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Bank drags Facebook into Wikileaks case, which takes a late-day turn for the better

By Paul McNamara on Fri, 02/29/08 - 12:29pm.

The Wikileaks outrage has just gotten ever more so ridiculous ... and at the same time deliciously ironic.

(Friday evening update: Looks like the judge has reconsidered and Wikileaks.org should be back soon. ... More detail here. ... They're baaaaack.)

If I'm reading these documents correctly - always a dicey proposition, given that I have a degree in journalism not law - it appears as though the Swiss bank that bamboozled a U.S. judge into pulling the plug on Wikileaks.org has dragged into this morass a human rights activist and Stanford graduate student who has no earthly connection to Wikileaks other than that he vetted some documents the whistleblower haven hosted (completely unrelated to the bank case) and also moderated a Facebook discussion group about the site - on Facebook.

The fellow, Daniel Mathews, tried explaining to attorneys for Bank Julius Baer that they were twisting an arm unattached to their target - to no avail - so Mathews actually had to lawyer up, which as Wikileaks notes in a press release "will likely be of keen interest to the very large Facebook community." ... Or anyone who contributes to any wiki or discussion board about any controversial topic.

From the Wikileaks release:

The following excerpt demonstrates the type of abuse of process used by Bank Julius Baer & Trust's (law firm) Lavely & Singer to bring about a hearing at which Wikileaks was not represented:

Plaintiff's counsel responded: "Wikileaks lists you as an officer of the company on its Facebook page. As an officer of a defendant in this action, my client is entitled to serve you a copy of the summons and complaint pursuant to Rule 4(h)(1)(B) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." Facebook is a website created for college students (and now used by others) as a social networking site. The Wikileaks website had invited people to start discussion groups on Facebook and other websites. The Facebook page at issue had identified (Mathews) as the "Stanford rep." of the discussion group, and the Facebook term "officer" has no significance; the fact that I am an "admim" merely indicates that I was a moderator of that discussion group.

I responded to Plaintiff's counsel: "I am an officer of a Facebook group, which is essentially a message board for discussion of issues relating to Wikileaks. I am not, and never have been, an officer of Wikileaks, and I request you not to represent that I am." Nevertheless, on February 22, 2008, Plaintiffs counsel declared to this Court that "Plaintiffs served a copy of the TRO and OSC on the Wikileaks Defendants via e-mail, per the Court's prior order, to the personal e-mail address for a listed officer of Wikileaks."

In other words, tough cookies, Mr. Mathews, you're the best we've got for a Wikileaks officer at the moment, so you're our man and here's your subpoena.

That's the ridiculous part.

Now for the delicious irony.

Mathews and his attorney, Joshua Kolten, have decided to make lemonade out of lemons: Since the bank insists Mathews has standing in the case, Mathews is asking the judge to consider the harm that the court's earlier injunction against Wikileaks has done to him; namely that it has prevented readers from accessing on Wikileaks the material he has written about subjects completely unrelated to the bank and its business.

Hopefully the judge will appreciate the point, get Wikileaks back online ... and let Mathews get back to Stanford and Facebook.

(Update: Looks like Noam Chomsky could be next in line for a legal love note from the bank.


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