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back to article PayPal banned WikiLeaks after US gov intervention

A PayPal executive said his company's decision to suspend payments to Wikileaks came after the US State Department said the whistle-blower site was engaged in illegal activity. The comment came shortly before PayPal agreed to release the remaining funds in the WikiLeaks fund-raising account. Press accounts from The Guardian and …

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Straightforward

This is no great surprise. It's pretty obvious that Wikileaks is not complying with US law -- whatever you might think about it -- as publishing classified documents online is a crime. Hence any US company knowingly helping someone perform illegal acts it itself committing a crime, under US law.

If the company doesn't do any business in the US, no problem, but Visa and Mastercard do...

(Note I'm not giving any opinions one way or the other here, but just stating that compliance with the law is what companies that don't want to get massive fines do.)

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Jobs Horns

Straightforward

Massive fines, being truthful, against massive losses, kissing asses, you choose.

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For US companies?

"Massive fines, being truthful, against massive losses, kissing asses, you choose."

Massive fines, followed by huge lawsuits from their shareholders for not doing what they are told, and being fired.

What does Visa have to gain by "being truthful"?

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WTF?

Rule Of

.."National Security Letter", I would say.

In the System Of Spanish Inquisition, they didn't need an independent Judge or - God Beware - a Pesky Jury to take away someone's rights. Now the United States Government has reached the sophisticated level of Spain in the 1700s.

A Viceroy will tell people What the Fucking Law Is. At least that is what the corporates are ready to believe.

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Gates Horns

Yeah, Right

"Massive fines, being truthful, against massive losses, kissing asses, you choose."

Yeah, because Visa, Mastercard and PayPal really want to break the law and pay those massive fines just so they can say they support Julian Assange and the Quest for Peace.

Perhaps we can start another fund to help companies backing WikiLeaks pay their fines and court costs if/when they are found to be breaking the law - care to make the first payment? Didn't think so.

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Black Helicopters

Point to consider

The Feds have taken over many businesses in the name of the Great Recession - not a far fetch to be taken over in the name of national security.

Times are not what they once were - witness the Wallyworld/DHS BS. Nation of Snitches... ahhh memories of the Stalin years - just brings you back.

Note: I give myself a fail on this one - it's coming from so many directions now, makes you want to turtle-up instead of dealing with it.

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Obvious?

So, you'll be able to cite which law wikileaks is obviously breaking then?

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@system

Assange is Australian, and so long as he personally puts the leaks on Wikileaks, he cannot be tried for treason in the US. Paypal, Visa et al. on the other hand are corporations that do business in the US. They are bound by US law, and the law would go something to the effect of “aiding and abetting treason.” There might even be a little of “profiting from crime” or other such things thrown in.

It might seem weird…since you can’t actually nail Assange to the wall for treason, but in the complex world where international law meets domestic law, if you are a US citizen helping someone post classified material in a public forum you are functionally aiding the commission of treason.

Now, that isn’t to say this should be treason. In fact, I’d be seriously shocked if anyone brought treason charges or “aiding/abetting treason” charges into play. The reason for this is that such a move would virtually be guaranteed to end up in the Supreme Court. This is the very last thing that US.gov wants; it would mean that the whole system of document classification and the various punishments for posting classified documents in public fora would be under some stupendous scrutiny.

So it’s an interesting position; posting classified documents from your own government in a public forum is illegal. Full stop. If a foreign national does so, that gets gluey. Now add in a situation like Paypal or Amazon whereby you are helping a foreign national do something that would be illegal if they weren’t a foreign national and everyone gets their knickers in a twist because the rules basically don’t exist to play this game.

At the end of the day, Paypal would likely be spanked and I have very little doubt that US.gov is far from passing some very explicit bills that make clear in no uncertain terms that any foreign national posting classified documents in a public forum will be extradited to the US to face trial just as if they were a US citizen.

I know that there are a lot of people who want to jump on the Assange bandwagon and wave the flag of “**** you, US.gov.” I think though folk should put themselves in the shoes of the people in charge of Paypal and Amazon here. The law is ambiguous enough that there exists the potential for these individuals to be /tried for treason/ simply by helping Assange out. Do you understand what the penalty for treason is? I am not saying that it is a likely possibility…but it is a very real possibility.

People deriding Paypal, Amazon and the like seem to be pretty cavalier about that. It’s easy to tell someone else “stand up for my principals, even if there is the possibility that you will face charges of treason!” After all, the people deriding these companies aren’t the ones being called on to make that choice in a very public fashion.

Imagine you are a guy in a suit somewhere is approached by a US.gov representative one day. You are told “your company is doing X to support illegal individual/cause Y. This could potentially make you liable in the worst possible case for A, B, C and D.” You don’t have a personal stake in cause Y. You don’t have an emotional investment in it and aren’t 100% sure that you even agree with cause Y. You want to go home to your wife and kids, pet your dog fluffy. It takes you five seconds to tell your minions “pull support for cause Y” and the problem goes away. The scary man with his worst case scenarios goes away with it.

So I ask you…and every one else beating up on Amazon or Paypal...why should the people in charge of these companies put themselves at risk for your principals? Try to look beyond who thinks who is right and wrong and look at the actual people involved here. The risks you are demanding other human beings take upon themselves.

Assange can get away with it; he’s in a neatly grey area of the law. The suit at Paypal or Amazon simply doesn’t have that luxury.

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An addendum:

In my previous post I said "Imagine you are a guy in a suit somewhere is approached by a US.gov representative one day." I would like to extend this to read not simply "a direct representative of the government" but to also include "a lawyer from the firm you have on retainer." The man explaining things to the suit doesn't have to be some scary TLA spook sent to but the fear into someone. It can (and probably was) nothing more than a lawyer doing his job: informing the company he works for about the present state of their corporate and individual legal liabilities.

I figured I should clarify since it was pointed out to me that me previous post could be misinterpreted to be far too conspiracy theory.

Thanks!

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FAIL

"publishing classified documents online is a crime"

OK. So what about publishing classified documents in newspapers? Crime? Should Rupert be worried that Newscorps assets are about to be seized?

Moron.

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Money

Sure the businesses in question would love to pay lots of money out, because they really want to help these self appointed guardians of international public morals, in the process of dishing out stolen secrets, right?

As you say it is time for those in favour to put their effing money where their mouths are. Meanwhile my money is on a lot of tracing back to bots, and the nullification/blacklisting of those machines, after finding out whence their instructions came, so that the owners of the originating IP can say hello to Bubba, whilst picking up soap.

The outraged screams of indignation by these people, whose only approval has been plucked from between their cheeks, merits a very hard slapping or three. Eeejits who honestly believe that their course of action will achieve what no other course in the whole of human history has done, namely ethical behaviour, no war and no espionage.

Someone must be responsible for the genesis of this behaviour. Who are their parents? Who taught these pr*cks?

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RE: @system

So we should expect to see a Paypal/Visa/Mastercard withdrawal of service from the Guardian and others sometime soon then? I don't think we will.

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Alert

I must have missed it...

Please direct me and the rest of the readers of El REg to the place where Mr. Assange, or WikiLeaks, have been convicted of the crime of "publishing classified documents online" I must have missed that key piece of jurisprudence.

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FAIL

Helping someone exercise "First Amendment Rights" is not illegal

Once documents have been leaked, any organisation publishing those documents is protected by the First Amendment. Don't forget the US tried to shut down wikileaks access in 2008 and it was thrown out for First Amendment reasons. What the US is trying to do pressuring Visa, Mastercard, Paypal etc. is that they are trying to shut down a press organisation (wikileaks in this case) through extra-judicial means, simply because they know that efforts in courts will fail for first amendment reasons.

Wikileaks is doing nothing illegal, hence why they have not been charged with anything and no extradition request has gone out for any wikileaks employee or contractor. Everyone supporting Visa, Mastercard, Paypal etc. on the grounds that wikileaks are doing something illegal is spreading fud unless charges are made.

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FAIL

Seems right

Wikileaks broke US law by releasing apparently classified documents. A US company suspended their service, just as they would for any illegal activity. How is this news?

Here's a hint: if you plan on pissing off *any* country and break its laws, don't rely on services based in that country. Duh.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Seems right

You do realise that PayPal are international, yes? With regional registered offices, yes? In Europe, they're called "PayPal (Europe) S.à r.l. & Cie, S.C.A". Any payments received to Wikileaks through regional companies outside of the US are not subject to US laws.

So maybe the hint should be, if you plan on pissing off the US from any other nation, and in the process not breaking any laws locally, don't rely on services based in your own region which may still come under pressure from the US govt anyway. Whether you agree with WIkileaks or not, the US govt is being forced to publicly display how it +really+ exerts control over private companies and other sovereign states - and without a 'leak' being required.

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Grenade

What about NY Times?

The NY Times are accomplices and so should be co-defendents, and they would be if there was any merit to this.

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@Keith T re: NYT

Media have special protections regarding publishing of information (or more accurately the publishing of summaries of information) than regular citizens or corporations do. Just becuase the NYT can post things does not mean that other individuals or corporations cannot be held to account for support of Wikileaks in this endeavour.

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Headmaster

No, they don't have "special protections"

Media *don't* have "special protections" to do anything in particular. The First Amendment guarantees "freedom of the press", but it makes no attempt to define what "the press" *is*.

If you're a journalist, then a press card is a useful shortcut to introducing yourself; it buys tolerance, it hints at the promise of favourable coverage (or the threat of the opposite), it explains instantly who you are and why you're being a nosey bugger, but it *doesn't* give you any special legal privileges. None at all. Anything you can do with a press card, is something you could just as well do with a decent Fast Talk percentage.

In the US at least, "media" is not a licensed industry. Anyone can set up a newspaper, in any medium they like, and there is no special form you have to fill out before you can claim your First Amendment rights. Wikileaks is entitled to exactly the same legal protections as the New York Times.

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It's only been through the press...

As the diplomatic papers have only been distributed through the press I can't see why Wikileaks would be in any respect liable regardless.

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Re

Wikileaks isn't a citizen of the United States. Neither is its founder. Therefore neither has any rights. The First Amendment should not extend to anyone who is not a citizen of our nation.

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Anonymous Coward

You sir, have not thought this through

So what you're saying is that only Americans have rights? Or American companies? He's Australian/English/Canadian/Mexican/Chinese/Indian/French/German, HE has no rights?

How about his rights in Australia, such as not to be pursued by a foreign government for not committing a crime? He owes the US nothing at all, and the first amendment doesn't apply as he's not bound by US laws. Is it illegal in Australia to publish another countries classified documents? If not, then no case.

Next you'll tell us that the Chinese govt. hackers have no rights and should be extradited and tried in the US, good luck convincing the powers that be in Beijing of that.

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Re: You sir, have not thought this through

It is both espionage and a warlike act. Assange can pretend that he is innocent and saintly all he likes. Personally I would like to see him introduced to a hollow point round, and I imagine that there is every chance that he will meet with an accident, or that it will be discovered that Jules has HIV or some other difficult illness. If you muck about with the security of a nation state then you can only expect a smacking in response.

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Re: It's only been through the press...

"As the diplomatic papers have only been distributed through the press I can't see why Wikileaks would be in any respect liable regardless."

Non sequitur; the documents came to the press *through* Wikileaks, who are in receipt of stolen goods, classified material.

Piss poor logic/argumenta. Even the sophists would not offer such dross, being too (hah, now philology bites itself on the derriere) sophisticated. In case you had not known, the Sophists (Greeks) were masters at the art of using specious/fallacious arguments to support the unsupportable.

Perhaps it would be a good idea if you went and downloaded a few MP3s. Be sure to use a couple of proxies now. It'll lengthen the period of time before you are traced.

Think about it.

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FAIL

hmm

so we'll shortly be able to enjoy the shutting down of paypal, ebay, and gumtree, all as happily and knowingly support the payment for, or sale of, counterfeit and stolen goods

not to mention seeing bush the idiot and his cohorts banged up for maliciously blowing the cover of one of their own agents

oops, just realised i'm confusing rule of law with the spite of impotent and corrupt politicians

ja ftw

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We all eagerly await Bush's and Blair's appearance at The Hague

Don't hold you breath waiting for anything other than the suppression of the press and oppression of young men being sent off to fight pointless wars by killing innocent civilians.

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no

The supreme court JUST ruled on that. So long as they comply with legimate notices of takedown, and "optionally" make extra efforts (no requirements to do so) to remove items they themselves believe infringing or illegal, they are immune from prosecution in any US court.

Had they not self-invoked their ToS, a polite phone call asking them to do so (and proper documentation from a judge regarding a take-down request) would have sufficed.

Only had they been informed and CONTINUED to host the account could they have run afoul of the law. they could have left it open waiting for that letter, but this was major knows, and obvious legal violations, and charges had been levied against their client, that was enough documentation for them.

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Re

If you're going to be all hardcore liberal Wikileaks supporter, you should know that Wikileaks documents have proven that Saddam had chemical weapons and that Saddam had therefore be in violation of the armistice from the last Gulf War.

In short, the war was never over, and all UN/NATO nations were actually required to invade and remove Saddam from power.

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Re: We all eagerly await Bush's and Blair's appearance at The Hague

Although your response is a non sequitur - that is to say, your remarks do not follow from the initial premiss(es) of the argument, I hope that Blair does go to the Hague. I view his second appearance at the enquiry as signally important, especially since it is to cover (among other things) his comments in the margin, alongside the attorney general's opinion that war without a second resolution would be illegal, saying "I don't understand this at all". Blair, a lawyer, did not understand. He blew one instance of data out of all proportion, did not obtain corroborating data in support of his aim - something which good lawyers *and* good scientists do (it's known in science as replication of results) - he lied, he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and I feel that he should fry, or be sent to Osama bin Laden for imprisonment (where he can wear a burkha and be bin Laden's biotch), or some other form of hell on earth.

That, however, is another matter. The consequences of releasing classified documents from a state security and defence mechanism - of which diplomatic assessments are a part - is a breach of security and law by the person who did it, and it is a warlike act to use them as Assange et al. have. There is only one category of response to these revelations; to 'deal' with those who carried them out. It is not their right, and they have no right to expect that they can do these things without let or hindrance.

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Anonymous Coward

RE:PayPal banned WikiLeaks after US gov intervention

Another case of governments getting into situations like wars they cannot win, like this one. How long will they resist billions of losses, crippled economies, shut down of stock exchanges, banks, etc. etc. For one guy having "unprotected sex"???? The most expensive fuck of all times. They've released the genie from the bottle. Now let's see how they get it back in, if ever.

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way to RTFA

They clearly said, the US did NOT contact them in any way. The US public motions against Wikileaks directly were enough to satisfy them that the TOS were in fact violated, and they killed his accounts. The government never intervened, or made contact.

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TOS violated

So if the TOS were violated, why hand over the money in the account? Couldn't they refund it? Surely they're not that desperate for their 2.5%!

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Big Brother

Re: way to RTFA

"The government never intervened, or made contact."

The man in the suit calling himself "a patriot" merely said that it was "damned un-American" for them to have such a customer on their books, openly wondering about various "bad things" that may happen if the situation were not to change.

Meanwhile, over at Western Union...

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Flame

So...

...when the State Department vaguely accused Wikileaks of commiting a crime, PayPal & American credit card companies immediately locked Wikileaks accounts, effectively 'condemning' Wikileaks in the process. At the same time said companies are still working with notorious criminal organizations, like the KKK. In a sane world these companies would be liable for contract breach.

Funny enough the US gov. hasn't yet made a formal accusation specifying the crimes Wikileaks is accused of committing. Why?

It may have something to do with the "Pentagon Papers case", which was judged by the US Supreme Court in 1971. You can find more details here: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1970/1970_1873/

With this clear precedent, any formal accusation against Assange et al. 'should' be laughed out of court, and that's why the USA gov hasn't bothered to make said accusation. Of course, there is no need to make formal accusations when you can just lock people in Gitmo without proof, and count on a kangaroo court specially created for the event to uphold all the government's decisions. Sad, sad world.

The saddest part is that the USA of 1971 -yeah, Nixon, Vietnam, etc- was more advanced -and more honest- than today's USA. Go figure!

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in following

you don;t understand the pentagon papers case. The normal terms of limited access for those documents had expired, but the pentagon tried to extend that classification without a standing in law. These documents are covered by current valid classified status.

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Vaguely illegal?

Fact: the documents WERE classified.

Fact: publishing classified material is illegal. This is not disputed!

Fact: A US employee who actually obtained the documents was detained, charged, and convicted in military court BEFORE the leak actually was posted online.

Fact: the US told Wikileaks IN ADVANCE it was a crime to publish those cables, and they were advised of what the punishments might be, and they did so anyway.

Fact: Wiki ignored very clear US regulations about publishing classified documents, documents that many of which would already have been available via FoIA requests (though they would likely have been redacted on some level).

Fact: All of these documents are slated to eventually be published anyway. Their classified status is limited by a time period.

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Anonymous Coward

Fact

US law doesn't apply to an Australian living outside US borders.

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@ Michael C

"Fact: the documents WERE classified."

Yeah. Now, imagine an American journalist making public classified documents from, say, Iran. Should the USA extradite the journalist? Here is a hint for you: usually it's not illegal to publish other country's secret documents. Unsurprisingly American laws can say whatever they want, but the rest of the world doesn't have to abide by American laws, nor to -thankfully- Iranian laws.

"Fact: publishing classified material is illegal. This is not disputed!"

In most civilized countries this 'fact' you boldly state in your comment is usually disputed a lot, mostly when it clashes with 'Freedom of Press', accountability and all those out fashioned and obsolete concepts.

"Fact: the US told Wikileaks IN ADVANCE it was a crime to publish those cables"

Read my first paragraph, and please make an effort to understand that American laws don't apply in other countries. On a side note when you say "the US told Wikileaks" what do you mean exactly? some government agency trying to cover their asses? a judge? an American official?

"Fact: A US employee who actually obtained the documents was detained, ..."

And so? I'm sure what Manning did is illegal, and he's gonna pay for it. What has that to do with Assange?

"Fact: Wiki ignored very clear US regulations about publishing classified documents"

For a third time, let me state this clearly: the rest of the world doesn't (or -sigh- shouldn't) care about US regulations, just the same as Americans in America don't care about Chinese laws.

"Fact: All of these documents are slated to eventually be published anyway. Their classified status is limited by a time period."

Hmmm... you forgot to tell us the length of that time period. Is it something like 25 years? extendable to 50 or even 75? And aren't there LOTS of exemptions to FOIA? by the time these documents are made public -if ever - everyone involved will be either retired or dead. So much for justice, transparency and accountability.

Facts are useless without a correct reference frame. If you consider all the circumstances, your facts take a different meaning. The best lies include fragments of truth.

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WTF?

Fact

US law only applies in the US.

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o_O

"you don;t understand the pentagon papers case"

From the link in my comment:

"In its per curiam opinion the Court held that the government did not overcome the "heavy presumption against" prior restraint of the press in this case. Justices Black and Douglas argued that the vague word "security" should not be used "to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment." Justice Brennan reasoned that since publication would not cause an inevitable, direct, and immediate event imperiling the safety of American forces, prior restraint was unjustified."

Add the fact that Wikileaks offered the USA to filter the documents before publishing them and you will get a more complete picture.

And while you are at it, please tell us some good reason for the USA gov. not having presented charges against Mr. Assange yet.

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Not vaguely illegal at all

Regardless of where the publishers are based, publishing classified material *is not* illegal. The Supreme Court has been admirably clear on that. That's why the New York Times is still in business, these past 38 years.

*Stealing* said material (using your security clearance to take copies and distribute them to people who don't have similar clearance) - *that's* illegal. But once it's been stolen by some third party, the government has no standing to prevent its dissemination. If the documents were produced by gov't employees using gov't resources for gov't purposes, there isn't even a copyright issue - they're public domain.

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Gav
Headmaster

More Facts

Fact: Paypal Inc is based in California, and operates in, the US under US law.

Fact: DoS Attacks are illegal just about everywhere.

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Anonymous Coward

Not illegal.

It is illegal for the US employee to leak them, but not to publish it in another country.

As for liberti of information and eventual publication.. is this a joke? Compromising documents just get "lost", and nobody notices, as they don't know they existed in the first place.

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What this shows us primarily is...

...we're all far too dependent on US based companies for financial transactions over the Net. Maybe it's time for a European or even Swiss based alternative to start promoting itself.

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Christ, yes, starting last week if possible

Take it from a US citizen -- if by this point you still trust our national government, our currency, or our multinational corporations at all, you are a fool.

Of course, you might be shooting too low by worrying about PayPal -- what about Visa and Mastercard? Are there any credible challenges to their global duopoly on payment-card transactions?

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Coat

Yes there are ...

...... American express. Oh, you meant not american. And credible.

Coat please.

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Black Helicopters

Who says a title is required?

I understand this is news but I find attitudes of the press and public surprising. What exactly is the likely outcome of an individual going after the government of the most powerful country on earth? While wikileaks is not an individual he is a very prominent front man. The people he has pissed off are about as powerful an enemy as anyone should care to make. Plus if the US gov don't appear to act then the precedent it sets could be very dangerous.

DNS Provider, Amazon Storage, Swiss Bank Account, Paypal account all gone. Not to mention the arrest warrant.

Now hearing talk from US politicians and justice department about criminal charges. The fun may only be beginning for Mr Assange.

If the insurance file turns out to be as explosive as hoped things could be about to get very interesting.

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Big Brother

Tougher than pissing off The Third Reich

At least the well-uniformed regime did not have controlling interests just about anywhere.

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@Busby: So America Is As Broken As Russia ??

When a Russian Agent offended the "powerful Mr Putin", he got a dose of Polonium in the tea. Now that we should (according to you) see some very similar brutal and illegal action from USG, the logical consequence for Germany will be:

A) To join Russia's Nuclear Umbrella. They are not more nasty than the US, apparently

B) To join France's Nuclear Umbrella. Not so good, as Sarkozy is a great fan of the US. (You can't even count on the French these days)

C) build our own nukes

I guess we will take option A) and then C). There's a long history of Russo-German weapons cooperation, which has been restarted recently. (Interrupted by that single-egged Austrian death-lover)

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Ahhhh, PayPal ...

But all the other unscrupulous/criminal activities that you, and your ugly mother, the eBafia, facilitate on we simple peasants are OK?

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”—Samuel Johnson.

eBay/PayPal/Donahoe: Dead Men Walking.

http://forums.auctionbytes.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=23540

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