WikiLeaks Appeals To Maritime Law?
Wikileaks’ servers have been based in many different countries such as France, Iceland and Sweden, and while the authorities have been so far unable to shut them down permanently, obviously they’re a prime target in the seemingly global fight against WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange.
In an ’exclusive’ by Fox News , unnamed sources "within the hacker community" suggest:
"...Assange’s financial backers have been working behind the scenes on the logistics of moving the servers to international waters.
"Then they can keep running WikiLeaks and nobody can touch them,” one source told FoxNews.com. “If you get a certain distance away from any land, then you’re dealing with maritime law ... They can’t prosecute him under maritime law. He’s safe. He’s not an idiot, he’s actually very smart."
FoxNews suggests a likely location may be the Principality of Sealand.
"... a rusty, World War II-era, former anti-aircraft platform off the coast of England in the North Sea. Based on a 1968 British court ruling that the facility is outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, Sealand’s owner has declared the facility a sovereign state, or “micro-nation.”
Prince Michael Bates of Sealand stands atop the helipad on his World War II era "micronation" -- a possible future location for Wikileaks’ servers.
Image: Source: FOXNEWS.com
And while this move has been unconfirmed, it has been widely suspected that housing the servers in international waters will legally keep global authority’s hands off the sensitive information, and keep it online.
However, the legality of this manoeuvre has yet to be tested, and will probably become a bureaucratic and diplomatic nightmare, which may prove out to be no protection in the slightest.
Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy with the Washington, D.C., think tank Center for Democracy and Technology, said moving WikiLeaks’ servers to Sealand wouldn’t matter -- unless the people behind WikiLeaks moved themselves.
“Where the data resides isn’t what determines jurisdiction,” Dempsey said. “You prosecute real people, you don’t prosecute servers. So if the WikiLeaks people want to live on a platform in the North Sea and educate their children there ... for people who have lives, that doesn’t make sense.”
Dempsey makes a valid point about the feasibility of the alleged plan, but also warns, chillingly, that when you try to play outside the rules, the game becomes a free-for-all:
“Once you put yourself outside the realm of law, then you’re outside the realm of law, rules on search warrants and excessive force and all that -- the reach of the Constitution -- none of that applies,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey is seemingly willing to interpret constitutional law and how it applies to US citizens in a sweeping manner, which coming from a policy maker in Washington, seems like a dismaying erosion. Follow our laws or you have no human rights?
But, constitutional law and admiralty or maritime law is not as simple as FoxNews or Jim Dempsey make it seem. Maritime law can extend from shore to shore, include continental shelves, and there are ways to classify and encompass vessels and islands, and laws that apply to those structures.
If these allegations are true about WikiLeaks’ servers, it conjures up the events surrounding Radio Caroline.
"Radio Caroline is an English radio station founded in 1964 [...] to circumvent the record companies’ control of popular music broadcasting in the United Kingdom and the BBC’s radio broadcasting monopoly. Unlicensed by any government for most of its early life, it was considered a pirate radio station."(Wikipedia)
Radio Caroline broadcast from floating ships 5km (3 miles) off the coast of England, just outside British territorial waters.
In 1966 the British Postmaster General, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, introduced a Bill to Parliament that outlawed unlicensed offshore broadcasting. This Bill became the Marine Offences Act and was enacted on 14 August 1967. The two Radio Caroline ships continued to broadcast with operations controlled from the Netherlands. In March 1968, both ships were towed to the Netherlands, because of unpaid bills, by the Wijsmuller tug company.(Wikipedia)
Floating vessels, like those used by Radio Caroline, must be registered by a country, and as such they come under the laws of that country no matter where the vessel goes. For example, the ships of the GreenPeace fleet have flown flags of many different nations at different times after governments deemed the vessels were involved in inappropriate activities and stripped them of their registration.
Conversely, the Principality of Sealand is fixed to the sea floor, like an island.
The famous royal fort Roughs Tower situated slightly
north of the estuary region of the Thames River. Source: Sealandgov.org
During World War II, the United Kingdom decided to establish a number of military bases, the purpose of which was to defend England against German air raids. These sea forts housed enough troops to man and maintain artillery designed to shoot down German aircraft and missiles. They were situated along the east coast of England on the edge of the English territorial waters.SeaLandgov.org
Even though it’s on the edge of territorial waters, there is contention as to its international status, no matter what the self-proclaimed "Prince of SeaLand" declares.
While it has been described as the world’s smallest nation, or a micronation, Sealand is not currently officially recognised by any sovereign state. Although Roy Bates claims it is de facto recognised by Germany as they have sent a diplomat to the micronation, and by the United Kingdom after an English court ruled it did not have jurisdiction over Sealand, neither action constitutes de jure recognition as far as the respective countries are concerned.Wikipedia
In the end, if these allegations regarding WikiLeaks’ servers are true, they will still need a country to work with. They’ll either require satellite communications, or fiber-optic cables to function. And while the US continues to seek extradition of founder Julian Assange, and payments to the pariah organization WikiLeaks are difficult to give through reluctant banks and online transaction-sites like Paypal, the pressure will be on countries to not treat with WikiLeaks, or suffer the consequences.
FoxNews.com : EXCLUSIVE: WikiLeaks to move servers offshore, sources say
FrontPage Image: Source: Google, Source: FoxNews, WikiLeaks Logo, Edited: EL RIC 2012
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