Why Lieberman Had Nothing to Do With Amazon Dropping WikiLeaks

When Amazon booted WikiLeaks from its servers, Senator Joe Lieberman quickly swept up credit for the move. But just how much credit does he deserve?

Joe Lieberman


This week, WikiLeaks briefly found its way on to Amazon’s cloud hosting before being booted from the company’s servers. The reason it was kicked off? After it surfaced that Senator Joe Lieberman’s staff made inquiries into the companies relationship with WikiLeaks, the veteran Connecticut statesman quickly swept up the credit for Amazon’s actions.

Lieberman’s office released a strongly worded statement (“Amazon severs ties with WikiLeaks”). Talking Points Memo took the bait (“How Lieberman Got Amazon To Drop WikiLeaks”), and other news outlets quickly parroted the story (“WikiLeaks Website Shut Down by Amazon & Joe Lieberman,” said Computerworld.)

But just how much influence did Lieberman yield? Does he really deserve credit here?

When we spoke to communications director Leslie Phillips Wednesday, she spent time hedging Lieberman’s involvement in the issue as chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“First of all, the Senator didn’t specifically ask Amazon to remove [WikiLeaks],” she began, explaining that staffers merely requested information from Amazon about its hosting of the confidential documents.

Indeed, Lieberman’s statement only said he wished Amazon had acted sooner, while calling on other providers not to host WikiLeaks. If Amazon hadn’t removed WikiLeaks, then Lieberman would surely have taken action, right?


“I’m not sure. I’m not sure if there are any actions,” said Phillips. “This may have been a case where the most effective action was publicity.”

“Publicity” is the operative word here. In a statement released by Amazon today, the company said government pressure had nothing to do with removing WikiLeaks from its servers.

“Amazon Web Services (AWS) rents computer infrastructure on a self-service basis. AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them,” the statement read.

“There have been reports that a government inquiry prompted us not to serve WikiLeaks any longer. That is inaccurate.”

[Photo: Unknown Wiki user]


About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.