By Ryan Singel EmailMarch 25, 2009 | 2:04:12 PM
Eleven German police officers raided the homes of Wikileaks amicus Theodor Reppe Tuesday night in an emergency raid and seized an employer-issued laptop, following Wikileaks publication of the Australian government’s list of banned websites.
Apparently, the Germans, like the Australians, want the list taken down.
The police claimed they were on the hunt for child pornography writings (.pdf) and were seeking to shut down wikileaks.de, a domain name the 22-year-old hacker purchased to help out the whistleblowing website. The German domain name simply redirects surfers to a web proxy in Sweden that points to Wikileaks’ real servers, Reppe told Threat Level by phone.
‘They said they want all my hardware and to take Wikileaks down but that is impossible for me,’ Reppe said. Police first raided his parents’ home, but he had moved from there into a shared flat nearby some three months ago.
Wikileaks has been sparring with the Australian government over internet blacklists — after Australian authorities added portions of the site to its watchlist. Just as in Germany, there is a move in Australia to require all ISPs to block URLs put on the secret government-controlled list.
Wikileaks has a habit of publishing those lists — which include lists of known child pornography sites.
The police asked Reppe for passwords to both wikileaks.org and wikileaks.de but did not understand his explanation of how domain names worked, according to Reppe.
Both Reppe and Wikileaks say he has no operational role in the non-profit’s mission to expose the world’s dirty laundry.
Juilian Assange, Wikileaks’s prime mover, suggested the raids may be simply for show, since the police didn’t know what to look for and there’s a current struggle inside Germany over a mandatory internet censorship proposal.
‘It seems that the police were not personally motivated and the raid is ‘for show’,’ Assange said by e-mail. ‘The only question is — who is the audience?’
On Wednesday, the German cabinet gave preliminary approval to a law making the filters mandatory for all ISPs, according to Reuters.
Reppe also runs a prominent anonymizing Tor server and has seen the police walk off with his computers before.
Tor is a U.S. military-designed service used by diplomats and pedophiles alike to hide their online tracks.
Eighteen months ago, German police took Reppe’s personal computers when they discovered the IP address of his Tor exit node during a child pornography investigation. The proxy, which runs off a computer in a data center, was not affected by the raid — just as wikileaks.de remains up on Wednesday.
But this time, according to Reppe, the police were only interested in Reppe’s Wikileaks affiliation, asking for the password to the website and requesting that it be shut down.
Reppe is now left without a computer. Fortunately, he received word on Tuesday that the computers taken away 18 months ago will be returned on April 1.
As for his laptop from the software development company he works for?
‘I don’t think they will find anything and I’m not worried,’ Reppe said. ‘But tomorrow I must alert my bosses to the laptop seized by the police.’
Reppe hopes this time it won’t take 18 months for the police to return it.
Update: This story was substantially rewritten with information from Wikileaks and Reppe and published at 6:45 EST.
The original version of this story incorrectly indicated that German government had passed a mandatory censorship law on Wednesday; only the first steps have been taken.