#cablegate No more secrets and lies: Why #wiileaks is right – again!

November 29, 2010

The editorial in The Guardian sums it up for me. Nasty regimes can no longer hide in a fog of secrecy and deceits.

There are things that were not widely known outside a tight circle: the true position on controversial issues of repressive regimes, for instance, or the unguarded remarks of world leaders who imagined they were in safe company. Finally, there are matters which were not known by the wider world – one example being a directive in Hillary Clinton’s name for diplomats to gather personal intelligence, including biometric information and email addresses, on the UN leadership. This was one of a number of “human intelligence directives” sent out by the state department across SIPDIS to diplomats across the world, instructing them to gather such information on a wide variety of people.

The American government — and by this I mean the machinery as well as the political wing — has routinely spied on friends and enemies alike; collaborated with monsters and undermined global confidence in its own and its allies’ right to be taken seriously when ever our leaders talk about democracy and ‘open-government’.

The material itself is fairly predictable; it is the breadth and depth — once again — that makes this latest Wikileaks document dump so important and interesting.

The drilling down will now begin and it is going to be widespread. Jounalists, bloggers and curious individuals  – not to mention the well-organised — all over the world are sifting, sorting, cataloging and analysing documents relating to their own part of the world, or area of interest.

New Zealand PM John Key is — like many other national leaders — attempting to soften the blow by admitting there will be embarrassing material in the documents. Nearly 1500 pieces of information relating to New Zealand are in the stash.

“Naturally there’s communication between Washington and Wellington so (there’s) every chance that there’ll be something released that causes a little bit of embarrassment.”

The documents would be taken out of context, Mr Key said.

Well, naturally, Teflon John would say that, but I’m sure that news outlets around New Zealand and the world are eagerly awaiting the next drops.

I think Wikileak’s strategy of releasing information through its news media partners is very clever. Importantly, it means that the Pentagon, the White House and allied foreign equivalents cannnot escape. They are answering to the news media and they are pitted against the impeccable credentials of a credible and well-organised opposition ource that can expose some dirty linen.

It puts the usually aggressive spin machines into reverse cycle.

Government agencies and political spokesmouths are on the defensive. They are forced to react instantly to the release of Wikileaks’ material. In the face of the documents and the important  contextualisation provided by the news media, spin merchants must respond with ill-prepared and petulant-sounding grabs.

A statement from the White House on Sunday said: “We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”

Wikileaks – an enemy of the State, just like Little Brother

April 7, 2010

The semi-underground Wikileaks site has become a news story in the last 48 hours thanks to the disturbing video of two Reuters staffers being gunned down in Baghdad in 2007.

Last year the site was named as the Amnesty International new media site of the year.

The April 2010 video released by Wikileaks [available at EM here] shows a group of Iraqis walking in a neighbourhood where the American military was staging a large “counter-insurgency” operation.

The Reuters men were there to cover the story on the ground. Unfortunately two trigger-happy Apache pilots mistook a telephoto lens for an AK47 and opened fire. Twelve people were killed, two children were wounded.

Wikileaks used a crowd source of hackers to decode the encryption on the Apache “gun camera” footage that was leaked to them by whistleblowers.

Now the US military and its Washington think-tank apologists are trying to hose down the story and imply that the Apache pilots were only doing their jobs.

No surprises there; but I didn’t know that in 2008 the American military machine has also listed Wikileaks as an enemy of the State.

This document is a classified (SECRET/NOFORN) 32 page U.S. counterintelligence investigation into WikiLeaks. “The possibility that current employees or moles within DoD or elsewhere in the U.S. government are providing sensitive or classified information to WikiLeaks.org cannot be ruled out”. It concocts a plan to fatally marginalize the organization. Since WikiLeaks uses “trust as a center of gravity by protecting the anonymity and identity of the insiders, leakers or whistleblowers”, the report recommends “The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the WikiLeaks.org Web site”. [the document is no longer available at Wikileaks]

This is bizarre and shows just how twisted the whole concept of “homeland security” is. It reminds me of the plot in a great Cory Doctorow novel I’m reading at the moment: Little Brother.

In this book, the hero Marcus Yarrow faces down the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist bomb destroys the Oakland Bay bridge in San Francisco. The DHS locks down the city and ups the surveillance in school classrooms, on the street and via electronic devices so that everyone is under their gaze 24/7 (almost).

Yarrow is a 17 year-old school kid who’s into online gaming and computer coding. After his illegal detention by DHS agents, Marcus and his friends organise a jamming campaign using darknet software that plays on the Xbox.

In an interesting twist, Marcus and his family seek the help of a dead trees “investigative journalist” to expose the DHS clampdown on civil liberties.

I find this interesting because it possibly shows the limits of social media in terms of making a really big story public and driving public opinion.

It’s probably also a comment on the age gap. Yarrow’s father is old school so doesn’t understand the jamming culture of his kid.

I haven’t quite finished Little Brother yet; but I can’t wait to get home and read the last 80 pages.

You should get hold of a copy; it’s an interesting book and an important statement about how Homeland Security has become a war against the American people. You can also check out a fan page for the book on Facebook.

Writer, blogger and cool geek Cory Doctorow

Doctorow is behind the technology and culture blog Boing Boing and I like him even more now that he’s just published an anti iPad manifesto.

In particular there’s this biting swipe at the dead tree media:

I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff.

The parallels between the military’s attitude to Wikileaks and the DHS crackdown on civil liberties is eirie.