Watchdog Web Site Draws Legal Threats from Scientologists, Mormons

A scrappy Web site that’s built a reputation for taking on Goliath-sized corporate and government corruption is now fighting a holy war over copyright infringement.

Wikileaks.org — a watchdog Web site that leaks corporate and government documents — hasn’t officially launched, yet it has already uncovered human-rights violations in China, claimed to have swayed Kenya’s Dec. 2007 elections and exposed the inner workings of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

So many were surprised when it recently turned its sights on two lawyer-heavy religious groups: the Mormons and the Scientologists.

Founded in December 2006, Wikileaks boasts of an archive of 1.2 million released documents, sent in by thousands of sources and posted so the public can help debunk, verify or publicize them.

The site is run by a scattered worldwide community of journalists, activists and Chinese dissidents and funded mainly by “people who have made a lot of money in the Internet boom,” according to Wikileaks advisory board member and unofficial spokesman Julian Assange.

Still technically in “beta” or testing mode, the group has taken the “Wiki” name, but it has no connection to the popular on-line Wikipedia encyclopedia, having borrowed only the latter’s open-contribution format, which allows users to submit and edit entries.

In March, Wikileaks published a document detailing behind-the-scene workings of the Church of Scientology — a 612-page manual commonly referred to as the secret “bible” of Scientology, containing writings by L. Ron Hubbard on the eight different Operating Thetan levels, a basic principal of the religion.

The public had never seen the entire document before it appeared on Wikileaks; the church views them as secret and had sued CNN and Time magazine for releasing small parts of them in the past.

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