Quasi-Governmental Entities AT&T and Verizon Blocking Wikileaks Sites

We know the government is blocking Wikileaks sites: the Air Force, the Library of Congress, the Department of Education, as well as orders from the State Department that its employees should not read the leaked cables.

Which is why I find it so interesting that AT&T and Verizon are blocking Wikileaks sites internally, too. From Greg Mitchell’s liveblog:

Just received email tip from man purporting to be Verizon employee at a headquarters and offering to send screen shots.  Here’s an excerpt:  “Last week, I was browsing several news sites at work when I noticed something strange: any time I tried to read a story about Wikileaks, the site was blocked. Typically, our intranet blocks the usual ‘time-waster’  sites…. In these cases, the entire domain is blocked and any content offered up by that domain on a separate site (such as videos embedded from YouTube) would be blocked on the other site as well.”In this case, though, only specific URLs were being blocked, while the rest of the site was fine. In the screenshots, you can see I can access, for example, the Guardian front page, as well as another, non-Wikileaks related article. But if I tried to go to any of the cable articles, I received the block message…. It appears there’s a blanket URL block for any URL containing the word “wikileaks” no matter what the context. Also, I’ve confirmed with a friend of mine who works for AT&T that they’re doing similar blocking.   I have screen shots available.”  He also claims that a friend at AT & T says same thing going on there.

I wonder whether the block has anything to do with the large amount of domestic and international spying these telecoms do for the government, effectively making them high security quasi-governmental entities. Is it possible that these telecoms are working under governmental orders not to access anything to do with WikiLeaks, in the same way actual governmental agencies have been told that accessing the cables might constitute a security violation.

Maybe we can just find out who is spying for the government based on which companies implement these kinds of blocks on Wikileaks?

[bmaz here – We have received word from a trusted source at AT&T that they are not blocked, at least not consistently or completely; so consider the post so updated]

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

51 replies
  1. klynn says:

    Maybe we can just find out who is spying for the government based on which companies implement these kinds of blocks on Wikileaks?

    Well, I guess then the Guardian can run stories and just note material from an anon source?

    Afterall, anon sourcing is the rage.

  2. BoxTurtle says:

    It’ll take wikileaks about 10 minutes to set up a site that won’t be caught by those blocks, if they choose to do so.

    If I were the government, I wouldn’t even try to block wikileaks. Keep ’em on the one site, with known IP addresses, and hoover everything. Then threaten the jobs of those using it.

    Do you think ATT gets a list of employees who access wikileaks from other computers? I wouldn’t be at all shocked…

    Boxturtle (And how come they can block wiki so fast, but they can’t stop the diet spammer?)

    • dustbunny44 says:

      Blocking doesn’t keep secrets from leaking but it does put a big damper on more casual public dissemination of info – most won’t go looking for today’s working wikileaks address. As many have said, the goal is most often to keep the information from our own citizens.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        They’re only blocking internally. Currently, at least. So if you’re a subscriber, you’re not getting blocked.

        Boxturtle (Thinks our Government’s next foreign purchase will be The Great Firewall of China software)

  3. klynn says:

    The goal is to scare people. “If you look at wikileaks, you will risk going to jail,” type of threat.

    Imagine having access to finding out how many people are trying to look at wikileaks?

  4. klynn says:

    Thinks our Government’s next foreign purchase will be The Great Firewall of China software

    The Great Wall lost some of it’s greatness in 1903 thanks to the Wright Brothers. There will be new “Wright Brothers” who will invent “new flying” over firewalls.

    History has shown that walls are never secure.

  5. Mary says:

    I left a comment on the Halliburton thread, but probably you guys can give a better answer here. When I try to pull up some Guardian links on the Tesler extradition, I can’t get them to pull up and get DNS error messages. So – is that likely because of the attacks on the Guardian site over the wikileaks? Any magic tricks to get the Guardian links other than just to keep trying and see if you can eventually get through?

    • person1597 says:

      Checked the guardian stories on Tesler and Chodan. The embedded links for extradition, nigeria and serious fraud office were search commands to guardian related articles. Any term in particular you were looking for?

      • Mary says:

        I was wondering what was going on with the fact that the Guardian had filed suit to get at some of the US extradition filings so my search requests used a combo of “Guardian” “Tesler” “extradition” and some other words, but I just re-did it with these three and get the same result.

        It pulls up a headline & story “Newspapers challenge secrecy of extradition process in court” but I can’t get the story to open and I get DNS error messages.

        I’m super lo tech and am for now assuming it’s because its a recent story and the whole site is under attack but I’m not really very up to speed on how those attacks work.

        • person1597 says:

          Story loads for me. Here’s a snippet..

          Newspapers challenge secrecy of extradition process in court

          Prosecutors have refused to disclose documents which have been used to justify the extradition of two Britons

          Rob Evans is the author…

          An attempt to open up controversial extradition hearings to greater public scrutiny was launched in the high court today.

          British and US prosecutors and a magistrate, have refused to disclose copies of documents which have been used to justify the extradition of two Britons.

          The refusal is being challenged by the Guardian and the Times in an attempt to bolster the principle of open justice.

          A victory for the newspapers would break new ground and give journalists stronger rights to gain access to evidence in extradition hearings, and criminal trials in general.

          [cut for fair use]

  6. croghan27 says:

    Could it be that WikiLeaks will save the paper, newspaper industry? If enough people want to read the latest installment of the guv vs. WikiL. they may have to buy the origonal at the corner store.

  7. TarheelDem says:

    I checked out the WikiLeaks site linked both from the Guardian and Le Monde. The Guardian site went to a WikiLeaks main page that had articles about the efforts to stop WiliLeaks, but none of the links to the cables worked. From Le Monde, the link took me to a Yahoo search page for words “like wikileaks”, with Wikipedia heading the list.

    Citizens in the rest of the world can see the cables, but the citizens of the US who paid the bill don’t get to see a thing except through the established media. Sort of figures, doesn’t it. US citizens are always the last to know what the US is doing in their name.

  8. bmaz says:

    Hi there my fine fellow Wheel denizens: Please join me over at FDL Prime (Front Page) where we have our special guest Dawn Johnsen hosting authors and Constitutional scholars (real ones, not the wal-Mart variety like in the White House) Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegal in a special holiday spectacular Book Salon!

  9. skdadl says:

    I’m not having any problems with the Guardian, but yesterday I was reading Australians who were. Didn’t think to ask them where they work (not that they should be telling me on Twitter).

  10. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Which is why I find it so interesting that AT&T and Verizon are blocking Wikileaks sites internally, too.

    I just don’t have the stomach to go look up an HR page for AT&T, but I’m guessing that – like other corporations, as well as the government – they want employees who are analytical, creative, problem-solvers.
    Talk about shooting yourself in both your left feet…

    (“We want smart, analytical employees. But dammit, they’d damn well better never, ever even glance at anything that doesn’t pass muster with The Government Black Ops Paymasters.”)

    Crazymaking.
    Putin must be busting his sides laughing at this nonsense.

  11. ThingsComeUndone says:

    So they can’t block spam, they can’t block identity thieves, computer viruses, etc but they can stop wiki leaks when did the truth become subversive?

    The day we believed Bush about WMD in Iraq.

        • KrisAinCA says:

          I would counter that the idiots who said the embarassing things contained in these cables are responsible for endangering foreign policy. As part of our government, our diplomats should be subject to transparency laws. These folks should be held accountable for what they say and conduct themselves as such. A modicum of respect for the office they hold, the people they interact with, and the people they represent is certainly in order, IMHO.

          Also, by your logic, George W Bush and Cheney shouldn’t be allowed to have websites. Their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have endangered US Foreign Policy far more than the wikileaks cables.

          • onitgoes says:

            Another hit ‘n run by someone who’s got nothing other than some tired rightwing talking point.

            Agree exactly with what you said. Plus, really, while some of this stuff is likely embarressing, much that I’ve read so far is far from *shocking.* A lot of the characterizations about other leaders or other ambassadors or whomever other foreign dignitary… whatever… everyone makes comments like that. I doubt that anyone’s all that shocked or enraged.

            Why conservatives consistently want to live in a facist state is another point to ponder, but there you are….

        • I am after the truth says:

          The US spends its money on empire building, but refuses to promote the general welfare of its’ citizens by providing things like true universal healthcare. The economy in the US is so bad that states are cutting their budgets for needed services for people with disabilities. Tell me, what do you like so much about the US empire? It seems to me that there needs to be a non-violent overthrow of the US empire. By exposing the lies of the empire, Wikileaks could be the start to doing this. Then, we can have a government that instead of spending money on empire building provides for the general welfare by providing things like universal healthcare and good public transportation. Chances are that you are a troll, but it felt good to vent anyways.

  12. eCAHNomics says:

    ew,

    I don’t understand why you call AT&T & Verizon ‘quasi-govt.’

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call the USG quasi-private?

    On edit: Or WHOLLY private?

  13. YYSyd says:

    I would guess the Air Force and State Dept internal blocking is to hopefully show in a future court action that the government took all steps within its power to avoid further dissemination of the information thus proving the material to be still considered as damagingly secret. I think it is basically bad legal advice run amok. Verizon and AT&T are either under government control on this issue or are freelancing and testing internet censorship mechanisms.

    There is so much nonsense and irony around the way the government is reacting that one would suspect that the outcome is not going to be pretty. One big stupid that stands out is that secrecy should prioritize information to not go to your “enemies”. If the matter is national security and diplomacy, presumably keeping the secrets away from your own employees is the least of the worries. The entire rest of the world, including those dreaded terrorist (even the real ones) can access the stuff as they are released by the press outlets, as can American civilians and non-federal employees, with the exception of those who are under security clearance. This is Alice in Wonderland stuff, regardless legal technicalities.

    • timbo says:

      This gets into an area that I’ve been thinking on hard. Basically, is it more likely that these cables reveal that various government agencies have been lying to each other? Or that managers have been lying to employees? It’s already clear that other countries have clear access to this information now…

  14. donbacon says:

    Here’s an interesting POV taken by a Navy blogger on the actions taken byt the 24th Air Force to deny “access to 25 websites including several of the most prominent western media organizations on the planet.”

    There really isn’t a nice way to say it. In my opinion, the 24th Air Force, the United States Air Force premier cyber security organization, has been defeated by Wikileaks in the current information war taking place in the cyber domain.

    One way to define victory and defeat in an information war is by determining whether one side has denied access to information to the other side. By any reasonable assessment, and regardless of whether it was a self-defeating policy or by lawfare, Wikileaks has denied the 24th Air Force access to 25 websites including several of the most prominent western media organizations on the planet.

    http://www.informationdissemination.net/2010/12/information-war.html

  15. mgloraine says:

    “Maybe we can just find out who is spying for the government based on which companies implement these kinds of blocks on Wikileaks?”

    I think that will just give you a list of companies which the bankster lobby could think of to pressure into blocking or suppressing the next big leak. The truth is that just about any company with a network switch is spying for the government. I applied to Yahoo for a position as a network engineer and was informed that I needed to get a “Secret” clearance from the US government to be considered for the job. To work for Yahoo!

    Government agencies are spying upon all of us through every available port. “These days it’s all secrecy and no privacy.” Believe it.

  16. onitgoes says:

    These companies are clamping down in advance of the proposed/projected release of WikiLeaks re the banks & hedgefunders & Wall St. Guess it’s a pre-emptive strike to keep US citizens in the dark, but then again, since conservatives today are busily expunging words from our language – like Wall St – perhaps that’s yet another pre-emptive strike on the upcoming new set of WikiLeaks… as in: oh yeah, WikiLeaks “exposed” a whole bunch of stuff about something called “Wall Street,” but those words don’t exist in our language, so it must be *fiction.*

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Interestingly enough, the suppression of wikileaks is giving it more publicity than the USG’s ignoring the first round.

      But we knew that would happen.

  17. donbacon says:

    Talk about endangering US foreign policy:

    SECRET – NO FOREIGN (S/NF)
    Information becomes classified “secret” when someone with authority in the executive branch determines that its revelation would cause “grave damage” to national security. No Foreign means that only Americans can know this, ’cause we’re special.

    Here’s an example of a “secret – no foreign” document (extract):

    (S/NF) Mubarak is 81 years old and in reasonably good health; his most notable problem is a hearing deficit in his left ear. He responds well to respect for Egypt and for his position, but is not swayed by personal flattery. Mubarak peppers his observations with anecdotes that demonstrate both his long experience and his sense of humor. . .

    http://wikileaks.nl/cable/2009/05/09CAIRO874.html

    There is nothing here that might cause “grave damage” to national security. There are two lower security classifications — For Official Use Only and Confidential. But this gossipy common-knowledge diplomatic cable doesn’t qualify for those, either.

    Which is why SecState Clinton said on December 3rd:

    In fact, some of the analysis that has been done of the information that has been made available through these leaks has basically concluded that there’s not much news, there’s not very much to comment on, there’s no big revelation. It’s the day-to-day work of what diplomats all around the world do. And we need to be sure we can continue to have candid and open conversations.

    http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/12/152354.htm

  18. skdadl says:

    About “damage to national security”: Some people may have seen the debate between Greenwald and Stephen Aftergood (was that on Democracy Now!?). GG challenged Aftergood to come up with an example of a cable that that done that, or put anyone in danger, and Aftergood described the cable that did not name but pretty much pinned down a staffer for a German cabinet minister who was working as a mole for the U.S. From that cable the staffer concerned was quickly identified and fired by the German minister. Said Aftergood, “that’s damage to national security.”

    Well, I guess it is if you’re Stephen Aftergood. If you’re a German, especially a member of the German cabinet, not so much. I guess that’s asking for a little too much perspective from Aftergood, though. What would he think if the U.S. were to discover a cabinet member’s staffer working as a mole for the Germans?

    I don’t recall that GG had a chance to respond directly to that assertion from Aftergood.

  19. alank the pie in the sky guy says:

    Having not thought about it for years, I didn’t realize till just recently that Verizon acquired the assets of MCI-Worldcom and UUnet whose origins were the NSF legacy network of the Defense Dept Arpanet nuclear armageddon project.

  20. progress says:

    We know the government is blocking Wikileaks sites: the Air Force, the Library of Congress, the Department of Education, as well as orders from the State Department that its employees should not read the leaked cables.

    My issue is with Government and not some private entity and its internal policy.

    If the Government does not waste tax payer funded resources wasting time then they should block whole internet and not just wiki-leaks. During the 2008 stock market meltdown (a.k.a. intentional illusion) SEC employees were spending time on Porn channels instead of regulating and finding the root cause of the illusion. There were numerous accounts of this aspect. Looks like that activity is okay with Government but not investigative journalism which journalists are supposed to do i.e. Ferret out secrets.

    This is a great case for our Government to show Totalitarian regimes on how it handles freedom of press. So far President & Sec Clinton have shown maturity on this issue and respected freedom of press which enhances their stature.

    Some of you might have read during their Presidencies Pres. Thomas Jefferson and Pres. Lincoln were the most free press vilified presidents with forget about real scoops lots of innuendo & blatant fake stories. They lived with it because in their opinion the benefit of a Free Press to our democracy is more important than a controlled press and went on to become the greatest presidents our union ever had with the passage of time.

    I have a simple yardstick right now. Most Fawning and Praising our MSM is to our President, Senate and Congress then all or most of his policies are doing most harm to mainstream and helping top 1% and Vice Versa. it is proving extremely worthwhile measuring stick. Post Public Option removal and HCR bill the MSM has become utmost respectful.

  21. YesIllKeepMyDayJob says:

    >Maybe we can just find out who is spying for the government based on >which companies implement these kinds of blocks on Wikileaks?

    Nope. These kind of keyword blocks are trivial to implement on any network hub – my $50 home system allows me to do this kind of thing by just logging into it and typing any keywords I like after a few clicks. Then, if anyone plugged into that hub goes to a site which has one of those “banned” words, they get an error message rather than the web page. It’s intended to filter porn websites, and other non-kid friendly sites. (Wikileaks = The New Sexy?]

    My guess is that these companies are afraid that their company might show up in one of the cables (e.g. like BP).

    By the way, US Veterans Affairs is doing this to Wikileaks, too. Someone I know who works there got such an error message reading the NYTimes online when he clicked on a Wikileaked story.

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