WikiLeaks: Free Speech, Cyberwar 1.0 and Corporate Control of the Cloud

WikiLeaks (which is down as I write this for reasons I’ll get to) is a site that’s been around since 2006 and first got a mention on this blog just over a year ago for a library-related story.

Since then, the site has released two fairly large dumps of information obtained from a single army intelligence officer – one released in July 2010 containing ~90 000 documents relating to combat operations in Afghanistan called the “Afghan War Diary” and one released at the end of November containing ~260 000 diplomatic cables from US diplomats back to the US State Department which is being called “CableGate” and which contains all manner of intelligence, speculation and observation about a variety of other countries.

These leaks have obviously been received with great alarm by government officials in the US who accuse the site and its operators of endangering lives (a fairly rich claim I must say, especially considering how much of the information in the Afghan war diary but also in the diplomatic cables is stuff that has already led to the deaths of innocent civilians and/or could lead to deaths in the future.)

Some other random thoughts…

– perhaps the scariest aspect of this development is that the US government has seemed relatively powerless to stop these leaks (at least so far) but powerful Internet corporations including Amazon and Paypal have been able to close down site hosting and donations for Wikileaks respectively.  A DNS registar blocked access to the main Wikileaks site due to a “Terms of Service” violation as well. (The fact that a bookseller is censoring a web site they host is another rich irony in this story which brings up many issues around the subject of free speech and the First Amendment.  And WikiLeaks have gone so far as to thumb their nose at Amazon, saying they planned to host with them just to show the hypocrisy of the site with regards to their commitment to freedom of speech and access to information – a charge that seems justified since Wikileaks was only shut down on a “Terms of Service” violation – those are convenient, eh?  Too bad nobody ever reads them! – after Sen Joe Lieberman’s office came poking around – even though Amazon claims otherwise.)

– some have called this the first “cyberwar” with the main WikiLeaks site facing Denial of Service attacks from an unknown source (hmm, maybe the US Government isn’t so powerless in this situation as I thought?) with the intention of preventing anyone from accessing the site though WikiLeaks is now being mirrored on 280 servers worldwide with an open invitation to others to join in.)  The Internet, especially via the very Net savvy activists at 4Chan and elsewhere who go by the collective name of Anonymous are plotting reprisals.

– the Library of Congress (which is a US Government agency) has banned access to the WikiLeaks site in its reading rooms drawing an extremely strong condemnation from the Progressive Librarians Guild (h/t to DH on Facebook for the tip)  Gotta say that’s the one detail in this whole mess that actually makes me sick to my stomach.  Even if they really have no choice as a government agency but to do this, you would hope that a library would be more principled (or at least intelligent – guess what?  The genie’s out of the bottle – you’re not helping and you just look dumb by doing this.)

– beyond WikiLeaks, this story has many implications for online censorship in general.

– politicos from Sarah Palin to Stephen Harper-advisor Tom Flanagan to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell are calling WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange a “terrorist” with Flanagan going so far as to jokingly call for Assange’s assassination on national TV.  Unbelievable.

– Julian Assange – Time Person of the Year?  I hope so.

– tons more at MetaFilter and Reddit

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 2

  1. From Wikileaks: Libraries and librarians respond - Saskatchewan Library Association on 06 Dec 2010 at 12:59 pm

    […] (e.g. Head Tale) enthusiastically support Assange. As you may imagine, Conservative Librarian condemns Assange. The […]

  2. From Head Tale - Web War I: The War to End All Warz? on 09 Dec 2010 at 6:12 pm

    […] Sunday, I did a post about the WikiLeaks situation where I mentioned the possibility of the world’s first true “cyber-war” […]

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