STOCKHOLM (AP) -- WikiLeaks moved its servers
from the U.S. to Sweden in 2007 to take advantage of
laws protecting whistleblowers and a culture
supportive of online mavericks.
Sweden's support for Internet freedom has made it a
base for cyberactivists ranging from a Chechen rebel
site to the file-sharing hub The Pirate Bay.
But even here, WikiLeaks may not be home free.
The self-styled whistleblower, which has angered
Washington by publishing leaked documents about U.S.
military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, could
present a strong test of how far Sweden is prepared
to go to defend its freedom of expression.
Swedish laws allow prosecutors to intervene against
publication of material deemed harmful to national
security. It's unclear whether that could also
include the security of a friendly nation. The U.S.
argues the secret documents risks the lives of
coalition forces and Afghans helping them.
Another question is whether there is political will
in Sweden to go after WikiLeaks. The site's founder,
Julian Assange, is confident there isn't.
"The will of the Swedish people is with us," Assange
told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the U.S. has not
contacted Sweden about WikiLeaks. Any complaint
against the site would be a matter for Swedish
judicial authorities -- not the government, Bildt
said, but added he doesn't primarily see WikiLeaks
as a legal problem.
"Is it responsible to publish information that leads
to people being killed? I think that is more of an
ethical question than a legal one," he said.
Swedish ministers typically refrain from getting
involved when foreign governments complain about
material published by the country's media.
Last year, Bildt dismissed demands by Israel for the
government to condemn a Swedish newspaper article
that claimed Israeli soldiers harvested organs from
Asked whether Sweden would react differently if it
were the U.S. that had issues with material
published in Sweden, he said: "It makes absolutely
Still, not everyone is confident that Swedish
authorities will let WikiLeaks be.
The Pirate Party, a small Swedish political group
that holds a seat in the European Parliament, on
Tuesday offered Wikileaks to use its servers. Their
reasoning was that it would be even more difficult
for authorities to seize servers owned by a
Assange has said WikiLeaks routes its material
through Sweden and Belgium because of the
whistleblower protection offered by laws in those
countries. He was in Sweden this week in part to
prepare an application for a publishing certificate
that would make sure the site is fully protected by
the Swedish laws.
However, Oscar Swartz, the founder of Banhof,
Sweden's first Internet provider, said it's not so
much the wording of the laws that have attracted
online rebels to Sweden, but how they are applied.
"Lawyers in the U.S. ... use the law in an adamant
way and try to find any opportunity they can to
throw spanners into the works of people," he said.
"We don't use the law in that way in Sweden."
Swedish law enforcement cannot issue an injunction
to close a website before a court has convicted the
publishers of a crime, but can seize a server as
part of a criminal investigation, said Johan
Lundmark, deputy director at the Justice Ministry.
He questioned whether it could be considered a crime
in Sweden to leak classified U.S. documents.
The Swedish prosecutor handling media issues has
previously rejected Russian calls for an
investigation into a Swedish-based Chechen rebel
website, saying the country's laws are aimed at
protecting public order in Sweden, not in "Russia or
elsewhere in the world."
That indicates U.S. officials may only be able to
target WikiLeaks' servers by demanding legal
assistance from Swedish police for their own
"At the end of the day, it will all boil down to
some kind of interpretation by some authority, which
will consider ... if there is a possibility to
assist the American police with the support of
existing rules," Lundmark said. "This is a
complicated issue and there are loads of questions
that could pop up."
Still, in the case of filesharing website The Pirate
Bay, extensive communication took place between
lobby groups for the U.S. entertainment industry and
the Swedish government before the prosecutor pressed
charges against the operators.
The four men behind The Pirate Bay last year were
sentenced to one year in prison each and ordered to
pay combined damages of 30 million kronor ($4.1
million). They have appealed and the website is
still running while they await a retrial.
WikiLeaks' servers are hosted by the same company as
The Pirate Bay. And that's not the only link between
In the list of credits at the end of a military
video of an attack on unarmed men in Iraq, Wikileaks
thanked The Pirate Bay's reclusive technical
mastermind, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, for his
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.