Saturday, July 2, 2011

WikiLeaks And DataCell On The Offensive; Federal Snooping At An All Time High!

WikiLeaks And DataCell On The Offensive; Federal Snooping At An All Time High!

WikiLeaks announced on Friday evening that it and service provider Datacell intend to sue Visa and MasterCard in Europe "for engaging in an unlawful, U.S. influenced, financial blockade."
More than six months have passed since Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, and others cut WikiLeaks’ purse strings. And if that blockade lasts six more days, the secret-spilling group plans to take its financial fight to the courtroom.
If Visa Europe and MasterCard Europe haven’t re-opened payment WikiLeaks by next Thursday, the group and its payment provider DataCell plan to file a complaint with the E.U. Commission against the two companies as well as the Danish payment processor Teller, according to Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, the Icelandic lawyer for WikiLeaks and DataCell.
“They’re boycotting Datacell and Wikileaks without any objective justification,” says Sveinsson. “This is clearly an abuse of their market dominance.”
The press release accuses the two credit card companies of "engaging in an unlawful, U.S. influenced, financial blockade" that began in December and continues to this day. Wikileaks and DataCell are represented by two law firms, a Danish firm by the name of Bender von Haller Dragested and Reykjavik Law Firm in Iceland.

Both firms gave prior notice to the parties involved on June 9: Visa, Mastercard, and Danish-based Teller, which manages credit card transactions on behalf of the former two companies. Teller was willing to reinstate services, as the press release notes, but was ordered by Visa and MasterCard not to do so.
According to Sveinsson, the following complaint was sent to the two companies earlier this month, and will be filed with the E.U. Commission at an appointment Thursday if the situation isn’t resolved by then.
The complaint argues that the three payment firms have violated Articles 101 and 102 of the E.U. Treaty, which deal with competition among businesses and forbid the creation of anti-competitive cartels. Article 101 prevents firms from creating partnerships for the purposes of price fixing, and Article 102 forbids firms in a “dominant position” from abusing that position.
Both Visa and MasterCard have claimed that payments to WikiLeaks and DataCell were suspended because they potentially violate the companies’ terms of service. MasterCard has gone as far explaining that it prohibits “customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal.” Visa has stated that it is investigating “the nature of [WikiLeaks] business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules.”
A Visa spokesperson told me earlier this month that the company would “respond in due course” to WikiLeaks’ threat of legal action. I’ve put out requests to both companies for further comment but haven’t yet heard back.
Teller has already completed an investigation into WikiLeaks’ legality, and in January stated in a report to Visa that it could find no proof that WikiLeaks had broken any laws.
WikiLeaks’ and DataCell’s complaint makes no specific claims of monetary damages. But a video released by WikiLeaks earlier this week implied that the termination of credit card payments to WikiLeaks has cost it $15 million.


Legal action by DataCell and WikiLeaks against Visa and MasterCard

2. Jul 2011

WikiLeaks and Datacell (a service provider assisting WikiLeaks) are to sue Visa & MasterCard for engaging in an unlawful, U.S. influenced, financial blockade.
On June 9th a the law firms Bender von Haller Dragested in Denmark and Reykjavik Law Firm in Iceland acting on behalf of DataCell and WikiLeaks told the companies that if the blockade is not removed they will be litigated in Denmark and a request for prosecution will be filed with the EU Commission. Visa Europe, MasterCard Europe, and Teller (a Danish company licensed to process transactions on behalf of the card companies) are the subjects of the complaint.
It was pointed out to these companies that their coordinated action on December 7th last year to block all credit card transactions to WikiLeaks and DataCell constituted a serious violation of the Competition Rules of the EU (Article 101(1) and 102). Furthermore, that the actions of these companies have violated Danish merchant laws when they terminated the payment services and by refused to reinstate them.
Visa Europe, Master Card Europe, Teller and Korta where told that if the payment services would not be reinstated and liability for the damages accepted, DataCell and WikiLeaks would file a complaint to the European Commission regarding violation of EU competition laws and file a lawsuit with Danish Maritime and Commercial Court (“Sø- og Handelsretten ”).
Teller has acknowledged that it is ready to reinstate the services as due diligence by the company has not found any violations by DataCell, but, despite this, the company has been ordered by Visa and MasterCard to keep the payment services closed. Visa and Master Card (which have 70 and 25 percent market share in Europe respectively) have not answered the demands or shown willingness to negotiate a settlement.
In light of this outcome DataCell and WikiLeaks will instruct their international legal team to take actions against these companies in the coming days as outlined above. Further actions in other jurisdictions will follow.
For information concerning the complaint to the EU Commission and the case in general please contact:
Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, Supreme Court Attorney,, phone +354 8947406 any hours.
Supplementary information:
The actions of Visa Europe and MasterCard Europe as concerns DataCell and Wikileaks violate the EU Treaty
In December 2010 the international card companies, Visa Europe and MasterCard Europe ordered the Danish/Norwegian payment card service company, TELLER A/S, to terminate its payment services (provided through its agent Korta in Iceland) to DataCell ltd., ( Wikileaks, the media organisation, had received donations through the web-site of Datacell.
DataCell tried to get access to the international payment card networks through other members of the Visa and MasterCard networks without success. Their order to exclude DataCell from payment services has not only blocked donations to Wikileaks but has also effectively prevented DataCell from operating and receiving payments for its services as an international data centre and hosting operator.
In Europe, as in most parts of the world, Visa and MasterCard dominate the market for collecting and processing (acquiring) payments made with payment cards. Visa holds about 70% of this market in Europe, while MasterCard has around 26% of the market. Collectively, these franchises hold therefore approximately 96% of the market for acquiring services in Europe.
DataCell claims that the order of the card companies to its members (licensees) in Europe to boycott Datacell, absent any objective justification, (no such has been provided by the card companies) constitutes an abuse of market dominance in the meaning of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, (TFEU).
DataCell furthermore claims that identical and simultaneous actions taken by Visa, MasterCard , Teller and Korta in respect of DataCell (and Wikileaks) constitute a concerted anti-competitive practice in the meaning of Article 101 (1) of the TFEU which prohibits all agreements and concerted practices, which prevent, restrict or distort competition within the internal market.
The penalty for infringing the competition rules of the EU can amount to 10% of the turnover of the companies involved. Moreover, violators of the competition rules may now be sued in most jurisdictions within the EU for damages under the law on tort. DataCell (and Wilkleaks) are now preparing such action in Demark and Iceland against the card companies.
As mentioned above it is the opinion of DataCell that the card Companies have not been able to provide any objective justification for their actions. In this context it is emphasised:
(I) The provision of payment gateways whereby the holder of a merchant agreement uses its merchant account to accept, idonations/payments related to non-profit organisations or companies, which do not have their own merchant account is common and accepted business practice.
(II) The services provided by DataCell to Wikileaks are in no way different from other payment card gateways provided by competitors of DataCell to organisations and companies around Europe and around the world.
(III) When DataCell entered into the payment service agreement with Teller and Korta it was made clear to the companies that DataCell would use its merchant account to receive donations for Wikileaks.
(IV) When Teller at the request of DataCell carried out a compliance check of DataCell’s operations they were found to be 100% compliant with Teller’s requirements and the terms and conditions of the payment services agreement.
(V) Wikileaks has nowhere been found to be engaged in any illegal activity. Infact, in the only formal US review to occur, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy C. Geitner, refused (January 13) to add WikiLeaks to the US financial embargo list, saying that there was no legal justification to do so.
(VI) There are no ownership connections between DataCell and Wikileaks / Sunshine Press Foundation (the Sunshine Press Foundation is the corporate arm of the Wikileaks organisation). Datacell does not have any representatives or representation in the Wikileaks organisation nor does Wikileaks have any say in the matters DataCell. The relationship between DataCell and Wikileaks is a pure business relationship.
(VII) Finally, Visa and MasterCard do not prevent their members from supplying payment card services to media organisations that openly support and cooperate with Wikileaks.
-Julian Assange

A new website called HackerLeaks, reportedly launched last week by members of hacker-activist collective Anonymous, invites users to submit hacked data for analysis and publication.
Similar to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, HackerLeaks operatives “receive documents through anonymous submission channel, analyze them, and then distribute them to the press,” Forbes's Andy Greenberg reported on Thursday.

The organization’s official mission statement, available on the HackerLeaks website (here), reads,

“In both security as well as overall strategy, HackerLeaks is closely modeled on WikiLeaks. Our first priority is to provide a safe, secure - and anonymous way for hackers to disclose sensitive information. Our team of analysts first carefully screens each submission for any possible trace of the senders identity. Our second commitment is to ensure that each and every leak receives the maximum exposure possible in order to achieve the most profound political impact for the risks taken by those submitting material. To that end, we work with media outlets all over the world.”

Amidst recent Internet security breaches, independent hackers have been utilizing sites such asPastebin to release compromised data. HackerLeaks, on the other hand, claims to provide an added incentive, offering “maximum exposure and political impact” as a result of such "leaks".
“We just wanted to make our own offering, compete in the disclosure marketplace and maybe fill a unique role if we can,” says a HackerLeaks representative who spoke to Greenberg over instant message.

As of this writing, there has been one anonymous submission to HackerLeaks –– a leak containing personal information of Orlando officials. Time will tell whether or not more hackers will utilize HackerLeaks in order to publicize the data that they’ve taken.

Anonymous has reportedly launched a "war" against the city of Orlando to voice disapproval over the arrests of non-profit workers who distribute food to the homeless without obtaining permits from the city. The group claimed that it will target "city web assets," and apparently downed the Orlando Florida Guide soon thereafter.

Federal Wiretaps Nearly Doubled Last Year

According to the U.S. courts systems’ annual report on law enforcement wiretaps, federal law enforcement requested 1,207 intercepts placed on phones and electronic communications last year, nearly double the 663 requested in 2009.
Overall, wiretaps jumped 34%, including a smaller increase in the number of state-requested law enforcement eavesdropping. The total comes to 3,194 requests, up from 2,376 in 2009 and just 1,190 in the year 2000.
The steady rise in legal snooping over the last decade has been driven largely by the war on drugs, according to the report. Drug cases comprised 84% of the wiretaps requested in 2010, compared with 75% in 2000.
Even as wiretaps have risen steadily for the last decade, however, federal wiretaps have only grown marginally until the last year, from 479 in 2000 to 663 in 2009. The subsequent doubling between 2009 and 2010 is an unprecedented spike.
It’s also worth noting,  that when last year’s version of this report was released, that encryption still isn’t posing much of a threat to law enforcement’s eavesdropping activities. The report states that cops came across encryption in only six of the 3,194 cases they pursued in 2010, and even in those cases, “did not prevent officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications.”
That tiny usage rate of encryption, and the implication that law enforcement found other ways to circumvent or break it, seems to contradict long-running fears from law enforcement that encryption would make their job tougher. As FBI director Louis Freeh said in a 1997 congressional hearing: “Uncrackable encryption will allow drug lords, spies, terrorists and even violent gangs to communicate about their crimes and their conspiracies with impunity. We will lose one of the few remaining vulnerabilities of the worst criminals and terrorists upon which law enforcement depends to successfully investigate and often prevent the worst crimes.”
But a decade’s worth of statistics seem to show the opposite, argues Chris Soghoian, a privacy researcher with the Center For Applied Cybersecurity Research. He points out that the FBI continued over the last year to claim that encryption hampered law enforcement, pushing for backdoors into all Internet communications. He asks, “Perhaps this means encryption isn’t the boogeyman that the FBI makes it out to be?”
The full report is below

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