicos Islands" and characterizes its website as exposing corruption that brought "a dramatic UK governance takeover of the Islands on August 14." Both statements are patently false:
On August 14, 2009, Great Britain suspended Turks and Caicos Islands' constitution, basing their decision on corruption charges against former Premier Michael Misick. UK's position regarding its takeover is globally published as: “clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and general administrative incompetence.” Suspension of direct rule in Turks and Caicos is documented in a lengthy Crown investigation report, the document that was published on the Wikileaks site. The corruption investigation clearly was performed and executed by Great Britain.
Furthermore, Wikileaks misinterprets the facts of the order. It represented that their actions were excused because, "A High Court case ensued which initially enjoined all media in the Islands from reporting the redacted findings, however within a few days this restriction was overturned." This is a false statement. The judge in the case ruled to deny the continuing protective order, citing it impossible to prevent or control the leak from spreading by virtue of its publicity from the Wikileaks exposure. In fact, Wikileaks' summary for the publication states, "WikiLeaks has obtained the full report and unredacted the missing text."