Peter Kafka

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Amazon's WikiLeaks Author Explains Why He Yanked His Book–And Why He's Selling It Again

Add another chapter to the odd story of the WikiLeaks e-book that Amazon sold, stopped selling and is now selling again: The author tells me he asked Amazon’s U.K. site to remove the book after he received anonymous threats against him and his family.

But he says he has now reconsidered and wants the book sold, after all–even if it angers some WikiLeaks supporters.

To recap: Amazon received a storm of criticism yesterday for selling this oddly named e-book “WikiLeaks documents expose US foreign policy conspiracies. All cables with tags from 1 5000,” even though Amazon has refused to host WikiLeaks documents themselves.

Amazon’s common-sense answer to critics was that the book is commentary and analysis about the WikiLeaks data and that it intended to keep selling the title.

Later on Thursday, the book disappeared from Amazon’s shelves, and Amazon said it had been “removed by author.” But now it’s back once again.

What happened? I asked author Heinz Duthel to explain. We’ve corresponded via email, and while there’s a bit of a language gap (he’s a native German speaker), I think I understand the gist of the story: Duthel’s instinct after receiving threats was to yank the book, but now that he’s had time to think it through, he wants to sell it after all.

Below, an edited version of my correspondence with Duthel. I’m leaving his responses in their original form rather than risking making an inaccurate guess while cleaning them up:

December 9
Peter Kafka: I see now that the book is no longer available at Amazon’s store. The listing there says it has been “removed by author.” Can you please explain why you wrote the book, why you published it and why you decided to remove it?

December 10
Heinz Duthel: Yesterday I had a shocking day (at age 61) with my III. book about Wikileaks. I did remove the book after I received about 60 emails (anonymous) with insults like ‘after finish with paypal, mastercard, amazon’ we will remove you and all your books from the web’, ‘we know who are you and we will take care about you singing daughter (she is 15 and started to make some music since 2 years) and so on. did send me one email (Stephanie Derouin of Amazon’s Kindle Self-Publishing (DTP) Executive Customer Relations. Can you please confirm that this is your intent? You may email me at [xxx] ) so I replied that I have removed the book because I don’t want that is hacked only because of my wikileak book.

Since then one of my domains, has to be removed from my hosting company because of high cpu usage. This from 1:30 till 5:50 European Time. Now the domain is back again (amazon shop script) but I had to clean the cache for 2 hours on the domains, because it look like I had a few hundred thousand ‘visitors’.

Kafka: Your book now appears to be available on Amazon again. If that’s true, why did you decide to do so given the threats, etc.?

Duthel: I am surprised it is online again because I left this up to in my email as you have seen. I think there is no reason why it should not be online, because I think the comments bellow the book are not justified at all.

…honestly this book (Wikileaks IV) is nothing else then just about Assange, Wikileaks and why, what, question marks, comments etc.

This book is in fact something for readers interested to know what is going on or what is Weakileaks and have no time to search the whole internet, sources, media, press etc.

Kafka: I am surprised to read that you’re surprised it’s now available. Did you specifically tell Amazon to remove your book? And are you okay with the fact that it’s available once again?

Duthel: Peter, to question I:

Here is the email after I have removed the book and Amazon did ask me if this has been my intent.

Dear Miss Stephanie

No it has not been my intent, I have just been informed after reading the news in that would have or get problems from all this hackers or world regulators, like Mastercard, Visa or Paypal. So this is not my attention.

I think this book like any other has the right to be online and no one can or has the right to commit extrajudicial proceedings against books or publication.

But you can see all this supporters of Wikileaks and Julian Assange black mail each and every one who is against their self proclaimed freedom of press.

After talking with my family Lawyer this evening in France he suggested to place back the book or books as it is up to Amazon to decide what is wrong or good and not some self appointed world regulators outside there…

To question II.

Yes I am OK if the book is online and available because it has been the reason why I wrote the book, but I left this up to because I don’t want to be responsible if because of this book amazon.comget problems, hackers or what ever.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik