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Cablegate, server crashes light up WikiLeaks over holiday weekend

Most people were worried about popular online retailers like Amazon and eBay crashing over the holiday shopping weekend, but turns out the real target was WikiLeaks.

The site has been in hot water ever since its launch in 2006, but has specifically seen harsh scrutiny from the federal government in the last year. After releasing the “Afghan War Diaries,” the Pentagon demanded WikiLeaks return the documents and remove them from the site, both things it refused to do.

WikiLeaks has stood by its claims of free speech and government transparency, now more than ever. About a month ago, the site was responsible for the largest release of “The Iraq War Logs,” 391,832 documents that accounted for the largest military leak ever. The move incited US government officials, but not nearly as much as its latest leak. This weekend the site released secret US embassy cables dating back to 1966 that provide an in-depth look at US-foreign relations. The federal government has argued that at the least, this sensitive information could be embarrassing, and at most, threatening to the country’s international relations.

But shortly before the site officially leaked the documents, it was subjected to a DDoS attack, shutting the server down. There was speculation the US government had created the system error itself, but it’s now being widely reported that a hacker known as th3j35t3r (or “the jester”) was responsible. His Twitter feed often reports his hacks (which he claims are to thwart terrorists and “other general bad guys”), and this Sunday linked to WikiLeaks’ downed page and said “for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, ‘other assets’ & foreign relations.”

Whether or not The Jester is actually solely responsible for crashing the site is a non-issue at this point. WikiLeaks’ site is up and running,  the information in the recent document has already been given to several publications, and the State department is in damage-control mode.

And while many details concerning the truth of the documents are being debated, one rumor that’s caught the public’s attention is the possible confirmation behind a Chinese government attack on Google. Last year, Google was victim to a massive hack, and fingers were pointed at China after Gmail servers noticed a significant amount of Chinese dissidents’ accounts had been tampered with. The Sunday WikiLeaks leak reported Chinese confirmation of the Internet intrusion.

Google’s relationship with China has been stormy at best, and this new revelation will probably further complicate matters. But there are bigger concerns on hand, mostly between the US government and WikiLeaks’ impact. And the sites’ contributors should be worried, as the Pirate Bay founders were sentenced on Friday. It seems like any tolerance WikiLeaks has been granted is quickly disintegrating.