whistle header text

Responses to Whistleblowing

After Wikileaks became a prominent Whistleblowing site, several different entities have responded in their own way. For instance, hackers have waged cyber attacks against Wikileaks. Amazon cooperated with the requests of the Government and refused services to Wikileaks whereas Twitter fought against the Government and protected Wikileaks account information. Furthermore, the US Government has responded by working to make leaking information harder and to prosecute whistleblowers.


Wikileaks has suffered temporary outages from “denial of service” attacks. A denial of service attack happens when several computers bombard a website’s servers with more requests than the servers can handle. As a result, the servers cannot serve pages to the regular visitor. Due to the Internet’s structure, pinpointing those responsible for such attack would be difficult. James Lewis, a cyber security expert, explains that a denial of service attack is “usually the amateur’s approach,” and that the attacks probably originated within the “hacker community” by “a bunch of geeks who’ve decided they’re annoyed with Wikileaks”. Therefore, individuals have responded to Wikileaks’ activities.


After Wikileaks had temporary outages, Wikileaks decided to host their website on Amazon’s servers. Amazon later refused to host Wikileak’s website in an apparent response to government pressure. Joe Lieberman, a US senator and chairman of the homeland security committee, commended Amazon’s decision and called on “any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them”.

On the other hand, Twitter is not complying with the Government’s requests. The US government got a court order demanding Twitter to turn over information about people connected with Wikileaks. Furthermore, the subpoena came with a gag order which prevented Twitter from telling anyone about the court order, especially the targets. Twitter has a policy of notifying a user before responding to a subpoena, but the gag order prevented such an action. Therefore, Twitter fought to overturn the gag order. Twitter’s response to the government’s request is quite unprecedented.


The government has taken several actions to prevent whistleblowing. For one, the military has issued a ban on “removable media on all systems, servers, and stand alone machines” on the Defense Department’s secret network. Private Bradley Manning said he used a rewritable CD to steal classified documents from the military network.

The Obama administration has begun an aggressive crusade to prosecute whistleblowers. Ironically, President Obama campaigned to “Protect Whistleblowers,” and described whistleblowing as “acts of courage and patriotism” that “should be encouraged rather than stifled”. However, National security experts say they “they can't remember a time when the Justice Department has pursued so many criminal cases based on leaks of government secrets”. For instance, the Department of Justice recently served a subpoena to James Risen, a New York Times reporter, demanding that he reveal the source he used for a story he published in 2006. Afterwards, the DOJ arrested Risen’s source, Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent who left the agency in 2002. Effectively, the Obama administration has aggressively begun prosecuting whistleblowing that took place as far back as Bush’s first term.

By: Ethan Lozano, Alan Joyce, Robert Schiemann, Adam Ting, Dominique Yahyavi