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Are wikileaks considered valid proof in a court of law? How does the government assess whether a leak on wikileaks is legitimate, and is the assessment made on an individual basis, if so what is the process for determining their validity, or are they all rejected or accepted?

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  • How does a government assess a leak on any random website out there? Theres nothing special about wikileaks, its a website where people put unverified information up, often with a political motive. The same criteria for verification applies to any website. – Moo Mar 21 at 23:22
  • There's no straightforward answer to your question, because virtually all evidence is subject to tests for authenticity and hearsay. If you can't get someone to authenticate the evidence, it's not proof of anything. If you can, you still have to get around the rule against hearsay, which you may or may not be able to do depending on what the documents say and what you're trying to prove with them. If you provide a more detailed hypothetical, we could give you a better answer. – bdb484 Mar 21 at 23:55
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The courts are never in such a broad position to rule on generic wikileaks evidence. Theoretically, a court could have to rule on the admissibility of a specific document, so in that sense the matter is always dealt with on a case by case basis. There is a "document" that purports to be somehow from Amazon, reporting that a certain grey building with no architectural charm in a nearby village is an Amazon data center. Legally speaking, nobody cares, but let's say that there is some legal reason why it matters whether the claim is true (I stipulate that the document passes the relevance test).

The publicly-posted document has no probative value, because anyone can create a file containing the word "Amazon". It looks like a cleaned-up OCR scan of a printout (hence the complete failure at non-English characters), and lacks any clear indicia of Amazon origin. Thus the party would have to establish that the document is authentic, and there must be a provable chain of custody from the author to the submitted document. Federal Rules of Evidence cover questions of authenticity and contents of admissible evidence in art IX, X. Nothing in rule 901 suggests that such a document would be admissible.

Very theoretically, if they happened to also have the original paper document, there might be sufficient forensic evidence to prove that the document is traceably come from the purported source. The wikileaks document per se would still be inadmissible, but the (more) original document could be admissible.

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  • And of course, even if it's admissible, the opposing party can still dispute its authenticity, and offer evidence that it isn't authentic. The judge or jury would consider all the evidence in deciding what to believe. And even if it's found or admitted to be authentic, it still wouldn't prove that the building actually is a data center; the opposing party can deny its accuracy and offer contrary evidence. Again, the judge or jury would ultimately decide. – Nate Eldredge Mar 22 at 1:59
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    "the document is authentic, and there must be a provable chain of custody from the author to the submitted document" A chain of custody is one way to establish authenticity, but it is by no means the exclusive means by which this can be done. The FRE rules give safe harbor examples of ways to prove authenticity but do not provide a comprehensive list. Authenticity is a low bar. – ohwilleke Mar 22 at 21:02

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