By Ellen Nakashima and Edward Cody
Friday, December 3, 2010; 10:22 PM
WikiLeaks, which has sought to leverage the anonymity and ubiquity of the Internet in its efforts to make public secret information, is struggling to keep its Web site online without interruption.
Late Thursday night, an American provider of domain name service deactivated WikiLeaks.org, so that any query for that site returned a "Server not found" message.
The provider, EveryDNS.net, suspended WikiLeaks' domain name service following a barrage of Internet attacks on the WikiLeaks site beginning Sunday, when the group began releasing leaked U.S. diplomatic cables. A series of "distributed denial of service" attacks - in which a site is bombarded with communication requests that interrupt access - "threaten[ed] the stability of the EveryDNS.net infrastructure, which enables access to almost 500,000 other Web sites," the company said.
Earlier this week, Amazon.com, an online retailer that also rents Web hosting services, booted WikiLeaks from its servers because of a violation of the company's "acceptable use policy," which bars illegal activities, and because of denial of service attacks.
That move came after an inquiry from Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), whose staff had contacted Amazon on Tuesday to inquire about Amazon's hosting of the site and whether it had plans to take it down.
After EveryDNS.net pulled its domain name, WikiLeaks shifted to two other European-based domains, www.wikileaks.nl and www.wikileaks.de. As of late Friday, those sites remained accessible.
WikiLeaks characterized the thrust and parry nature of the struggle by saying on Twitter: "The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops."
WikiLeaks, according to former members, has servers in different countries precisely to avoid the sort of trouble it is facing now. But its release of the cables has so angered some governments that they are seeking ways to silence WikiLeaks by prevailing upon the largely invisible providers whose services make the Internet work.
On Friday, the French industry minister, Eric Besson, ordered the government's Internet supervisory agency to find a way to prevent France-based servers from hosting WikiLeaks. He acted swiftly after reports surfaced in Paris that OVH, a server headquartered in Roubaix, France, had started hosting material from WikiLeaks that no longer was available on Amazon.
"This situation is not acceptable," Besson said in a note to the General Council of Industry, Energy and Technology. "France cannot host Internet sites that violate the secrets of diplomatic relations and endanger people protected by diplomatic secrecy. One cannot host Internet sites described as criminal and rejected by other states because of attacks on their fundamental rights."
Besson's order, which was widely leaked in Paris, was in line with President Nicolas Sarkozy's stand. The French leader, who was called thin-skinned and authoritarian in U.S. Embassy cables to Washington, criticized the revelations as "the height of irresponsibility."
The Paris-based newspaper Le Monde was one of several publications that had advance access to the documents and widely reported on their contents. Its Internet site said Friday that OVH declined to comment on Besson's order.
The whereabouts of WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, remain unknown. On Friday, speculation grew that he is lying low somewhere in Britain after police there requested additional information from Swedish authorities seeking his arrest.
The Swedish prosecutor's office said Britain was the only country to ask for more information in connection with the European "red notice" for Assange's detention issued this week.
The warrant for Assange's detention stems from allegations by two women that he sexually assaulted them during a visit to Sweden in August. Assange has denied the accusations and says they are part of a smear campaign against him. He has not been charged with any crime and is wanted by Swedish detectives only for questioning. After interrogation, the prosecutor would decide whether to charge him.
Cody reported from Paris.
Special correspondent Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi in London contributed to this report.