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Interview with WikiLeaks.de domain sponsor Theodor Reppe
April 14, 2009
Gulli News Wikileaks Theodor Reppe interview (English version)
Wikileaks.de domain owner Theodor Reppe in an exclusive interview with Gulli News.
One of the last days' hot topics was undoubtedly the action around Wikileaks.de. The domain was unavailable over the easter holidays and different scenarios of what had caused this unavailability spread quickly. In the meantime, some of the people involved have gone public and talked about what happened. Now, Wikileaks.de domain owner Theodor Reppe also agreed to share his version of the events: He spoke to Gulli News about the unavailability of his domain, the influence of Wikileaks and digital civil rights in general. (German version)
gulli.com: What exactly is your motivation to support Wikileaks? Have you made personal experiences which made you take this step or are you doing something related professionaly? Or is it simply the idea of more information and press freedom in the net that motivates you?
Theodor Reppe: Personally, I haven't needed Wikileaks yet, but if people only think of doing something like that when they need it, it's usually too late. So, it is the idea of more information and press freedom (also) in the net that motivates me.
gulli.com: Concerning the latest events around the Wikileaks domain: The provider only cited an unspecified contract violation as cause of the cancellation of your hosting contract. What was the exact cause?
Theodor Reppe: The exact cause was the domain transfer request for the domain bnd.de, which was probably legit at that time since this domain registration (as explained in German here) violates the DENIC rules. When my provider wanted to see a signed transfer request I explained this, which led them so say: "We, like our registrar, see this differently. We will discuss this internally and with our legal advisors over the next days."
gulli.com: So it was this attempted domain transfer which made the provider decide to cancel the contract?
Theodor Reppe: Yes.
gulli.com: I see. Another question concerning the contract cancellation: The statements concerning deadlines, dates and the order of events are all very different from each other. Can you clarify this for us?
Theodor Reppe: On November 15th the provider wanted me to make a statement. At the same time, my account was disabled. I then tried to clarify everything as soon as possible, even though I sometimes had to wait for answers for more than a week. The cancellation came in mid-December. Since domains are paid for a year in advance I called my provider after the Christmas and New Year holidays and agreed with him to let the domains "run out" and move them one at a time. I reminded the provider of that in an email on March 31st and asked if that was still okay. As of now, I haven't got an answer to that email, but I didn't get suspicious since I was used to waiting a week or more for an answer and my customer login still worked after March 31st (in "read-only" mode). So, the cancellation of the domain was as surprising for me as it was for all the other people whose domains I sponsor.
gulli.com: That fits with the scenario given in the latest Wikileaks press release. Why do you think your former provider, Beast Associated, gave another version of the events in question?
Theodor Reppe: I don't know why they suddenly didn't want to keep our agreement any more. In fact, they don't write that such an agreement never existed but only that it can't be proven. Maybe that was the reason I didn't get an answer to the email I wrote on March 31st: They didn't want to provide me with evidence. Besides, I was told the contract for the domain wasn't renewed. If that was the case, why was the domain provided for a longer time instead of giving it back to the DENIC as soon as the alleged end of the period I payed was reached, as it would have been standard procedure?
gulli.com: Apart from the fact that you tried to transfer the domain "BND.de", is there any indication of the involvement of government agencies?
Theodor Reppe: As I see it, no such indication appears to be there.
gulli.com: Why wasn't this communicated more clearly from the beginning? Some, partially very worrying, "conspiracy theories" were propagated and your Wikileaks colleagues supported those rumours with their first press release. How did that happen? Was there a communication problem or did people simply overreact?
Theodor Reppe: No one knew what was going on, so everyone simply speculated into the blue. Now that we now it was "only" something so "minor", it probably was an overreaction of everyone involved.
gulli.com: As we know now, the event that led to all this was the attempted domain transfer of the BND domain. How exactly did you get the idea to try that in the first place? Was it a joke, a proof of concept, or what was your motivation?
Theodor Reppe: What made me try it was this posting. However, I saw it as a joke; I was relatively certain it wouldn't work, even though it would have been consistent with the DENIC rules. But I hadn't expected it to be an issue for my provider.
gulli.com: I see. So, everyone involved probably learned a lesson. Speaking of which:</b> Which consequences do you think this is going to have and what can the digital civil rights movement learn from it?
Theodor Reppe: Not everything which looks evil is caused by the state.
gulli.com: What will be done about the wikileaks.de domain now?
Theodor Reppe: I am going to move it to my new provider as soon as I get the transit form from the DENIC. That will hopefully be the case tomorrow (Wednesday), so that the domain should be available again within the next 24 hours.
gulli.com: That will please all friends of Wikileaks. So, you are definitely going to continue your efforts?
Theodor Reppe: Definitely! Otherwise I could only help democracy by exercising my right to civil disobedience.
gulli.com: Very good. How do you see the future of the Internet in general in the light of current political events and what do you think will be the role of Wikileaks in it?
Theodor Reppe: I think the Internet will be free for quite a while longer. Hopefully, this will also be the case for my Grandma and not only for people who know what TOR and an alternative DNS are. However, I also think that, particularly in Germany, peoples' willingness to defend their basic rights ends as soon as they have to make a serious effort. So, as soon as they have to leave their computer or TV for more than 15 minutes, they don't feel like participating in democracy any longer. Wikileaks alone can't save democracy - it's just an important step into the right direction.
gulli.com: So you would hope for more support?
Theodor Reppe: Yes, both for Wikileaks and for demonstrations and other "un-nerdy" democratic activities. If you think that on the first demonstration against data retention we were 250 people and on the latest demonstration it was several tens of thousands, that is certainly a positive development, but (obviously) the politicians don't react yet. So, much more has to be done - including activities apart from the Internet.
gulli.com: Many activists will certainly agree to that. Finally, I want to address another topic which our readers are very interested about: What is the state of events concerning the raid that was done on your home recently?
Theodor Reppe: Thanks to the effort of [lawyer] Udo Vetter and the quite serious media attention, I got my hardware back only a week after the raid. Apart from that, public prosecution know that "particularly because it is the main concern of [Wikileaks] to keep the Internet free of censorship", I "don't agree to remove the links in question" [quoting a file from public prosecution], which I couldn't do anyway, since I only own the domain - if public prosecution has understood that yet, I don't know.
gulli.com: That remains to be seen - we will certainly continue covering this case! Is there anything else you want to say to our readers?
Theodor Reppe: I hope I'll get the opportunity to reach a court ruling which finally clarifies that by linking to a website, one doesn't adopt the content as one's own - particularly not before such a journalistic background. Everyone who has ever linked his website or blog to another site is potentially concerned and should therefore feel called upon to make a donation to Wikileaks because the resulting court ruling concerns everyone! And the path to it will not only be long, it won't be cheap, either. Also, I want to thank my parents and my younger sister (who, at 16 years, had to face 7 cops alone) for their love and support. All the people in the media who make such events known to their audience can't be thanked enough, either. And not to forget all donors and private supporters, who mail me directly and offer help!
gulli.com: Those are nice closing words. Thanks a lot for the interview!
(the interview was done by Annika Kremer)
Thanks to Gulli News and Annika Kremer for covering this subject. Contact the aforementioned for reprint rights.