The shameful attacks on Wikileaks

by Chris Bertram on December 7, 2010

If you aren’t reading Glenn Greenwald on this, you should be. The latest turn of the screw is that Visa have said they are suspending payments. The good news is that, at least for Europe, this will take time to implement. The Wikileaks donations page is currently here

{ 224 comments }

1

Timothy Scriven 12.07.10 at 4:23 pm

The most disturbing part by far must be the freezing of the legal defence fund, since this takes away the capacity of wikileaks to argue for its own rights- for example- the right to operate a legal defence fund! A terrifying circularity here.

Does anyone have a fair and full summary of the debate over the legitmacy of the rape charges btw?

2

noen 12.07.10 at 4:27 pm

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney and George Bush remain at large.

3

Tim Wilkinson 12.07.10 at 4:37 pm

Not much chance of getting an Amazon/Visa/Mastercard boycott going over Christmas and New Year, I suppose.

4

Straightwood 12.07.10 at 4:48 pm

The Wikileaks affair has clearly revealed the character of such “trusted” commercial entities as Amazon, Paypal, MasterCard, and Visa. If there was ever any doubt that the US government and top corporations function as a gangster brotherhood, it has been permanently removed. These powerful players all took damaging unilateral actions against Wikileaks, absent any legal justification, under the coercion of an authoritarian government which continues to regard the rule of law as “quaint.” Customers of these organizations should respond accordingly.

5

dsquared 12.07.10 at 4:50 pm

Does anyone have a fair and full summary of the debate over the legitmacy of the rape charges btw?

As far as I can tell, nope. There has been a lot of spin claiming that this is all “condom broke, who is to say what constitutes consent, those funny Swedes and their feminist laws!” kind of thing, but the actual charge sheet includes one count of forcibly holding a woman down, and one of having unprotected sex with a woman as she slept, both of which are pretty cut and dried if the facts can be proved.

Reading between the lines, I think a big part of the issue is that everyone involved was pretty drunk over the course of the week in question (which is not at all atypical for Swedish towns during the crayfish party season). Which doesn’t vitiatie consent, of course, but it does make it the devil’s own job to get a conviction. Or to get a clear view of what the facts actually were, which amounts to the same thing.

6

Alex 12.07.10 at 4:54 pm

I am hugely enjoying the fact that we can donate to Wikileaks via Landsbanki.

7

Straightwood 12.07.10 at 5:03 pm

The ham-handed repressive actions of the US government are providing designers of future pro-bono information sharing systems with an excellent field test of the defensive architecture of the Wikileaks organization and technology platform. Any flaws found in the Wikileaks model will be corrected, and the (many) successors to Wikileaks will be even more difficult to suppress.

Obvious responses to the current threats to Wikileaks are an independent electronic donations system and a distributed hosting scheme. Internet-based open-source countermeasures will evolve much faster than the the clumsy repressive actions of nation states. Only a complete shutdown of the Internet will end Wikileaks-like challenges to the secrecy privileges of power elites. This is as likely as putting all of the world’s copiers under lock and key.

8

Dingbat 12.07.10 at 5:15 pm

Quoth Straightwood, “an authoritarian government which continues to regard the rule of law as “quaint.””

It strikes me that Assange &co. “continue to regard the rule of law as “quaint”,” too. And even if you think that what they are doing is legal on the basis of journalistic freedom, at the very least, they regard journalistic ethics as such.

9

Stuart 12.07.10 at 5:19 pm

The interesting thing for me is that the actual contents of the various leaks about the US initially made me less worried about it abusing its position compared to the general impression I had before, although I suppose you have to factor in that anything truly despicable being done would presumably be kept more secret and thus harder to leak than these lower level documents. In contrast the actions of various governments in trying to stem the leaks, or punish wikileaks for making them more widely available, make them look far worse than anything I have seen so far from the leaks themselves.

10

Straightwood 12.07.10 at 5:21 pm

Ah, yes, journalistic ethics must be respected! How marvelous was the display of journalistic ethics by Judy Miller and the New York Times in beating the war drums to enable the bloody mess in Iraq. But it is not the New York Times that is under a worldwide legal, financial, and public relations attack. No, the New York Times publishes, at a profit, the secret diplomatic cables supplied by Wikileaks while Assange is demonized as a “terrorist.”

11

Steve LaBonne 12.07.10 at 5:30 pm

Organizations like the New York Times pretend to fulfill the responsibilities of journalism (while actually licking the boots of the powerful). Wikileaks actually does fulfill them. That’s why the former have it in for the latter.

12

ajay 12.07.10 at 5:33 pm

8: It strikes me that Assange &co. “continue to regard the rule of law as “quaint”,” too. And even if you think that what they are doing is legal on the basis of journalistic freedom, at the very least, they regard journalistic ethics as such.

Journalistic ethics? Such as what, exactly?

And I think you’d be hard put to show that Assange is a scofflaw. There’s nothing illegal about publishing or transferring US secrets if you’re not a US government employee. See here:
http://www.juancole.com/2010/12/is-aipac-a-wikileaks-operation.html
the case of a couple of AIPAC staff who were leaked a confidential US document on Iran and carried it straight to the Israeli embassy. No prosecution followed.
Also, don’t forget that Assange, unlike the Israel lobbyists, isn’t a US citizen and didn’t live or work in the US.

13

geo 12.07.10 at 5:33 pm

Dingbat @8: Why do you believe that Wikileaks is indifferent to law and journalistic ethics?

14

LizardBreath 12.07.10 at 5:55 pm

Which doesn’t vitiatie consent, of course, but it does make it the devil’s own job to get a conviction. Or to get a clear view of what the facts actually were, which amounts to the same thing.

Yup. If the prosecution were happening in the US, I’d strongly suspect that it was politically motivated (on the part of the prosecution, not necessarily of the women making the charges). Not that the allegations, if true, don’t constitute rape, nor that they’re inherently incredible. But the nature of the allegations is such that under US standards of proof, it’d be implausibly difficult to get a conviction unless someone discovered that they’d left a video camera running in the room with a clear view of the entire encounter, and so a US prosecutor would be very unlikely to prosecute under these circumstances unless there was something else going on.

But I don’t know anything about Swedish law — possibly prosecutorial standards are different enough that this doesn’t look odd at all.

15

Bunbury 12.07.10 at 6:15 pm

The indifference to the rule of law that bothers me is the extra judicial nature of the pursuit of Assange and the casual and barely remarked incitement to murder from senior politicians. There is a certain laxity revealed in the documents too. I think that it should be more worrying when the state is wobbly on the rule of law than when an individual is.

In any case, what obligation does Mr. Assange have to keep US documents confidential?

16

geo 12.07.10 at 6:17 pm

Pundits love irony, so I’m sure some respectable pundit is about to point out that a torrent of potentially embarrassing and wrongly secret back-channel government communication undoubtedly contributed to the arrest of Assange and the harassment of Wikileaks — just the sort of potentially embarrassing and wrongly secret back-channel communication that Wikileaks exists to expose. How ironic!

17

Hidari 12.07.10 at 6:27 pm

Pundits love irony so they will presumably love the fact that the US is holding press freedom day 2011.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/12/152465.htm

18

AntiAlias 12.07.10 at 6:29 pm

I never expected the Swedish to stoop so low to the Empire. Call me naive. Nothing is sacred nowadays, I guess.

19

anitchang 12.07.10 at 6:32 pm

The Guardian (http://bit.ly/grMaHZ):
5.30pm: With perfect timing an email arrives from Philip Crowley at the state department:

” The United States is pleased to announce that it will host Unesco’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from 1-3 May in Washington, DC.”

Ironic? Read the next paragraph from the press release:

” The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and
innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.”

Shameless. You really could not make it up.

yep… btw, this McLuhan quote is all around the net and twitter: “World War III will be a global information war with no division between civilian & military participation.”
I couldn’t find the source on GoogleBooks or anywhere else…does anyone know where this is from, or is it a case of false attribution?

20

Straightwood 12.07.10 at 6:37 pm

You want irony? From The Guardian’s live blogging of the Wikileaks affair:

With perfect timing an email arrives from Philip Crowley at the state department:

The United States is pleased to announce that it will host Unesco’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from 1-3 May in Washington, DC.

Ironic? Read the next paragraph from the press release:

The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

Shameless. You really could not make it up.

21

SamChevre 12.07.10 at 6:53 pm

I’d just point out that moving transactions into monitored channels is a long-standing goal of the US government*, and this case gives (yet another) reason that I’m not happy with that policy. (Best publicized example was the Patriot Act ruling that car dealers are financial institutions, and as such must report cash transactions and follow “Know-your-customer” rules.)

(The justification is always “anti-money-laundering”; the motive seems to be a mixture of tax enforcement and bullying.)

This whole saga is very reminiscent of the consent agreements and prosecutions in the “tax shelter” “scandal”, much-covered by Larry Ribstein on Ideoblog.

22

anitchang 12.07.10 at 7:08 pm

a quick question: regarding Wikileaks this McLuhan quote is all over the net and twitter: “World War III will be a global information war with no division between civilian & military participation.” I couldn’t find the source on GoogleBooks or anywhere else…does anyone know where this is from, or is it a case of false attribution?

23

ben w 12.07.10 at 7:10 pm

But I don’t know anything about Swedish law—possibly prosecutorial standards are different enough that this doesn’t look odd at all.

Someone on MeFi claims that many Swedes think it’s a setup.

Where’s Weman when you need him, that’s what I want to know.

24

Sufferin' Succotash 12.07.10 at 7:20 pm

It’s interesting to note which politicians and pundits are baying the loudest for Assange’s blood. It’s almost enough to make one want to run him for President.

25

EWI 12.07.10 at 7:28 pm

I find it a damning indictment on the voters of Connecticut that they’ve repeatedly re-elected Holy Joe, who apparently considers non-Americans outside the frickin’ US liable for treason charges (is no-one safe?).

26

Nell 12.07.10 at 7:47 pm

Here are the recent comments of a lawyer who has worked for Assange in Britain, presumably what dsquared was referring to. Spin or no, it seems difficult to imagine Sweden seeking extradition on these charges if Julian Assange were not the founder of Wikileaks.

There may be Swedish lawyers on the web with experience in either prosecution or defense of sexual assault cases who could provide some context on how this case relates to typical Swedish law and procedure. Anyone with links, please post them.

Wire transfer seems to be the quickest and surest of the remaining ways to support Wikileaks financially. I doubt any mail going to the designated P.O. Box in Australia would succeed in leaving this country, and there’s a non-negligible probability of all/any mail to Australia being opened for the foreseeable future.

27

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 7:57 pm

Despite all the nonsense and hyperbole in the attacks on Wikileaks itself lets remind ourselves whats going on here:

a) A private organisation with a very clear political agenda is openly advertising its willingness to host and display freely private data, often in contravention of the laws of democratic nation-states.

b) The decisions as to what data is in the public interest to make available, and whether doing so will endanger the lives, health, reputation etc. of individuals is made by (so far as wikileaks tells us) an anonymous five member panel of ‘experts.’

c) There is no disclosure of wikileaks internal accountability mechanisms, nor can anyone outside the organisation question/participate in them.

Now, as a result of a very high-profile media stunt (which revealed very little of interest and was largely a continuation of Assange’s obsessive focus on embarassing the USA while dissidents in Turkmenistan, China, Burma etc. who have made constant pleas for Wikileaks assistance are given the two fingers)

a) A number of stupid, offensive politicians have said stupid offensive things.

b) Due to the controversy – controversy consciously generated BY wikileaks itself for a specific purpose – a number of private companies have decided its not in their interests to be seen doing business with the organisation anymore.

Clearly, therefore, the extradition of the man to face credible allegations of sexual misconduct is the greatest injustice in the history of humanity.

28

Chris Bertram 12.07.10 at 8:04 pm

My goodness Daragh, has Assange said something nasty about Nick Clegg?

29

Substance McGravitas 12.07.10 at 8:06 pm

There is no disclosure of wikileaks internal accountability mechanisms, nor can anyone outside the organisation question/participate in them.

They are as terrible as a bunch of government officials!

30

Barry 12.07.10 at 8:08 pm

” A private organisation with a very clear political agenda is openly advertising its willingness to host and display freely private data, often in contravention of the laws of democratic nation-states.”

Are you talking about the US or Wikileaks?

And it’s sweet to see “the laws of democratic nation-states” being used a bludgeon to beat somebody with. Since torture is, unlike what you’re talking about, actually against the “the laws of democratic nation-states”, this argues that a number of US officials should now be in prison.

31

Alex 12.07.10 at 8:13 pm

What about the internal accountability mechanisms of the entity “Daragh McDowell”?

32

stras 12.07.10 at 8:15 pm

often in contravention of the laws of democratic nation-states

Which laws would those be?

As to the rest of your post, Daragh – a, b, and c all apply to plain old everyday news organizations. The New York Times is also “a private organisation with a very clear political agenda” which also advertises “its willingness to host and display freely private data.” Decisions as to “what data is in the public interest to make available, and whether doing so will endanger the lives, health, reputation etc. of individuals” is made by the editors of the Times; no one outside the Times’ staff gets a vote (horrors!). Let’s round up Bill Keller!

33

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 8:16 pm

@Chris Bertram

Ho Ho! How very droll. But I do note that on the inter-webs generally those who have clambered over themselves to denounce Clegg for the crime of governing in coalition with the Conservative party have had the jerkiest of knees when it comes to defending Assange.

Conversely, most Lib-Dems I know have taken a nuanced approach to Wikileaks, acknowledging it could and can be of great benefit, but is legally and ethically problematic on a number of levels. They’ve also been less prone to conspiracy theories about the Swedish police and acknowledge that its possible for someone to both be a crusading left-wing journalist/activist as well as to commit sexual crimes, and that the former doesn’t constitute an excuse or get out of jail free card for the latter.

Crazy I know! But perhaps it has something to do with your clear moral superiority to me due to your political beliefs.

34

geo 12.07.10 at 8:19 pm

A very fair and balanced summary, Daragh. Just a few comments:

1) You seem to suggest that there is something compromising about having a “very clear political agenda” — not that you appear to understand what Wikileaks’ agenda is. Its agenda is to erode the anti-democratic secrecy that drastically reduces the accountability of US foreign policy. In case you haven’t noticed, excessive secrecy is, at virtually all times and all places, virtually every government’s policy. It certainly is US government policy. The purpose of this policy is to prevent embarrassment to government and to discourage popular oversight, which is not an anarchist whimsy but a fundamental prerequisite of democracy.

2) You seem, again, ignorant that the burden of proof is on the government to justify secrecy, not on the public to justify “making available” information that it has paid its servants to generate for its own, democratically determined purposes. (And to emphasize again, those purposes cannot be democratic determined without maximum disclosure).

3) Concerns about the “lives, health, reputation” etc of individuals seems, to borrow your phrase, “nonsense and hyperbole, ” particularly when compared with lack of concern about the lives and health of victims of US foreign policy since World War II, a foreign policy enormously abetted, it can’t be said often enough, by excessive government secrecy and by the gradual – now virtually complete – domestication of the media.

4) Assange’s obsessive focus on embarassing the USA. Who is the USA? The government or its citizens? I and my fellow citizens are the USA, and we are not in the least embarrassed. Well, actually, we are: we’re embarrassed at a foreigner’s reminding us how pathetically undemocratic our society is.

35

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 8:20 pm

@stras

Sorry, since when is the NYTimes editorial board anonymous and its decision making procedures secret? I’m also pretty sure if it released information materially damaging to me or my economic interests, I would be able to seek redress in the courts. Wikileaks? Not so much.

36

Tim Wilkinson 12.07.10 at 8:21 pm

claims that many Swedes think it’s a setup
It certainly, all things considered, looks very much like a setup. If I were to adopt the standards of those who write newspaper headlines and politicians’ speeches, I would say it has ‘all the hallmarks’ of a US covert op.

On Swedish ‘feminist’ rape law: Swedish rapists ‘enjoy impunity’: Amnesty International, but the figures do not necessarily mean what Amnesty seems to assume they do, given that there is such a high rate of reports of rape there, for what appear fairly obvious reasons.

Whether it is a good place to secure a wrongful rape conviction very much depends on how the numbers come out. That it is a good place to get a false rape charge laid, however, looks fairly plausible from what I can see.

And a charge without any actual conviction at the end of it may actually be preferable – no martyrdom, no appeals or subsequent review and reversal, no emergence of a new figurehead to replace a jailed one – instead the retention of a smeared Assange. Ideally, the charge should be dropped on a ‘technicality’ or in some other way leave a question mark hanging.

BTW, dsquared + Lizardbreath – subject to peculiarities of Swedish law, shurely being sufficiently drunk would indeed vitiate consent? Assymetrically enough, if the common law situation as I understand it (some big ifs, I grant) is reflected in the civilian Swedish system, it doesn’t negative ordinary intention or recklessness wrt lack of consent. But to repeat, if this is political – which is a distinctly non-bizarre, indeed highky plausible, conspiracy theory – the aim may not be to secure a rape conviction in any case.

And everyone being drunk may indeed muddy the evidential waters, but what if one person alone plausibly claims not to have been? Then they have an open goal so far as testimony goes. But all highly speculative, of course.

I also heard something on the radio saying the US DoS had suggested they might themselves seek axtradition – I don’t know whether there would be some advantage to waiting for him to be in custody on another charge before doing so, whether from the UK or Sweden.

Come to think of it, I suppose getting him to surrender to custody on the expectation of easily beating one charge might pre-empt the possibilty of flight when extradition is sought on more serious charges (e.g. something dredged up from recent US trrr legislation – there must be tons of loosely drafted stuff they could get him on by now). Alternatively, the threat of ending up in the US terror hole has been enough to get people to plead guilty to some pretty implausible things on condition that they serve time under more civilised regimes. Also speculative, of course.

37

Straightwood 12.07.10 at 8:22 pm

Clearly, therefore, the extradition of the man to face credible allegations of sexual misconduct is the greatest injustice in the history of humanity.

For four years, Assange works to build Wikileaks, traveling the world and meeting thousands of people. As soon as he begins releasing material damaging to the US, he turns into a serial rapist. What an odd coincidence!

The depravity of Assange is so extreme that he chooses to rape only women who invite him to spend the night with them and have consensual sex. His methods are so diabolical that these women boast about their sexual encounters with Assange before informing the police of his misconduct. How extraordinary!

38

Substance McGravitas 12.07.10 at 8:23 pm

I’m also pretty sure if [the NYTimes] released information materially damaging to me or my economic interests, I would be able to seek redress in the courts.

Have you ever read a newspaper? How many materially damaging stories are in any newspaper on a given day?

39

Dingbat 12.07.10 at 8:27 pm

Since I’ve been queried (geo @13), the Wikileaks violations of journalistic ethics that are egregious enough to shock me are its blatant disregard for individuals on the ground– revealing the identity of confidential informants who are now in immediate danger for their lives–as well as Assange’s both explicit and implicit anti-USA stance.

The first seems to me to show a shocking lack of care for consequences, except insofar as they redound to the (dubious) benefit of the other.

In general, what Daragh said seems to me a pretty astute analysis of the situation. What Wikileaks could and should be is so much better. Open up its structure, make it clearer who’s in charge, get rid of the figurehead-of-doubtful-stability, establish and operate by a clear set of guidelines–argue about what those guidelines should be–, lose the anti-American animus, and you’ll have an institution that I (and many more of the center-left) will be outraged if it is hounded by the US government.

Just putting “wiki” in your url doesn’t give you a free pass at the “is this institution good for freedom and transparency” test.

40

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 8:29 pm

@geo

Hoho again. Not sure it really merits response but lets go

1) My point was that its transparently obvious that for Assange right now (and this is backed up by several of his colleagues, on record) the quest to embarass the USA for whatever reason has overtaken the ‘radical transparency’ agenda. There are plenty of more deserving targets.

2) As condescending as your prose continues to be, you gain miss my point that wherever the burden lies, it patently is not with a private, anonymous organisation with zero methods of accountability.

3) Oh FFS. I’ll denounce Israel and Iraq and Afghanistan and everything else you want. In fact if my heterodoxy on certain key issues didn’t make me a pariah here, I could tell you about how I think US policy towards Mexico is horrifically immoral and creating a failed state, or the democratic legitimacy of Hamas, or any of a number of issues where I’m probably somewhere to the left of Dennis Kucinich. But frankly you’re more interested in taking potshots at strawmen so…

4) Its government.

41

Tim Wilkinson 12.07.10 at 8:30 pm

McDowell – Wikileaks? Not so much.

where did you extract that assertion from then?

42

Substance McGravitas 12.07.10 at 8:31 pm

There are plenty of more deserving targets.

“Look over there” is still a stupid argument.

43

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 8:32 pm

@Substance McGravitas

Sorry that should be a bit more clear. If the NYTimes released my private correspondence I’m already on a good legal footing. If it was obtained illegally I’m golden. If its materially damaging to me and my interests (and particularly if its been wrenched out of context as most of the reporting on the Diplomatic Cables has been) a judge is probably about to give me my first entry into the publishing business.

44

dsquared 12.07.10 at 8:33 pm

(which revealed very little of interest and was largely a continuation of Assange’s obsessive focus on embarassing the USA while dissidents in Turkmenistan, China, Burma etc. who have made constant pleas for Wikileaks assistance are given the two fingers

Are you Worstall in disguise or something? This is really embarrassingly untrue. Go to google, find out how wrong you are, come back, apologise for wasting everyone’s time, and then maybe we can have a discussion about your other points.

PS: Nick Clegg broke his promise.

45

Uncle Kvetch 12.07.10 at 8:33 pm

Assange’s obsessive focus on embarassing the USA while dissidents in Turkmenistan, China, Burma etc. who have made constant pleas for Wikileaks assistance are given the two fingers

Do tell.

46

dsquared 12.07.10 at 8:34 pm

Since I’ve been queried (geo @13), the Wikileaks violations of journalistic ethics that are egregious enough to shock me are its blatant disregard for individuals on the ground—revealing the identity of confidential informants who are now in immediate danger for their lives

also not true.

47

Tim Wilkinson 12.07.10 at 8:36 pm

McDowell – do you actually think the US govt should be treated like a private individual then?

48

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 8:37 pm

@Straightwood

That’s some excellent strawmannery there, as well as making assertions about the facts of the case that you’re not actually privvy to.

No-one is saying Assange is a serial rapist. What I and others are saying is that there are credible allegations made against him, and a valid warrant has been produced by a government that doesn’t exactly has a reputation for being either right-wing or a tool of US intelligence. He should be extradited to face the charges and let the process run its course.

Personally my objections to Wikileaks have nothing to do with Assange’s alleged sexual pecadilloes or lack thereof. What I object to is the fact that he’s the public face of a radical chic organisation has led plenty of smart folks to assume that he’s ‘obviously’ innocent and its a setup and blah blah blah.

49

EWI 12.07.10 at 8:39 pm

@ Daragh McDowell

a crusading left-wing journalist/activist

Is Assange left-wing? He strikes me as a libertarian (hasn’t Ron Paul come out strongly in support?).

the quest to embarass the USA for whatever reason has overtaken the ‘radical transparency’ agenda. There are plenty of more deserving targets.

Oh, please. That falacious old canard (“x may be concerned about torture in country y, but why isn’t he concerned about stonings in country z?”) wore off years ago.

50

Straightwood 12.07.10 at 8:40 pm

Dingbat@27

1. There has not been a single documented case of an individual coming to harm as a result of a Wikileaks disclosure.

2. In case you haven’t noticed, the USA is the global hegemon, committing crimes of aggressive war and torture at will, with no consequences whatever for the responsible leaders. It is thus a logical target for exposure of ugly government secrets.

3. Outrage at the illegal oppression of an organization by the US government should not be conditioned on your approval of the organization’s political agenda. It should be a matter of respect for justice.

51

geo 12.07.10 at 8:42 pm

Thanks for replying, Dingbat. I’m afraid, though, that I find your analysis no more “astute” than Daragh’s. If Wilileaks has needlessly placed confidential informants in jeopardy, it should acknowledge this and revise its procedures. Apparently it has. In any case: 1) the primary responsibility for protecting the informants lies with their employers –ie, governments — who also have abundant resources to do so; and 2) it’s you, I’d say, who reveals a “shocking lack of care for consequences,” specifically for the murderous consequences of US policies in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, to all of which excessive secrecy has made an indispensable contribution; and beyond that, for the evisceration of American democracy, which is, as a depressing number of “center-leftists” seem unaware, in terminal condition.

And what’s all this about Wikileaks’ “implicit and explicit anti-USA stance,” its “anti-American animus,” being contrary to journalistic ethics. Forgive me for pointing out the obvious so soon after pointing it out to Daragh, but the Pentagon and the State Department are not “the USA.”

52

Salient 12.07.10 at 8:44 pm

Due to the controversy – controversy consciously generated BY wikileaks itself for a specific purpose – a number of private companies have decided its not in their interests to be seen doing business with the organisation anymore.

Bulllllllllllcarp. His Holiness Joe Lieberman is already bragging about his personal involvement, in his official capacity as Senator of the United States. It’s not even questionable that top officials of the United States government exerted the pressure of duress on these companies. this was not a purely private duress-free business decision by, say, Visa, and to treat it as otherwise is to abandon your credibility.

This is possibly the only time you’ll ever catch me saying something to the effect of “Aww, poor Visa” and “fucking strongarm government, preventing business from operating freely” but, well, what else can I say? We are all (except the tea partiers) tea partiers now?

I guess, if Daragh were right, then his claim would be mild evidence in support of nationalizing the credit line companies, whose services are as essential to the functioning of our country as utilities (which I also want to see nationalized). Sadly, the U.S. Nationalized Credit Card Co. almost certainly would have done the same thing that Visa did. I guess at least it would be transparently official U.S. policy and not semi-opaquely official U.S. policy.

P.S. that “Crikey” site that weaver linked to on a previous thread while chiding me, is an incredibly useful supplement to Greenwald.

53

EWI 12.07.10 at 8:46 pm

@ dsquared

Since Daragh himself brought the subject up, I suspect that Henry Farrell (to whom he’s related) can vouch that he exists.

54

LFC 12.07.10 at 8:47 pm

I haven’t read this thread closely and am somewhat ambivalent about Wikileaks. But I noticed the question @4 about boycotting Amazon. I personally don’t buy that much or that often from Amazon in any case, but for those inclined to a boycott, you can read Daniel Ellsberg’s open letter to Amazon announcing his own boycott here.

55

EWI 12.07.10 at 8:51 pm

@ LFC

Amazon (and its Paypal subsidiary) base their international operations in Ireland (an EU country), if I understand that tangled web correctly. I must ask the guys associated with Digital Rights Ireland if there’s anything to be done.

56

geo 12.07.10 at 8:53 pm

Daragh, thanks for the unmerited response, and sorry to put your nose out of joint, but I honestly think you’re missing the point. I’ll try to put it as uncondescendingly as possible: excessive government secrecy is incompatible with a healthy democracy; US government secrecy is and has long been grossly excessive, and in the last decade has reached the point of open contempt for constitutional requirements; the burden of proof is most definitely with government to justify taking information about its activities out of the public domain; the destructive policies you and I and Dennis Kucinich oppose are intimately connected with the secrecy with which they are formulated and carried out.

Finally, what in God’s name do you mean by saying that the USA, or any other country, is “its government”? You’re obviously too decent and intelligent to mean that a critic of the American government is “anti-American” or that a critic of the Chinese government is “anti-Chinese.” But that seems clearly implied by identifying a country with its government.

57

LizardBreath 12.07.10 at 8:54 pm

shurely being sufficiently drunk would indeed vitiate consent?

This is off-topic, because it doesn’t seem to be a central issue in the allegations against Assange, but my non-expert sense of the US law in most jurisdictions is that it wouldn’t — if someone is sober enough to affirmatively indicate consent, that’s valid. I believe intoxication as a factor in sexual assault law usually plays in along the lines that if the victim is intoxicated to the point where they are incapable of expressing non-consent, that’s rape: passed out or close to it and unable to resist, rather than alertly, albeit drunkenly, giving consent.

But I don’t know anything even non-expert about Swedish law on this point.

58

Salient 12.07.10 at 8:59 pm

He should be extradited to face the charges and let the process run its course.

I tentatively agree, contingent on other governments not pursuing extrajudicial vengeance. Given the sheer number of people calling for his assassination, this contingency is not . Broadly speaking and ignoring the details of this particular case, it seems the rule of thumb should be: if governments fail to abide by their own rule of law in dealings with Assange, implicitly or explicitly, in letter or in spirit, then why should Assange be subject to that law?

It should be noted that Assange has not disputed the point I quoted above, and is patiently waiting in the UK on some red tape. The authorities there are waiting on resolution of some kind of technical glitch with the warrant before proceeding with the arrest and extradition. That’s been true for some time. Assange has informed the authorities of his exact location, according to the authorities, and has expressed intent to cooperate.

If you are bothered by poorly-reasoned public assertions of his innocence or guilt, I encourage you to go find me a single example of a well-publicized celebrity arrest and trial in which this did not occur. [Normally I hate ‘a single example’ arguments because exceptions to generalizations are commonplace, but I think in this case it’s safe.]

59

LFC 12.07.10 at 8:59 pm

EWI @53:

Yes — I should have made clear that the Ellsberg letter is directed at Amazon US. Amazon of course is an international, not just a US, operation. (Unfortunately that just about exhausts my knowledge of its workings.)

60

Substance McGravitas 12.07.10 at 9:01 pm

Personally my objections to Wikileaks have nothing to do with Assange’s alleged sexual pecadilloes or lack thereof. What I object to is the fact that he’s the public face of a radical chic organisation has led plenty of smart folks to assume that he’s ‘obviously’ innocent and its a setup and blah blah blah.

If you just stop writing stuff people won’t point out how obviously stupid it is. I’m pretty sure you don’t mean what these two sentences must mean, but on the other hand your other arguments are so weak that your case against Wikileaks may indeed come down to being annoyed.

61

Hidari 12.07.10 at 9:05 pm

Extreme right wing nutjob Lieberman is at least showing consistency: he’s going after the New York Times now.

It’s all over for Assange though.

62

Bruce Baugh 12.07.10 at 9:07 pm

As long as we’re piling on Daragh…the stuff that he’s accused of isn’t “pecadilloes”. It’s sexual assault; depending on specifics, some of it may very well add up to rape. But then guys being blithely dismissive of sexual assault is another thing with a long tradition.

I’m entirely sure these charges are being handled with such vigor because of who Assange is. About his guilt or innocence I don’t have a clue, and am not sure how I’d go about getting one, so I choose not to express an opinion. I mostly just waned to register disapproval of being so cavalier about the charges themselves.

63

Dingbat 12.07.10 at 9:09 pm

Straightwood @48:

1. Thanks. I’ll look into it–help/citations would be nice. (I’m not asking you to prove a negative, just looking for more info. It is my understanding–fateful words–that confidential informants’ names were released when it was unnecessary. I may be wrong. No, wait, I’m on the internet, I can’t be wrong.)

2. Very true. Which is why a better-organized “wikileaks” organization could easily occupy the moral and legal high ground around the world.

3. Outrage is an emotion; it’s always contingent on things like the reputation of the victim–irrelevant as that may be. (I don’t say this approvingly, but realistically.)

3a. Which is why a smear campaign against Assange is so effective (as hasn’t, exactly, been pointed out).

3b. And, which is why an organization not dependent on a compelling Robin-Hood figure as a leader, but rather a transparent set of principles, would not be vulnerable to an ad hominem attack like this.

I may be generalizing from my own experience and emotions, but I think that I am fairly representative of a lot of people who find that Wikileaks is shockingly authoritarian and secretive for an organization that is supposedly against such things.

In general, I stand by my statement at #8; and I’m surprised that no one is arguing “Of course Wikileaks thinks the rule of law and journalistic ethics and legal incorporation are quaint; they are!” since that seems to be the message that we’re getting from WL’s actions.

Privacy and its institutional sibling, secrecy, were phenomena of the 20th century; they are coming to an end. What is at stake is how much of the law, and various other institutional practices, they are going to take down with them.

64

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 9:12 pm

@dsquared

You first.

@Uncle Kvetch

Please read the above (‘Actual dissidents in actual repressive regimes, wonder why wikileaks is so disinterested in their plight’) and then contrast it to your link (‘Posturing dissident-wannabe assures followers he’ll get around to taking on actual repressive regimes when he is prepared to actually take risks he blithely forces on others, can be bothered.’)

65

Substance McGravitas 12.07.10 at 9:12 pm

As long as we’re piling on Daragh…the stuff that he’s accused of isn’t “pecadilloes”. It’s sexual assault; depending on specifics, some of it may very well add up to rape.

http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2010/12/sex-charges-and-arrest-warrant-against.html

66

roger 12.07.10 at 9:20 pm

I don’t think it can be doubted that Wikileaks has put lives in danger. For instance, the tyrant who runs Saudi Arabia, one of the most authoritarian regimes on earth, is now on notice that his ‘subjects’ will know that he approves and urges war with Iran.

On the other hand, Wikileaks may make up for this breach of all that is held dear by the decent left by helping save Iranians, who would be blown up in an insane bombing raid on their country. Who knows, Wikileaks might have made that eventuality just a little bit more unlikely.

So, on the human lives front, Wikileaks seems to have pulled far ahead of, say, the U.S. State department.

67

Bruce Baugh 12.07.10 at 9:21 pm

Dingbat: I’d be more willing to listen to a lot of critiques about how WikiLeaks out to be run if there were a whole swarm of other organizations and individuals out doing the same thing. I felt this way about Iraq war protests, too – I think it’s more important that good things get done even by people I might not like or agree with than that they not get done while we wait to get the methodology just right. Maybe folks worked up about what Assange is doing wrong could, you know, put time and effort into backing someone doing it better, if it’s that important.

For myself, I’ll be looking to contribute to WikiLeaks out of my first donation allotment in the new year, because any criticism I might make absolutely pales alongside my criticism of their targets, and my sense that this has gotta be done.

Substance: Thanks!

68

Substance McGravitas 12.07.10 at 9:24 pm

Substance: Thanks!

I don’t deserve credit for following linkage from LG&M. There is much argument in comments there.

69

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 9:27 pm

@Bruce Baugh

While reiterating a comment I made that got chewed up (long story short – I should have said assault but used a less provocative word to avoid appearing too prejudiced) I should note that the ‘broken condom’ is not the only element of the complaint against Assange.

70

Salient 12.07.10 at 9:29 pm

Speaking up in vague further support of Bruce Baugh’s currently #60, here are two coincidentally adjacent headlines from Salon advertisements for “The Week” whatever that is:

Julian Assange’s arrest: Trumped up?

Female super-earners: Bad for marriage?

…hrm.

71

Bruce Baugh 12.07.10 at 9:29 pm

Substance: You deserve credit for relaying info. That’s an important function too.

72

Straightwood 12.07.10 at 9:47 pm

If Jesus, Mohammed, and the Bhudda all materialized and jointly assumed control of the Wikileaks organization, I am very sure that some critics would continue to find faults in some aspect of a group that speaks truth to power – probably on the grounds of excessively charismatic leadership.

Those who side with a blood-stained neo-imperial superpower against a flawed but effective whistle-blowing organization should consider how high a price they wish to pay for their “security.” Short of closing down the public Internet and installing a military dictatorship, what would protect them from the next Wikileaks?

73

politicalfootball 12.07.10 at 10:03 pm

2) As condescending as your prose continues to be, you gain miss my point that wherever the burden lies, it patently is not with a private, anonymous organisation with zero methods of accountability.

Wait a little while and try this again if Assange ever gets out of jail. It doesn’t really work so well right now.

74

x. trapnel 12.07.10 at 10:09 pm

The link Substance gives above may be misleading–it’s reporting on the lower-grade charges that were on the table in August, but I believe the charges currently at issue are more serious (though certainly, whether these more serious charges are warranted is a valid question). The BBC infobox I’m looking at lists the charges as: Used his body weight to hold down Miss A in a sexual manner. Had unprotected sex with Miss A when she had insisted on him using a condom. Molested Miss A “in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity”. Had unprotected sex with Miss W while she was asleep. ; and this Swedish newssite says that “The judge said the Swedish arrest warrant contains “extremely serious allegations” of molestation, unlawful coercion and rape involving two women with whom Assange had sex in Stockholm in August.”

All of which is just to say that, yes, there are more serious sorts of sex crimes, but saying this is about “violating an obscure Swedish law against having sex without a condom,” as the link Substance gave above does, is ugly and misleading. Refusing to use a condom when that’s explicitly made a condition of sex is serious, and seriously wrong.

75

Substance McGravitas 12.07.10 at 10:16 pm

The BBC think and thanks to x. trapnel:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11937110

76

dsquared 12.07.10 at 10:18 pm

#64: Daragh, linking to some other op-ed fool (who seems to believe that Wikileaks gets its information by hacking – the word “leaks” presumably being ornamental to the name) making the same counterfactual claim isn’t evidence. Still less is it evidence for your own bizarre accusation that Wikileaks has been offered material from Burma and Turkmenistan and rudely refused it.

77

christian_h 12.07.10 at 10:19 pm

It is rather sad that Daragh apparently doesn’t think the real-life victims of very real torture ordered by our government, or the hundreds of thousands murdered in our governments’ wars, are of any importance. After all, they’re not “actual dissidents in actual oppressive regimes”.

I’d add that the whole argument is bogus in any event since wikileaks does not obtain the documents they publish (which has included documents from many countries besides the US, but since the US/UK media didn’t make a big deal of this Daragh apparently thinks that didn’t happen) by hacking, but from actual leakers. Unless someone can provide evidence that wikileaks has received such documents from Chinese sources and is suppressing them, I’m afraid I have to take this line of attack as pure concern trolling.

78

christian_h 12.07.10 at 10:20 pm

… and dsquared beat me to it.

79

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 10:24 pm

#76
Still less is it evidence for your own bizarre accusation that Wikileaks has been offered material from Burma and Turkmenistan and rudely refused it.

I’ve said absolutely nothing of the sort. I’ve pointed out (as has Radio Free Europe) that Wikileaks does in fact have considerable resources at its disposable both in terms of personnel and its public ‘megaphone.’ Its chosen to use it breathlessly hyping releases about the US and claiming greater importance for them than is warranted by their content.

80

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 10:27 pm

#77 Yes Christian. The fact that I think, on balance, Burma, China and Turkmenistan are more repressive and violent than the USA, is proof that I simply ‘don’t care’ about cases of US inflicted torture/death. You have amazingly discerned exactly how I evaluate the worthiness of human life from a few blog posts. Congrats.

81

BlaiseP 12.07.10 at 10:36 pm

Federalist 64 says:

It seldom happens in the negotiation of treaties, of whatever nature, but that perfect secrecy and immediate despatch are sometimes requisite. These are cases where the most useful intelligence may be obtained, if the persons possessing it can be relieved from apprehensions of discovery. Those apprehensions will operate on those persons, whether they are actuated by mercenary or friendly motives; and there doubtless are many of both descriptions, who would rely on the secrecy of the President, but who would not confide in that of the Senate, and still less in that of a large popular Assembly. The Convention have done well, therefore, in so disposing of the power of making treaties, that although the President must, in forming them, act by the advice and consent of the Senate, yet he will be able to manage the business of intelligence in such a manner as prudence may suggest.

The Constitution made provision against secret treaties. President Obama ran on a more-open government but has failed to keep this promise. If the State Department cables show anything, especially the Yemen lies about US involvement, it’s a subversion of democracy the Constitution tried to prevent. Now Hillary Clinton wants here own praetorians: the ordinary Marine embassy guards are seemingly not enough. The powers of the Executive grow, Congress cedes ever more authority to it, the First and Fourth Amendments grow weaker.

Saddam’s greatest complaint, while he was yet in power, was that his subordinates would constantly lie to him. After Gulf War 1, he asked one of his generals for a summary of the war. The soldier in a moment of inspired bravery said “It was the greatest defeat in the history of warfare.” Saddam grumbled, sat down and said “That’s just you saying so.” Once our leaders start believing their own lying press releases, when truth no longer matters, the cycle is complete.

82

Tim Wilkinson 12.07.10 at 10:49 pm

Lizardbreath (re: shurely being sufficiently drunk would indeed vitiate consent? hmm, so even the sneaky ‘sufficiently’ I put in there might not be enough…

McDowell: the fact that he’s the public face of a radical chic organisation has led plenty of smart folks to assume that he’s ‘obviously’ innocent and its a setup and blah blah blah.

blah blah indeed. I notice that the quotation is not actually a quotation of anything in this thread.

The thing about speculation (appropriately flagged as such) is that it’s quite useful to work out the possibilities – then you can actually examine how plausible they are. It’s called abduction, and the alternative is either a kind of studied cluelessness, or sticking to some predetermined view. In either case (if I may say so – oh! I may!) you end up looking a bit of a dick.

Hidari @59
links to Salon: How the U.S. can now extradite Assange seems somewhat vaguely to endorse one line of my (averred) speculation @34: I also heard something on the radio saying the US DoS had suggested they might themselves seek axtradition – I don’t know whether there would be some advantage to waiting for him to be in custody on another charge before doing so, whether from the UK or Sweden. Come to think of it, I suppose getting him to surrender to custody on the expectation of easily beating one charge might pre-empt the possibilty of flight when extradition is sought on more serious charges

x. trapnel @74: The link Substance gives above may be misleading—it’s reporting on the lower-grade charges that were on the table in August, but I believe the charges currently at issue are more serious (though certainly, whether these more serious charges are warranted is a valid question…

You can say that again. I mean, exactly what further investigation could possibly have occurred in the interim to augment the near-contemporaneous account of the only prosecution witness to each charge, viz., the complainant?

83

christian_h 12.07.10 at 11:17 pm

How any sane person could claim that “Turkmenistan is [on balance] more violent than the USA” is beyond me. How many countries has Turkmenistan invaded and occupied lately?

I notice with interest that Daragh doesn’t present any evi9dence whatsoever that any documents from China, Burma or Turkmenistan have actually been leaked to wikileaks. Instead she is now reduced to quoting US radio propaganda. I’d like to know how wikileaks could have chosen to “hype” leaks from, say, China, if they didn’t receive any?

84

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 11:18 pm

@Tim Wilkinson

Well given that the tone on this thread, and from the Wikileaks cheerleading section generally you’ll forgive me if I’m not particularly concerned about their opinion of me.

85

dsquared 12.07.10 at 11:19 pm

Me, in #76:

Still less is it evidence for your own bizarre accusation that Wikileaks has been offered material from Burma and Turkmenistan and rudely refused it

Daragh, in #79:

I’ve said absolutely nothing of the sort.

Daragh, in #27:

while dissidents in Turkmenistan, China, Burma etc. who have made constant pleas for Wikileaks assistance are given the two fingers

Of all the things to try and bullshit me on, I would have thought that the text of the very webpage I am reading would be an unpromising candidate.

86

Satan Mayo 12.07.10 at 11:20 pm

I’ve said absolutely nothing of the sort. I’ve pointed out (as has Radio Free Europe) that Wikileaks does in fact have considerable resources at its disposable both in terms of personnel and its public ‘megaphone.’ Its chosen to use it breathlessly hyping releases about the US and claiming greater importance for them than is warranted by their content.

Wikileaks doesn’t have a $100 million annual advertising budget and it isn’t owned by Sir Alan Sugar. It only has “considerable resources at its disposal” because it’s involved in these very high-profile and controversial issues in which people in the US/UK are interested and in which nobody in the world else dares to tread. Nobody would be interested in breathlessly hyped releases of information about the excesses of Than Shwe, and they could not possibly change anything.

87

JP Stormcrow 12.07.10 at 11:21 pm

You want people to stop cynically assuming there is a political motive to prosecutions of high-profile political opponents? Maybe if more governments quit cynically pursuing “non-political” prosecutions against their high-profile political opponents. Sorry, but the well is so poisoned on this by the disproportionate response against the man that I feel extreme skepticism is not only warranted but demanded. And it says nothing about anyone’s view of the seriousness of the crimes with which he is charged.

88

Satan Mayo 12.07.10 at 11:26 pm

I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say “nobody would be interested”. The same people would be interested who are interested in such information now, when Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, etc. publicize such things. The idea that Wikileaks should do exactly the same thing as Amnesty International seems rather uncreative. Similarly, the Southern Poverty Law Center should disband out of disgust at its own irrelevance and impotence on the question of landmine removal.

89

Donald Johnson 12.07.10 at 11:33 pm

I don’t think I can remember all the wikileaks revelations, but I believe they include the following–

1. The US handed prisoners to the Iraqi government knowing they were likely to be tortured
2. The government of Yemen agreed to claim it had conducted an air strike that killed civilians (an air strike conducted by the US)
3. The US pressured the government of Spain (and I think Germany) not to investigate its own war crimes
4. The US and Great Britain gloated over the formation of a marine preserve that meant the former residents of Diego Garcia would not be able to return
5. The US ambassador to Honduras said (in private) that the coup in Honduras last year was illegal
6. Already mentioned–Arab governments in private ask the US to bomb Iran, while saying the opposite in public to their own people (presumably because they know it wouldn’t go over well). For some reason fans of an Iran war seem to think having Arab dictators on their side is a good thing.

I’m not going to look for links, but I’ve seen all this. It seems fairly important to me. Besides, I like seeing the US government embarrassed. I’d rather see war crimes trials, of course.

As for Assange’s alleged sex crimes, I agree with Bruce that these are serious.

90

Daragh McDowell 12.07.10 at 11:52 pm

@dsquared

Perhaps I should have been more careful in my definition of ‘two fingers.’ How about, despite having Turkmen and other dissidents beg for their assistance, Assange has made it very clear in terms of his rhetoric and media strategy that releasing and hyping info, no matter how trivial, that embarasses the USA is his top priority. However, if Wikileaks reaffirms at some point that undermining actual oppressive totalitarian regimes is its main priority rather than ‘revealing’ that diplomats sometimes say things in private that are different to what they see in public, I’ll cheerfully withdraw.

91

Tony Lynch 12.07.10 at 11:54 pm

Follow the link for an account of the “sex charges” from that bastion of leftism, The Daily Mail. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article27016.htm

92

Cian 12.08.10 at 12:01 am

I’ve said absolutely nothing of the sort. I’ve pointed out (as has Radio Free Europe) that Wikileaks does in fact have considerable resources at its disposable both in terms of personnel and its public ‘megaphone.’

And who is that funds Radio Free Europe, Daragh? Why was Radio Free Europe founded, Daragh? I mean is that really the best that you can find, a poorly written op-ed on a US propaganda site?

93

Cian 12.08.10 at 12:02 am

Perhaps I should have been more careful in my definition of ‘two fingers.’ How about, despite having Turkmen and other dissidents beg for their assistance.

And your evidence for this is what exactly?

94

Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 12:03 am

McDowell: I’d say you’re sending some mixed messages there.

Dinald Johnson: Assange’s alleged sex crimes

Just on a point of order – that’s “The allegations of sex crimes made against Assange”. I know it’s the same thing in theory, but ‘alleged’ has a regrettable tendency to be mistaken for an adjective modifying a term that stands for something actual – a tendency reinforced by saying that ‘these’ (the sex crimes) are serious.

I assume you are talking about the new allegations, produced after the witness in each case had a few months for her memory of events to be – I don’t know – refreshed?

95

Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 12:09 am

Sorry, typo – that’s Donald, of course

(and Daragh McDowell’s mixed messages were @84)

96

Donald Johnson 12.08.10 at 12:10 am

“However, if Wikileaks reaffirms at some point that undermining actual oppressive totalitarian regimes is its main priority rather than ‘revealing’ that diplomats sometimes say things in private that are different to what they see in public, I’ll cheerfully withdraw.”

The way you keep trivializing what wikileaks has shown regarding the US makes you sound like a concern troll.

97

CMK 12.08.10 at 12:14 am

As some of you may well know, we do things differently in Ireland and one area where we seem to be very efficient is in closing down news/investigative organisations which look like they might cause trouble or discommode the powerful.

The case of the Centre for Public Inquiry is instructive.

http://dublinopinion.com/2010/12/05/rte-and-irish-society-all-that-is-solid-melts-into-air/

Would Daragh care to comment?

98

roy belmont 12.08.10 at 12:16 am

I would like to think that I was the first commenter here to mention Diego Garcia in the context of CIA renditions et bloody nightmare al. Though maybe it was y81. And of course nobody’d ever heard of it hardly, let alone the extent of the Torquemadaesqueness of it, or them. We’re still not working with the extent and depraved depth of what those lost souls accomplished in the obscure dark of the unleaked.
Now it’s different, yah?
Yeah.
More undocumented assertions mixed with factual facts:
Sweden’s got a right-wing pro-Mordor gov’t. At least one of the two assassination-bimbos have serious dark-ops connections. It – the gathering of character-diminishing/destroying grist for the mill of defamation via sex romp – was pre-emptive and by intent. It’s how they do, them.
Sweden’s rep is traditionally nordic-lib sex-lib, so accusations of rape from there have the appearance of contextual validity, because they’re known for tolerance. But is not the case. Sweden at the moment like the US is a hapless victim of its own corrupt legal authorities, some like Sen. Lieberman willing conspirators, others like HClinton evidently crushed into complicity by extortion and/or brainwash.

99

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 12:17 am

What CMK is angling for is an admission that my uncle Michael was in fact minister for justice of Ireland in the last government. Since he was a hate figure for the left, and we share genes, everything I say must therefore be disregarded.

100

Emma_in_Sydney 12.08.10 at 12:27 am

No, Daragh, I think your self-contradiction, weasel words and blatant trolling is quite enough to make me disregard your words, regardless of who your uncles are. Congratulations on self-reliance!

101

Jerry Vinokurov 12.08.10 at 12:35 am

Daragh McDowell, your critique seems to miss the very point of what Wikileaks is about. Yes, it is true that Turkmenistan is an oppressive regime; what, exactly, would leaking any classified Turkmeni documents accomplish? It’s not like it’s Turkmenistan’s human rights record isn’t pretty much a matter of public record anyway. The US, on the other hand, presents a kind face to the world while committing atrocities; how is that not more worthy of exposure, especially considering that the magnitude of damage inflicted by American militarism is vastly greater than almost anything Turkmenistan could manage?

102

Satan Mayo 12.08.10 at 12:36 am

Fortunately for Wikileaks, the Stieg Larsson phenomenon means the consensus view of Sweden has gone from “socialist haven for sexy sex and obscene art, with prisons like five-star hotels” to “wasteland of techno-espionage where powerful men will stop at nothing to destroy innocent people who might spread their scandalous secrets”.

103

Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 12:36 am

Mike Mukasey, George Bush’s last attorney general, appeared on the BBC tonight to join the chorus threatening action against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The Guardian’s Owen Bowcott reports:

The former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey last night said that US lawyers should try and extradite Assange to the United States for betraying government secrets. “If I was still in charge there would have been an investigation,” he told BBC Newsnight, “it would have been done promptly.

“This is a crime of a very high order. Julian Assange has been leaking this information. He came into possession of it knowing that it was harmful.”

Mukasey also implied that the Swedish sex accusations may only be holding charge. “When one is accused of a very serious crime it’s common to hold him in respect of a lesser crime … while you assemble evidence of a second crime.”

104

bigcitylib 12.08.10 at 12:45 am

#101 “Fortunately for Wikileaks, the Stieg Larsson phenomenon means the consensus view of Sweden has gone from “socialist haven for sexy sex and obscene art, with prisons like five-star hotels” to “wasteland of techno-espionage where powerful men will stop at nothing to destroy innocent people who might spread their scandalous secrets”.

And if Lisbeth Salander were real she would assuredly kick Assange’s ass, but only if he was actually guilty.

105

CMK 12.08.10 at 12:54 am

No Daragh I wasn’t angling for and admission, but its good to know in any event. And I’ll happily admit that I detest Michael and Moore McDowell. There you go: two for the price of one!

My point in posting the CPI story relates to the clinical manner in which it was crushed by a so-called ‘liberal’. And that chimes with the general tenor of this discussion so far: the extent to which liberals are prepared to avert their eyes from the entire range of state corruption, in order to keep channels open with those in power. The Irish media stood by while the state crushed the CPI, and some outlets cheered the state from the sidelines. While the NYT and other US media seem far more concerned about the leaking than what the leaks reveal. And, like with the CPI, these same outlets seem to be gearing up to cheerlead the destruction of Assange, which might not entirely preclude his physical destruction. He may well fall down some stairs in a Stockholm police station, hopefully not.

Daragh raised the issue of Wikileaks ‘journalistic ethics’: surely, it’s a far greater transgression against these ethics (if they exist at all, which I’ll presume for sake of argument) to prioritise the media’s connections with the state, and its relationships with the state’s security organs, over a duty to report openly upon the wrongdoings of the state and those charged with its security? That’s one of the reasons we lay such huge stress upon a free and independent media: that they’ll, you know, try to hold the state to account, and all that. No?

106

Chris E 12.08.10 at 1:07 am

“Assange has made it very clear in terms of his rhetoric and media strategy that releasing and hyping info, no matter how trivial, that embarasses the USA is his top priority”

The first two leaks targeted – if I’m not mistaken – Daniel Arap Moi (via an anti-corruption investigator who turned whistleblower when the government didn’t like his findings), and the Icelandic banks.

Wikileaks only publishes information that leakers give them – they aren’t actively going around ‘hacking’ for information for obvious reasons. The fact that they happened on a source of a large number of US documents ‘explains’ the ‘US obsession’.

107

derrida derider 12.08.10 at 2:30 am

Don’t bother, Chris E. Facts don’t sway people arguing in bad faith.

108

politicalfootball 12.08.10 at 2:36 am

Greenwald followed up his original post with this post. It pretty well demolishes the nonsense distributed by the Wikileaks detractors.

109

Zephyurs 12.08.10 at 2:54 am

It’s interesting that a pair of rapes is a lesser crime than publicly releasing some potentially (but not uniformly) embarrassing cables.

110

David 12.08.10 at 5:29 am

Earlier today I had an invitation via FB to like a page that calls into question the idea of the US hosting Press Freedom. Just went back to look for it and it appears to have been pulled.

111

David 12.08.10 at 5:30 am

False alarm, found it and liked it.

112

zhava 12.08.10 at 5:43 am

Who said they were “rapes” Zephyurs???
Do you have a psychic edge when it comes to these things or do you just magically know?

113

daelm 12.08.10 at 7:30 am

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/abraham/detail?entry_id=78430

this article (above link) recycles the Melbourne one, with some added detail. for those who are hoping to make something of the case in this discussion, I invite you to review the following timeline:

JA has sex with woman.
Woman regales friends with stories about sex.
Woman hosts party for JA.
Wikileaks comes under pressure.
‘Rape investigation’ is floated and hue and cry ensues.
Conquest strongly denies rape and prosecutor’s office says it’s only a chat required.
Midnight machinations.
Prosecutor’s office withdraws all charges as groundless.
Massive pressure on Wikileaks by US govt.
Wikileaks releases diplomatic cables.
Midnight machinations.
‘Rape’ charges resurface magically.
One of the women involved tries to erase her online crowing about sleeping with JA. (Fails).
US Political figures call for the death of JA. Posturing and threats begin.
Newt Gingrich issues fatwah.
Midnight machinations.
Paypal, Amazon, Mastercard and Visa do lickspittle little dance and drool appreciatively for their masters. Master smiles indulgently and let’s them lick their own balls without interference.

It’s in THAT

114

daelm 12.08.10 at 7:36 am

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/abraham/detail?entry_id=78430

this article (above link) recycles the Melbourne one, with some added detail. for those who are hoping to make something of the case in this discussion, I invite you to review the following timeline:

JA has sex with woman.
Woman regales friends with stories about sex.
Woman hosts party for JA.
Wikileaks comes under pressure.
‘Rape investigation’ is floated and hue and cry ensues.
Conquest strongly denies rape and prosecutor’s office says it’s only a chat required.
Midnight machinations.
Prosecutor’s office withdraws all charges as groundless and essentially says the whole thing is a dumb idea.
Massive pressure on Wikileaks by US govt.
Wikileaks releases diplomatic cables.
Midnight machinations.
‘Rape’ charges resurface, magically.
One of the women involved tries to erase her online crowing about sleeping with JA. Fails.
Inane US Political figures call for the death of JA. Posturing and threats begin.
Newt Gingrich issues fatwah. Wishes US were Iran.
Midnight machinations.
Background pressure intensifies.
Paypal, Amazon, Mastercard and Visa do lickspittle little dance and drool appreciatively for their masters. Master smiles indulgently and let’s them lick their own balls without interference.

It’s in THAT context that these events are supposed to have occurred. So, folks, you should be able to grasp why they’re met with some skepticism. For people who’re as appled as I am by this, there doesn’t seem to be much that we can do. However, I have cancelled my Mastercard account this morning – it’s difficult but it can be done, and I will no longer use PayPal for anything. I hope they go under. When that happens I will be cheering.

I have also mailed Wikileaks for their various direct deposit account details and I’ll send those around when I get them. I assume someone will post them to FB.

d

115

Doug 12.08.10 at 7:36 am

Ben W, way back at #23: Weman has been asked to contribute something from the Swedish angle. He may be busy with, I dunno, real life or something.

116

daelm 12.08.10 at 7:37 am

appled = appalled :)

spellcheck fail.

117

dsquared 12.08.10 at 7:39 am

Perhaps I should have been more careful in my definition of ‘two fingers.’

No, perhaps you should have been more careful in trying to pull a fast one laddie. You do realise that this sort of thing has a really corrosive effect on your own credibility over time, do you?

It is not difficult to find out what Wikileaks does. The clue is in the name. If you are a Turkmeni activist, they cannot help you unless you have some confidential documents to leak. If you do, they can publish them – but they have no magical powers to make Turkmenistan more interesting to a global audience than the United States of America. Could you confirm that you understand this fundamental point about Wikileaks (as your linked article clearly misunderstands it), and then explain why, in context, this fact about Wikileaks doesn’t render your insulting remark about Assange “refusing to help” Turkmeni activists a piece of fairly ignorant concern trolling?

118

Alex 12.08.10 at 9:50 am

I think this would be a good moment to call attention to the fact that Wikileaks disclosures have not endangered any US or allied human intelligence source, in the considered opinion of none other than the US Secretary of Defense, Mr. Robert Gates. Not only am I confident that Mr. Gates would be informed at once by his officials was this to happen, I am also confident that he would not hold back from telling us if such were the case.

We therefore have no need of debates about this issue. We have facts. There is no need to discuss whether or not the disclosures endangered anyone – they didn’t and there is an end of the matter.

I am afraid, however, that this is an example of a new trend which I propose to call hyperdenial, in which the denial of one’s partisan allies’ crimes extends even to ones they have publicly and officially confessed. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, for example, various people (notably Ms. Melanie Phillips and Mr. Richard North) vigorously denied the reality of various events that the Israeli Defence Force official spokesman acknowledged and even apologised for. Israeli military apologies being notoriously as rare as rocking horse shit, this was an event of a notable character. Similarly, at the moment various people are in the process of denying that the Arctic ice cap is at a historically low extent despite that this is an observable and observed fact. Many people deny that the United States made use of torture in Iraq, even though this was originally revealed in an official report prepared by the United States Army and specifically by Major-General Antonio Taguba, USA.

I wish to warn various people on this thread of the dangers of sinking into hyperdenial, as it seems to be very difficult to recover from it once it sets in.

119

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.08.10 at 9:59 am

Is Turkmenistan still an incarnation of hell on earth? I got the impression that it’s become much better since Turkmenbashi died. The new great leader, even though a former dentist, is not too sadistic, and certainly far less eccentric. I was there last summer, it looked nice. Everything is very cheap, except beer.

120

maidhc 12.08.10 at 10:04 am

Timothy Scriven : Very good point right at the beginning of the discussion. How is preventing the accused from having access to the resources necessary to defend himself part of an impartial judicial system?

Not to mention the many other legal issues that have been raised.

Is this the point where we finally say that the legacy of Magna Carta is dead, that the concept of an ethical and impartial judiciary based on a code of law applying to everyone is only a footnote in history?

121

dsquared 12.08.10 at 10:07 am

Is Turkmenistan still an incarnation of hell on earth? I got the impression that it’s become much better since Turkmenbashi died.

I don’t know, Henri, I don’t know. Damn that bastard Assange!

122

Zamfir 12.08.10 at 10:50 am

How is preventing the accused from having access to the resources necessary to defend himself part of an impartial judicial system?

It makes sure evil people cannot lawyer themselves out of their deserved punishment.

123

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 10:54 am

@dsquared

Well you make the invitation to debate so enticing don’t you?

Fine – Beyond its anonymous five-member board (whose anonymity and unaccountability radical truth activists seem to have no problem with) Wikileaks apparently has several hundred assorted part time activists engaged in breaking code and directing the organisation. I have zero doubt that if the top of the organisation signalled that it had a greater interest in obtaining and decrypting information from, say, Turkmenistan that you’d tend to see more information from there. But then again, I’m examining wikileaks as an organisation, critically, rather than cheerleading for Assange.

As to the comparative media interest? That would be my point. Again WL is more interested in hyping fairly unilluminating diplomatic cables to the sky because they embarass the US (and IMHO, feed into Julian Assange’s fantasies and ego, but that’s another thread.) They’ve struck very little in the way of a blow for transparency (Arab regimes are worried about Persians getting the bomb? Shocking) while subjecting Wikileaks to (legitimate) pressure in order to allow the Guardian to fill its pages for free for a few weeks. The leaks about sub-Saharan African regimes (which another commentator rightly points out was their bread and butter in the old days) may not have made a big splash but they told us something. Wikileaks has now opted for big splashes that tell us nothing.

Oh and @CMK – care to tell us WHY CPI didn’t get off the ground? I seem to remember a number of documents relating to its chairmans involvement with illegal paramilitary organisations appearing in the public domain, followed by yet another crusader for public transparency declaring it wasn’t up to him to provide an explanation as to why it appeared he was on holiday in Colombia with a bunch of bomb-makers.

124

Emma in Sydney 12.08.10 at 10:58 am

Daragh, don’t you have a thesis you should be writing, rather than hanging around here getting hammered? Your supervisor is going to be pretty unimpressed with a download of repetitive comments from CT.

125

Alex 12.08.10 at 11:04 am

Wikileaks apparently has several hundred assorted part time activists engaged in breaking code

Cite? I certainly haven’t heard of them having any cryptanalytic capability.

126

Emma in Sydney 12.08.10 at 11:12 am

The Wikileaks Advisory board isn’t so anonymous. Phillip Adams, Australian radio presenter and public figure, was quoted as a member today in the Sydney Morning Herald.

127

dsquared 12.08.10 at 11:33 am

Well you make the invitation to debate so enticing don’t you?

If someone has sent you an invitation with my name at the bottom, it is definitely a forgery.

128

ajay 12.08.10 at 11:50 am

122: why would they need them anyway? They publish leaks. Leaked documents from inside an organisation aren’t encrypted. Wikileaks isn’t running some sort of SIGINT operation that would give it a large take of encrypted documents. (Wikibletchley?)

129

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 11:55 am

@122

The massive, encrypted ‘insurance’ file on the website and their general operations suggest that they do have considerable encryption and decryption assets.

@dsquared – grow up.

130

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 11:58 am

@dsqaured – sorry, that last comment was unneccesarily rude. But I do find the speed to which Wikileaks’ defenders rush to its defence astonishing, particularly while refusing to even consider the idea that their might be something suspect/dangerous about a self-appointed group of ‘activists’ or whatever they choose to call themselves deciding what governments (including those with strong democratic mandate) should or should not be ‘allowed’ to keep secret.

131

ajay 12.08.10 at 12:03 pm

The massive, encrypted ‘insurance’ file on the website and their general operations suggest that they do have considerable encryption and decryption assets.

No, it doesn’t. It suggests that they have bought an off-the-shelf commercial encryption program and used it to encrypt the insurance file. This would not require any encryption expertise at all. I could probably do it myself. Certainly anyone with the nous to maintain a fairly complex website could do it.
Nothing else about their general operations suggests that they have any cryptanalytic expertise at all – nor that they need any. Can you post any evidence to support this assertion?

132

dsquared 12.08.10 at 12:04 pm

The massive, encrypted ‘insurance’ file on the website and their general operations suggest that they do have considerable encryption and decryption assets.

Errrr … it is possible to produced encrypted files with off-the-shelf software, or for that matter even free software. I’ve got a massive encrypted file on my computer too, but I did it by selecting “Password Protect” in Word.

By the way, Julian Assange’s co-directors of Sunshine Press Productions, the publisher of Wikileaks, are Ingi Ragner Ingason, Kristinn Hrafnsson and Gavin MacFadyen. Took about a minute.

133

dsquared 12.08.10 at 12:06 pm

I also highly doubt the existence of Turkmeni activists who possess large amounts of encrypted state data which they have got hold of in some manner, but who lack any way of decrypting it other than the utterly notional WikiBletchley operation.

134

Ian 12.08.10 at 12:07 pm

Dingbat @ 63
“Privacy and its institutional sibling, secrecy, were phenomena of the 20th century;”

That is an incorrect statement following a common misconception forming part of a wider understanding maintained within particular mental models, plainly it is factually wrong.

Dead Sea Scrolls:-

The IQ manuscript bears the stamp of editorial modification. For instance, in column x the original ‘I will conceal knowledge with discretion’ is corrected to ‘I will impart knowledge with discretion’
Vermes, G., 1997 The complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. p.97

Should [one] of them have something to say to the Council of Holiness, let [him] be questioned privately; but let him not enter among [the congregation] for he is smitten. [With a communicable illness]
Vermes, G., 1997 The complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. p.159

Looking for similarities with today, and it used to be a criminal act to publicly report discussions held within the UK Parliamentary chamber; Considering how the parliamentary proceedings (Now published as Hansard.) were reported during that period (privately in public) with how WikiLeaks deals with similar disclosures today (openly in public) allows some distinctions to be made. Elvis lives it would seem.

The discussions about WikiLeaks appear to me to frequently revolving around:-

responsible and open publication;
full publication with responsibility;
responsible publication with deniability;
anonymous and full publication;

all seem to impose one size on everybody, when it would seem many sizes are required if they are to fit everybody in every possible circumstance, points made in various ways many times in this articles thread and elsewhere. It would seem that given those issues Elvis will live forever – but didn’t he die!

135

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 12:13 pm

@dsquared

Congratulations – you’ve found the names of Wikileaks publishers. I was of course referring to Wikileaks administrators the supposed ‘experts’ who decide whether its OK to publish a document, what to black out etc. They are still anonymous.

136

sophist75 12.08.10 at 12:14 pm

Assange is an expert in cryptography. He co-invented a form of encryption known as “deniable encryption”.

137

ajay 12.08.10 at 12:19 pm

The publishers are ultimately responsible for what appears in the publication.

Any thoughts on the Wikibletchley issue, by the way?

138

Cian 12.08.10 at 12:24 pm

Daragh:
The massive, encrypted ‘insurance’ file on the website and their general operations suggest that they do have considerable encryption and decryption assets.

No it suggests that Assange knows how to use PGP. Just like hundreds of thousands of other people. I don’t think wikileaks should be above genuine and informed criticism. Care to offer any, or are you just going to make more uninformed shit up?

139

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 12:25 pm

@ajay

Yes, but I’m interested in decision-making and how the organisation decides what to publish, not who gets in trouble when they screw up.

On Wikibletchley – I’d say its actually far more likely that a hypothetical Turkmen dissident with encrypted data would need the services of a wikibletchley than not, given the penetration of information technology across what is an unimaginably closed and repressive society. Ditto Burma or NorKo. The farther you go up the chain the less this rule applies (Russian dissidents can find their own tech geeks for example.)

140

Cian 12.08.10 at 12:27 pm

They’ve struck very little in the way of a blow for transparency (Arab regimes are worried about Persians getting the bomb? Shocking) while subjecting Wikileaks to (legitimate) pressure in order to allow the Guardian to fill its pages for free for a few weeks.

Yeah there have been a few other leaks also. Spying in the UN, information on torture, what was going on with regards to Libya, US actions in Lebanon, the fact that the US knew that the recent coup was an illegitimate coup, etc, etc. Pretending that there haven’t been some significant pieces of information shreds what little credibility you might have remaining at this point.

141

ajay 12.08.10 at 12:30 pm

135: no doubt. But this completely hypothetical statement in no way backs up your assertion that Wikileaks has “several hundred assorted part time activists engaged in breaking code” and “considerable encryption and decryption assets”.

We’ve got two problems here, you see, or rather you have two problems:
you’ve got no evidence that anyone has ever leaked encrypted documents to Wikileaks;
and you’ve got no evidence that Wikileaks has any cryptanalytic ability.

Asserting the first, without evidence, is not proof of the second.

142

Cian 12.08.10 at 12:33 pm

Yes, but I’m interested in decision-making and how the organisation decides what to publish, not who gets in trouble when they screw up.

Actually you’re not, because 10 minutes of research would have told you that they’re letting partner news organisations make that decision.

You’re a concern troll, pure and simple.

143

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 12:35 pm

@Cian

I’ll cheerfuly withdraw my comments on the ‘insurance’ file. The point is that there was never going to be a sympathetic audience on the thread for any criticism of wikileaks. Pretending that its a massive surprise that the US diplomats knew, alongside virtually every legal scholar on the planet, that the Honduran coup was illegitimate while the US government took a neutral stance is not a ‘shocking revalation.’ Neither is the fact that pressure from Gaddafi played a role in pressuring for the release of Megrahi, or that the US is continuing long-standing (and for the record, completely unjustifiable and wrong) policies of spying on the UN.

Now I’ll grant that there are a few nuggets in the data dump. I would argue that reinforces the core point – instead of extracting genuinely highly interesting and valuable information, and presenting it in proper context, we get endless news coverage that is 99% trivia causing the vast majority of viewers/readers to tune out, while a relatively small number of academics get a debating point.

144

Chris Williams 12.08.10 at 12:35 pm

Well, after 132 comments, I’ve not changed my mind about anything, other than the fact that if Daragh McDowell says it’s raining, rather than go outside to check (status quo at midday), I will simply decide that it isn’t.

145

Chris Bertram 12.08.10 at 12:36 pm

I’m starting to imagine leaked cables (circa 2025) from the future Irish ambassador to Turkmenistan ….

146

ajay 12.08.10 at 12:41 pm

instead of extracting genuinely highly interesting and valuable information, and presenting it in proper context, we get endless news coverage that is 99% trivia causing the vast majority of viewers/readers to tune out, while a relatively small number of academics get a debating point.

Actually, that wasn’t your original point. Your original point was that the US data dump was bad because it was a shameless attempt by Assange to attract attention, because everyone’s more interested in the US – when what he should be doing is exposing less interesting but more worthwhile evidence of misdeeds by people like the Turkmen.

147

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 12:42 pm

Actually you’re not, because 10 minutes of research would have told you that they’re letting partner news organisations make that decision.

Gosh yes, because if the Guardian had simply said these diplomatic cables are too hot to handle and none of them should be released, Wikileaks would have quietly filed them away and forgot about it. How silly of me to overlook that.

@Ajay

I seem to recall wikileaks asking for volunteers to decrypt the ‘collateral murder’ video the later appearance of which suggests that they were succesful – ie they have de facto access to significant cryptanalytic capabilities. And FWIW I thought CM was an excellent use of the Wikileaks platform, and its a pity they’ve chosen to pursue a strategy of periodically belching out large amounts of trivial information so the Guardian can have two cost free weeks of newscopy filled.

148

ajay 12.08.10 at 12:42 pm

I’m starting to imagine leaked cables (circa 2025) from the future Irish ambassador to Turkmenistan ….

I hope you’re not picturing Ambassador McDowell in this role.

149

Cian 12.08.10 at 12:46 pm

No Daragh, its not “shocking”. Any more than police evidence that the local mafiosi has been engaging in illegal activity is “shocking”. But I think knowing what was really going on and being said in two very politicised and ongoing situations is kind of important. In the Scottish case it completely destroys a particularly conspiracy theory that was used to attack the SNP. That seems kind of important. I’m sure the Germans are interested to know how pressure was put on the German government to squash a legal enquiry into the US kidnap of a German citizen who was subsequently tortured by the US. I think its quite important for the gloating of the UK and US over the change of status of a particular archipelago to prevent the return of its inhabitants IMPORTANT. But you’re not really interested in that argument, are you.

The point is that there was never going to be a sympathetic audience on the thread for any criticism of wikileaks.

And you know this how? There’s not a sympathetic audience for most of your criticisms because they’re largely uninformed and sensationalistic rubbish.

150

Cian 12.08.10 at 12:53 pm

Gosh yes, because if the Guardian had simply said these diplomatic cables are too hot to handle and none of them should be released, Wikileaks would have quietly filed them away and forgot about it. How silly of me to overlook that.

So far the only documents to be released are the supporting evidence for partner news organisation’s stories, with redactions requested by said news organisations. So yes, really stupid of you to overlook that.

Like I said, there’s a reason nobody’s taking you seriously.

151

Cian 12.08.10 at 12:56 pm

I seem to recall wikileaks asking for volunteers to decrypt the ‘collateral murder’ video the later appearance of which suggests that they were succesful – ie they have de facto access to significant cryptanalytic capabilities.

No it doesn’t. It suggests that if they publicly request the use of thousands and thousands of computers for a brute force attack, they can get them. I’d drop this line of argument if I was you, you’re obviously out of your depth.

152

ajay 12.08.10 at 12:56 pm

I seem to recall wikileaks asking for volunteers to decrypt the ‘collateral murder’ video the later appearance of which suggests that they were succesful

That video file was apparently zipped and encrypted with AES-256 http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/06/leak/
and broken with a dictionary attack.
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/04/cryptography_br.html

OK, fair enough in that case: Wikileaks has some cryptanalytic capability.

153

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 12:59 pm

@Chris Williams

Bully for you. I’ve actually provided evidence that Wikileaks has at the very least significant access to cryptanalytic capabilities, and that its publishing decisions are made by (rather than accountable to) an anonymous panel that de facto rejects the kind of transparency it foists on others being applied to it.

The other major claim I made is that Assange’s obsession with embarassing the USA has effectively derailed the site from taking on other more worthy targets, a claim first raised by… other members of the Wikileaks team! Indeed they have claimed that “Wikileaks has ignored reams of new exposés because so much attention has been paid to the Iraq and Afghan conflicts… specifically the dramatic increase in submissions from whistleblowers within closed countries, dictatorships and corporations.” which kind of reinforces my original ‘two fingers’ claim that so offended Dsquared’s delicate sensibilities.

So run outside without an umbrella all you want – I’m sure your comrades will applaud you for your boldness. Won’t change the fact that its raining!

154

Cian 12.08.10 at 1:13 pm

Bully for you. I’ve actually provided evidence that Wikileaks has at the very least significant access to cryptanalytic capabilities

Actually you haven’t. They have access to the cryptanalytic capabilities of a fairly capable, but not exceptional, Computer Science graduate. The attack on the video’s encryption was decryption 101. As I said you’re out of your depth here. The key to it was access to hardcore computing power and weak security.

and that its publishing decisions are made by (rather than accountable to) an anonymous panel that de facto rejects the kind of transparency it foists on others being applied to it.

So you’re still not going to acknowledge that the publishing decisions are being made by the partner news organisations. Tell me, to whom is McDowell accountable to?

I don’t think that Wikileaks has a particularly good model here, but it does have one and it would be nice if you could at least acknowledge that.

155

Cian 12.08.10 at 1:16 pm

But still post 152, and Daragh finally makes a criticism which actually has evidence to support it. Took a lot of pushing, but he managed. Well done my lad.

156

Bruce Baugh 12.08.10 at 1:19 pm

Daragh: “But I do find the speed to which Wikileaks’ defenders rush to its defence astonishing,” Well, that’s because it’s under attack at the moment. Sitting around to let the attackers complete their turn before commencing our moves wouldn’t do much good, and defending earlier would…well, the late Leslie Nielsen said it in an episode of Police Squad. “We would have come sooner, but your husband wasn’t dead then.” When were you expecting anyone to defend Wikileaks, if not at the time US Senators are talking about trying its front man for treason as if he were a US citizen and public discourse here includes a serious debate over the propriety of assassinating him, and when US Senators are pushing companies to cut off anything that might support Wikileaks? Is this in your appraisal a good time for Wikileaks defenders to kick back and take it easy, and if so, what would constitute good signals that the time for action is at hand?

“particularly while refusing to even consider the idea that their might be something suspect/dangerous about a self-appointed group of ‘activists’ or whatever they choose to call themselves deciding what governments (including those with strong democratic mandate) should or should not be ‘allowed’ to keep secret.” Coming to a different conclusion than you is not the same as not considering. Given, in fact, that many of the people you’re bashing clearly know quite a bit more about Wikileaks than you – and none of them are refusing to do ten minutes’ research the way you are, well, “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ to consider that you may be wrong.”

157

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 1:21 pm

Actually you haven’t. They have access to the cryptanalytic capabilities of a fairly capable, but not exceptional, Computer Science graduate.

How is claiming they have ‘significant access’ to cryptanalytic capabilities materially different from your second sentence, apart from the fact that you seem to think that this should be disregarded unless the decryption meets an arbitrary standard (set by you) of difficulty?

So you’re still not going to acknowledge that the publishing decisions are being made by the partner news organisations. Tell me, to whom is McDowell accountable to?

No I’m not because that’s patently not the case. Are you seriously claiming that if these ‘partner news organisations’ (which have been part of the wikileaks ‘model’ for less than 6 months by my reckoning – starting from the Afghan ‘war diaries’) had said ‘hold on a minute, these cables are too explosive and raise extremely troubling issues regarding international law – don’t publish them’ that wikileaks would have held off? Because if so there’s a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in purchasing.

I’m accountably to myself – which is why I publish here, and on my blog under my real name not a pseudonym. Not that I necessarily have a problem with pseudonymous publication per se, its a decision I made for myself. And if I was appointing myself to a position of responsibility in which I, for example, claimed the right to decide who could and could not publish pseudonymously, it would be unbelievably hypocritical of me to do so under a veil of secrecy as well as raising legitimate questions of accountability.

158

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 1:28 pm

@Bruce Baugh

On ‘doing my research’ please see 152. I think I’m being held to a slightly higher standard here in that every ‘contra’ wikileaks argument here is being held to a much higher standard of evidence than the ‘pro,’ but I’ll be more diligent in future now that I know my interlocutors will simply be assuming bad faith because I have a political position that they do not agree with.

I will concede your first point however.

159

Cian 12.08.10 at 1:38 pm

How is claiming they have ‘significant access’ to cryptanalytic capabilities materially different from your second sentence, apart from the fact that you seem to think that this should be disregarded unless the decryption meets an arbitrary standard (set by you) of difficulty?

Okay lets try this again in simple language. The attack was a well known one, which anybody with a fairly trivial knowledge of cryptography could carry out. It is particularly easy as there are tools, easily downloaded, that automate the whole process. A few simple precautions by the person who encrypted the file would have foiled the attack. It says absolutely nothing about their abilities with regards to a properly encrypted file.

Not knowing about these things is fine. Acting as if you do when you don’t, is not.

No I’m not because that’s patently not the case. Are you seriously claiming that if these ‘partner news organisations’ (which have been part of the wikileaks ‘model’ for less than 6 months by my reckoning – starting from the Afghan ‘war diaries’) had said ‘hold on a minute, these cables are too explosive and raise extremely troubling issues regarding international law – don’t publish them’ that wikileaks would have held off?

Unless you can prove otherwise, it doesn’t matter what I think. To date there is no evidence that any cables have been published against the wishes of partner organisations. You’re making assumptions about a hypothetical based upon absolutely nothing. Neither of us is in a position to speculate about what wikileas might do in a hypothetical situation. In the real world they have behaved as described – its only in your own fevered imagination that they have behaved differently.

On ‘doing my research’ please see 152. I think I’m being held to a slightly higher standard here in that every ‘contra’ wikileaks argument here is being held to a much higher standard of evidence than the ‘pro,’

You are joking. You got really basic facts wrong. The standard you’re being held to is “Know something about the subject before opening your big mouth”. If you think that’s a particular high standard…

160

Charlie 12.08.10 at 1:41 pm

Congratulations – you’ve found the names of Wikileaks publishers. I was of course referring to Wikileaks administrators the supposed ‘experts’ who decide whether its OK to publish a document, what to black out etc. They are still anonymous.

Jeepers. If you don’t want to leak something to Wikileaks – because you think they might ignore it and not publish it, or because you think they might not do the redaction properly – then don’t leak something to Wikileaks. Or do your own publishing. Or do your own redactions. The Wikileaks people do have agency, even if they’ve preannounced their disposition to publish whatever they receive. Or is it that you’re upset that there are people in the world who are prepared to forward leaked material? Well, I’d most likely forward leaked material, if someone gave it to me. Millions of people most likely would. Should we all check with you first?

The mistake you’re making here is to think that Wikileaks is powerful – that they have special access to secret material, that they have resources others don’t, that they can compel people to re-disseminate their material. Making demands for accountability and transparency is our response to power, and despite the recent contributions they’ve made to the content of the New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian, Wikileaks is not especially powerful. Those newspapers have significantly more power than Wikileaks. The actual leakers (and the actual leakers are not Wikileaks) have significantly more power than Wikileaks. What we’re seeing in Wikileaks is just the expression of a levelling technology – the internet: no wonder those with power hate it.

161

Chris Bertram 12.08.10 at 1:50 pm

TOP SECRET
ASHGABAT 4/4/2025 22:30

NATIVES RESTLESS. WEATHER DREADFUL. RUNNING LOW ON FERRERO ROCHER, WHISKEY … SEND SUPPLIES URGENT. BORROWED TENNER FROM GERMAN AMBASSADOR. NEED TO REPAY URGENT. DMCD

162

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 1:50 pm

@Charlie – Now THAT’S an interesting argument, even if I think there’s quite a few problems with it (Wikileaks has undoubtedly increased its brand visibility, traffic, and therefore ‘power’ in terms of its ability to attract actual eyeballs to leaked documents through its media efforts.) My main problem is still with the anonymity of decision makers, and the lack of mechanisms to show that leaked data is accurate, relevant etc.

@Cian – Lets try this again in simple language. A website with a history and stated mission of making confidential information available online approaches newspapers with what is essentially an offer to give them exclusive access to said data in return for publicity and some help in scrubbing it of potentially harmful info beforehand. Your hypothesis rests on the idea that they will suddenly abandon their core mission if this offer is rebuffed. My hypothesis rests on Wikileaks continuing in well-established patterns of behaviour.

163

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 1:55 pm

@Chris Bertram

Glad to see you’re sticking to your usual standard of engagement with people who disagree with you. Tell us, are you ever going to offer an insight into why private actors withdrawing services from another private actor with whom they no longer wish to do business comprise ‘shameful attacks?’ Or are you going to continue to bask in the comfortable knowledge that because your political beliefs make you morally superior to anyone who disagrees with them you can just act like a smug git when ever anyone challenges you on anything?

164

Chris Williams 12.08.10 at 2:00 pm

Hey Darragh – you do know that Daniel Ellsberg wore unfashionable trousers, don’t you? And yet the liberals failed to acknowledge this!

165

Zamfir 12.08.10 at 2:04 pm

Daragh, I am not quite clear what your position here is. You want wikileaks to be more open, which is a reasonable wish.

But how does that make it OK for the US to bully the organization and its members the way they do? You seem to imply that unless Wikileaks meets a certain minimum standard, it is OK to call for their assassination.

166

MarkUp 12.08.10 at 2:04 pm

My word Bertram, the speed at which you cracked the code for that cable is absolutely astounding. You must have thousands and thousand of part timers decrypting… and even more illustrators for the marginal illumination]. However I do believe that “tenner” is actually tenor [the key is in the tiny bubbles in the header].

Yours,
Placido

167

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 2:06 pm

@Chris Williams – lame jokes aside, the Ellsberg case is an interesting comparison, given that Ellsberg had intimate, expert knowledge of the documents he actually leaked and the topic they pertained to, and how they directly contradicted contemporarily available information in the public domain. He had good knowledge of the likely effects of his leaks, targetted them for a specific purpose and took responsibility for doing so. Wikileaks by contrast published a wad of largely uninteresting diplomatic chatter and cleverly marketed Julian Assange as the second coming of Che Guevara while (I would argue) making it a hell of a lot easier to delegitimise future Ellsberg’s.

But then, defence of Assange against eeevvvil politicians who we find objectionable releases a whole mess of endorphins…

168

Cian 12.08.10 at 2:07 pm

Jesus Daragh, can you get anything right.

The mining of the data is being carried out by the newspapers. The newspapers are the one’s asking for cables to be released. So far Wikileaks has redacted everything it was asked to redact. It would help your hypotheticals slightly if you could at least acquaint yourself with some basic facts and get the basic model, before wandering off into never-never land.

Your hypothesis rests on the idea that they will suddenly abandon their core mission if this offer is rebuffed.

Err no, my argument rests upon it not working the way that you described. As to what they will do in the future I offer no opinion; my tea leaves tell me nothing.

My hypothesis rests on Wikileaks continuing in well-established patterns of behaviour.

Wikileaks doesn’t have well-established patterns of behaviour. So there’s that.

169

Cian 12.08.10 at 2:09 pm

Jesus Daragh, do you never stop:

Wikileaks is not choosing the stuff to publish, newspapers are. Idiot.

Ellsberg supports Wikileaks, so maybe that’s an argument you should be having with him.

170

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 2:13 pm

@Zamfir

OK – to be clear: I think calling for Assange’s assassination is ridiculous and out of line. The fact that its been largely confined to carnival barkers like Palin and the Huckster makes me think its most likely not a serious policy option on the table right now, but nevertheless such chatter is not helpful.

On the US State Dept. et al reacting strongly to the leak of private communications obtained illegally – what would you expect any organisation in such a situation to do? Lie back and take it? Of course they’re going to pursue legal options against Wikileaks, especially since the publication of diplomatically-privileged communications is arguably a violation of international law itself.

On private corporations and businesses withdrawing their services from wikileaks and refusing to engage in business with them – again, are we really surprised that an organisation engaged in probably illegal, and at a minimum extremely controversial activities is going to find that Mastercard doesn’t want their brand tarnished by association? I’d argue thats a private business looking out for its own interests, not a ‘shameful attack.’

171

Bruce Baugh 12.08.10 at 2:13 pm

Daragh: “But then, defence of Assange against eeevvvil politicians who we find objectionable releases a whole mess of endorphins…” As of course does self-righteous contrarian posturing. The right response in both cases is “So?”, unless you’re proposing that only your adversaries should be subject to tawdry 150-year-old reductionism but not people so clever and wise as yourself.

172

Chris Williams 12.08.10 at 2:14 pm

McDowell _himself_avoids the issue of Ellsberg’s trousers! Clearly he does believe in the tenets of fair argument which he is so keen to thrust upon others.

173

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 2:15 pm

Wikileaks is not choosing the stuff to publish, newspapers are. Idiot.

So that whole website at ‘wikileaks.ch’ with the searchable database of diplomatic cables, Afghan war logs etc. is just a front? An elaborate deception? An illusion? What?

174

Cian 12.08.10 at 2:19 pm

Irrelevant to the point being made.

Question: Are all the cables on wikileaks.ch?

Answer: If not, who chose which cables should be on there.

Of course this would require five minutes of research, so is probably beyond your limited abilities.

175

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 2:19 pm

@Bruce Baugh

Apologies – I didn’t realise these days that having serious concerns rather than immediately signing up to cheer lead for a private and largely anonymous organisation with zero democratic accountability that has arbitrarily claimed for itself the ‘right’ to decide what information should and should not be in the public domain now counts as ‘self-righteous contrarian posturing.’

176

Zamfir 12.08.10 at 2:20 pm

Daragh, does that mean you would object if it turns out those private organizations did in fact respond to direct pressure from the US government? And that you would object, if it turns out that Assange’s speedy warrant and arrest, let alone the original charge were the result of such pressure?

But at this moment, you do not believe the US government is acting beyond legal and ethical boundaries in it attempts to hinder wikileaks?

177

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 2:27 pm

@Cian

While you’ve displayed a consistently charming attitude which makes it a real downer to burst your bubble, I have in fact read the Wikileaks release on the cables which has simply promised that the cables will be released in stages in order to maximise media attention because they are just the most important thing in the history ever. There is no pledge, public or private, that I have seen that they will refuse to release cables if advised to do so by the Guardian, Der Spiegel or NYT. In fact they’ve been extremely choosey about who they’ve allowed to access the documents, refusing CNN and the WSJ for example because they… wait for it… refused to sign confidentiality agreements.

178

Chris Williams 12.08.10 at 2:27 pm

I gotta love this ideal type concern trolling by Daragh. Ah, would that Wikileaks had a more democratic structure! If only this organisation — oddly fearless of the sneaking suspicion that ‘massive attack by the powers-that-be and their tools’ might just lie in its future — had organised so as to render itself more open to attack and infiltration! Then, but then, I might have found it in my heart to support it.*

For those of us in need of a laugh, can I recommed the Encyclopedia of Deceny, especially the one of the conclusions to ‘You Are the Decent Ref’: “There’s a time and place for level-headed, rational discussion, and it’s _never_ and _somewhere else_. “

* Or perhaps crossed that particular bollocks talking point off the list, and moved onto the next: “Number 23: Assange’s haircut”. Whatever.

179

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 2:35 pm

Daragh, does that mean you would object if it turns out those private organizations did in fact respond to direct pressure from the US government? And that you would object, if it turns out that Assange’s speedy warrant and arrest, let alone the original charge were the result of such pressure?

Yep. But it wouldn’t change my opinion on Wikileaks.

But at this moment, you do not believe the US government is acting beyond legal and ethical boundaries in it attempts to hinder wikileaks?

I’m not aware (and neither is anyone on this thread I’d wager) of the full scope of actions currently being undertaken by the US government to hinder Wikileaks. From what I’ve seen so far, no, but with the strong caveat that I haven’t seen it all.

180

Cian 12.08.10 at 2:35 pm

Apologies – I didn’t realise these days that having serious concerns rather than immediately signing up to cheer lead for a private and largely anonymous organisation with zero democratic accountability that has arbitrarily claimed for itself the ‘right’ to decide what information should and should not be in the public domain now counts as ‘self-righteous contrarian posturing.’

Okay, first of all wikileaks was set up as a technical platform to publish any leaked information given to it. This was what they used to do, bar a couple of serious ethical lapses (which amusingly you seem to be completely ignorant of). The whole point was not to make any major decisions, but some technical solutions to make whistleblowing/leaking easier. It was a platform, nothing more.

There were some advantages to this (it brought some important stuff out), but some real problems (the media ignored much of it, and after a few days lost interest in what had been leaked). And obviously not everything could be published. Assange said that he realised that they needed to work on ways of making sure this kind of stuff got the publicity it deserved.

They they were given the Afghan/Iraq data. Instead of releasing the whole thing as they used to, they decided to first of all give it to certain newspapers to trawl through for worthy newspaper stories so that the release would get more coverage. They also seem to have used this, possibly due to the influence of these newspapers, possibly not – as a way to try and redact sensitive information.

So on the Afghan stuff, the “decision” was to not publish stuff and it was made by journalists.

Now with the cables, they have chosen to drip feed the information. The decision about what to drip-feed has been made by the journalists with access to the data, and is not (as you erroneously seem to believe) being made by wikileaks.

So again the decision on what to make available is being made by journalists, not wikileaks. And its a negative decision.

So if I’ve understood you correctly, is your problem that they’ve stopped releasing everything? That they’re allowing journalists to make editorial decisions about what should be published? Or have you simply not thought this through properly?

181

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 2:38 pm

I gotta love this ideal type concern trolling by Daragh. Ah, would that Wikileaks had a more democratic structure! If only this organisation—oddly fearless of the sneaking suspicion that ‘massive attack by the powers-that-be and their tools’ might just lie in its future—had organised so as to render itself more open to attack and infiltration! Then, but then, I might have found it in my heart to support it.*

Gosh yes – because I raise legitimate concerns about the structure of Wikileaks I must be dishonest. How well you’ve found me out. And I’m sure if Assange had a political agenda radically opposed to say, your own and was primarily interested in say attacking Social Democratic parties by publicising their secret communications, you’d totally be sticking up for them.

182

Straightwood 12.08.10 at 2:42 pm

Daragh McDowell@169

are we really surprised that an organisation engaged in probably illegal, and at a minimum extremely controversial activities is going to find that Mastercard doesn’t want their brand tarnished by association?

Mastercard and Visa processes transactions for the Ku Klux Klan website. What remarkable defenders of free speech! At the Klan site gift shop, you can use your Visa or Mastercard to order a ceramic figurine of a robed and hooded Klansman (lighted eyes optional).

183

Cian 12.08.10 at 2:43 pm

There is no pledge, public or private, that I have seen that they will refuse to release cables if advised to do so by the Guardian, Der Spiegel or NYT.

I never said that. I said that the decision about what to release at present is being made by the news organisations. The inverse of your model. That is you didn’t have your facts straight. What they will do with hypothetical cables, if advised is a complete unknown. You don’t know and are making assumptions based upon your own negative views of them. Its an opinion based upon nothing, and worth about the same. Criticising Wikileaks for behaviour they haven’t engaged in, but you think they might, is less than impressive.

In fact they’ve been extremely choosey about who they’ve allowed to access the documents, refusing CNN and the WSJ for example because they… wait for it… refused to sign confidentiality agreements.

And? Is this a new argument you’re making, or is this somehow supposed to prove what they’ll do in one of your hypotheticals?

184

Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 2:50 pm

[sorry CTers, I don’t usually go in for this kind of stuff (once, with SoV after a similar multi-thread build-up of irritation), but this McDowell character is really getting on my tits now.]

my interlocutors will simply be assuming bad faith because I have a political position that they do not agree with

No they are quite correctly concluding that you are arguing in bad faith because you are obviously arguing from what I suppose could be called a rudimentary political position (or posture): Wikileaks bad, US good (I won’t attempt to analyse any deeper than that.), without any real regard for whether what you say is actually accurate.

That this is the case is quite clear from your MO: make up a mess of utterly disparate criticisms, then press harder on those which aren’t immediately shot down, eventually, grudgingly, dredging up some vaguely relevant evidence to keep them going a bit longer. Its entirely clear to everyone that you’re interested only in the impact and not the content of the criticisms you put forward.

Anyone who reads the trajectory of all this stuff about encryption, for example, can observe this in action.

And just for comparison, the particular strand of your tangled web that refers to the unfocussed nature of the latest mass leak has been discussed more sensibly and reasonably on the previous thread, without all the passive-aggressive hostility and bewilderingly sweeping accusations of moral turpitude. If you have some criticisms of Wikileaks why not take them there instead of derailing this one – which is about the attack on Wikileaks (you can check this, it’s at the top).

I get the impression that the CT in-crowd know you, which is presumably why (you think) you can act like a dick and continue to be indulged – even dsquared seems to be being very patient.

But they’re not doing you any favours – past indulgence perhaps explains how you got to this Violet Beauregarde style of argument. I mean as with the pub sage holding court among four men and a dog, it’s not exactly that you really believe that the stuff you make up is literally true, more that you think you’re entitled to have others defer to it – and so you’re constantly telling us how you’re astonished by this or find that annoying.

Just give it a rest, eh?

185

Chris Williams 12.08.10 at 2:55 pm

Oddly enough, Daragh, a few years ago I was bit more active politically (in the UK toytown left) than I am now. When one genuinely unaccountable organisation did make a habit of publishing internal bulletins of a party which I was close to (though not a member of), in order to screw it about, I didn’t call for anyone, least of all the state, to have a go at them, or to supress their ‘paper’. My response to rueful complaints from my mates who were being done over was to say: “Well, it’s true, isn’t it?”

What’s it to be? You have on this thread made between three and five (I can’t be arsed to count ) different accusations against Wikileaks. Some of them are concern-trolling; some of them are objections to the principle of whistleblowing. You need to stake out a position and stick to it, because your position is currently that best represented by Madness in the great song “Shut Up!”

186

Straightwood 12.08.10 at 3:05 pm

Like the execrable Megan McArdle, Daragh’s greatest argumentative asset is an incapacity for embarrassment. This thread is littered with the shards of his clay pigeon arguments for the suppression of Wikileaks, but he presses on bravely, determined to defend the powerful and corrupt from the weak and honest.

187

Chris Bertram 12.08.10 at 3:07 pm

TOP SECRET
ASHGABAT 8/7/2025 10:35

FIRST AUDIENCE WITH NEW PRESIDENT. PUT OUR CASE PERSISTENTLY AND COGENTLY AS I THOUGHT. PRES. SEEMED TO STOP LISTENING AFTER A WHILE AND ADVISERS WERE TITTERING. ASKED TRANSLATOR TO EXPLAIN BUT SEEMED OVERCOME WITH GIGGLES. DECIDED TO LEAVE WITH DIGNITY BUT TRIPPED ON THE MAT. STILL NO FERRERO ROCHER! DMCD

188

Alex Gregory 12.08.10 at 3:13 pm

Since CT comment policy came up recently: One idea, in light of a thread like this, is to prevent commentators for posting more than once every, say, 2 hours. That might encourage people to think a bit more before they post knee-jerk responses whose sole goal is to defend their honour, but which usually result in a rather large self-dug grave. (Or at least, force them to take the time to explain themselves in such a way that makes clear that this is not the right way to see the situation.)

189

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 3:22 pm

Like the execrable Megan McArdle, Daragh’s greatest argumentative asset is an incapacity for embarrassment. This thread is littered with the shards of his clay pigeon arguments for the suppression of Wikileaks, but he presses on bravely, determined to defend the powerful and corrupt from the weak and honest.

Wow, that’s some epic strawmannery, as is Wilkinson’s assertion that my position is ‘US Good’ (it isn’t BTW, but don’t let my disagreement with you on a particular issue prevent you from assuming my positions on others.)

My arguments so far have been, as far as I’ve intended, restricted to the following:

a) A private organisation with a very clear political agenda is openly advertising its willingness to host and display freely private data, often in contravention of the laws of democratic nation-states.

b) The decisions as to what data is in the public interest to make available, and whether doing so will endanger the lives, health, reputation etc. of individuals is made by (so far as wikileaks tells us) an anonymous five member panel of ‘experts’ – so far as wikileaks tells us. How they are selected/monitored/disciplined is unclear. How they can be held to account is unclear. Whether or not they act on advice from others not to publish information is ultimately irrelevant given that they’re holding the trigger.

c) People within and without the wikileaks organisation have made credible complaints that its obsession with the USA as a target have prevented it from using its resources in other ways, particularly against far more oppressive and tyrannical regimes.

I do not believe that these are objections to ‘the principle of whistleblowing’ or ‘concern-trolling’ but then again, they are contrary to many of the beliefs held by most of the people on this thread and are therefore automatically suspect.

I have also said that I think calling for Assange’s assassination and the other hyperbolic statements from US politicians are stupid and wrong. I have claimed that private corporations withdrawing from co-operation with Wikileaks does not constitute state sponsored coercion or a savage attack.

As a result I have been all but called a liar and a dick, sources of evidence I have produced have either been brushed aside, or derided as coming ‘too late.’ I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of bad faith on this thread – I don’t accept its coming from me.

190

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 3:31 pm

Hey Chris, instead of just sitting back and smugly making your own little snarky comments, why don’t you try something challenging, like defending Wikileaks from a slightly less popular position then ‘They embarass the US! Yay!’

For example, Assange and his crew were major hosts of the UEA ‘Climategate’ e-mails, and thus a slew of news stories that yanked illegally obtained academic conversations wildly out of context, and if most public opinion polling over the past two years is to be believed significantly undermined the public’s belief in the science of climate change and a desire to tackle it as a matter of priority. I don’t seem to recall CT or anyone else running to its defence then.

191

Substance McGravitas 12.08.10 at 3:32 pm

I’ve actually provided evidence that Wikileaks has at the very least significant access to cryptanalytic capabilities

You have not yet mentioned the atomic hovercraft with extensible data vacuum.

192

Chris Williams 12.08.10 at 3:36 pm

DD – perhaps I didn’t rush to Wikileaks defence over ‘climategate’ because the vice-challencor of UEA didn’t call for Assange’s assassination? Just a thought.

193

Straightwood 12.08.10 at 3:38 pm

Daragh@188

I have claimed that private corporations withdrawing from co-operation with Wikileaks does not constitute state sponsored coercion or a savage attack.

“PayPal today admitted it suspended payments to WikiLeaks after an intervention from the US State Department.

The site’s vice-president of platform, Osama Bedier, told an internet conference the site had decided to freeze WikiLeaks’s account on 4 December after government representatives said it was engaged in illegal activity.

“State Dept told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward,” he told the LeWeb conference in Paris, adding: “We … comply with regulations around the world, making sure that we protect our brand.”

“PayPal is the first major corporation to admit that its decision to suspend dealings with WikiLeaks was a result of US government pressure.”

Source:
“PayPal admits US pressure over WikiLeaks account freeze”.

194

Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 3:38 pm

Just a bit more scoping out the terrain in terms of possible motivation for a possible (planned or opportunistically exploited) honeytrap – Assange was seeking some kind of permanent residence in Sweden at the time, wasn’t he? I imagine rape allegations and possible charge would tend to damage or at least delay this. Anyone come across any info on that?

I still suspect that whether or not the whole thing was a set-up from the start, the US will be pleased to have him safely in custody while they proceed with attempts (i believe these can be done secretly?) to extradite and charge him. I wonder to what extent popular opinion is likely to be an effective bar to getting him under terror legislation (which I’m pretty sure could be done, and must have been considered by US strategists)?

I also wonder if we can expect a story about an Afghan casualty being caused by WL disclosures; that could presumably be used to alter the landscape of opinion pretty significantly.

195

Zamfir 12.08.10 at 3:39 pm

I don’t seem to recall CT or anyone else running to its defence then.

That time Mastercard didn’t think they were criminals, they got no rape charges against them, and their servers weren’t repeatedly closed and under DoS attacks. I understand you think that is purely coincidence.

196

Chris Williams 12.08.10 at 3:39 pm

PS – DD, if you’ve been reading the leaks, you might have concluded already that the one state which has come out of this smelling of roses _is in fact the US_. So far, they generally consist of funny things foreign leaders have said to US diplomats, concerning either their hostility to other states with which they are ostensibly allied, or the fact that they are pulling a fast one on their own voters / inhabitants in the interets of the US.

I mean FFS – have you not realised that ‘Saudi King calls for attack on Iran’ bolsters the regime in Washington but does quite the reverse in Riyadh? You have read them, haven’t you?

197

Salient 12.08.10 at 3:48 pm

So that whole website at ‘wikileaks.ch’ with the searchable database of diplomatic cables, Afghan war logs etc. is just a front?

Literally yes, for some definition of “front.” It’s a bit misleading. I was confused the same way and said much the same thing as this on CT about 48 hours ago, and the person who goes by weaver was kind enough to set me straight.

WL has only released less than a thousand of the 260,000 cables, and only after being told by the New York Times and Der Spiegel and et al which cables were safe to release, and precisely how to redact them. I can’t really blame you for not knowing this, given that as of a couple days ago I didn’t. It turns out it’s easily accessible information online… but so is a lot of information; who’d think to look? But whereas I hung my head and thanked the person who fairly chided and corrected me, you seem determined to press on.

Yeah, the web site for wikileaks is slightly misleading when it suggests you can query the entire database of cables. But… uh… there are probably more useful things to be upset about, no?

To each their own, I guess. I’m learning a lot of useful information from people’s responses to you, and you’re displaying exactly the kind of hard-headed pride that marks a wide variety of CT comments threads (I think, frankly, not for the worse): one commenter defending themselves and some particular vague position they’ve staked out, against and in the midst of most of the rest. I don’t mean for this to disparage you, and I can empathize; I fell into a rather daft “can’t you all see I’m being reasonable?!?!” trap myself on that thread about Swift and Berlin.

In fact, though, you’ve produced the most useful summary line of what’s going on in this subtype of comment thread discussions, from the hard-headed defensive person who effectively generates them: “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of bad faith on this thread – I don’t accept its coming from me.”

That’s epic. I’m not being sarcastic. It’s a perfect encapsulation of why people persist hard-headedly on on the Internet; it encapsulates what it is they’re feeling when they just. keep. coming. back. to. argue. marginal. points. badly, and with fervor. To prove yourself and uphold your dignity, in the face of what seems to be challenges to your character and credibility.

So I completely sympathize with you on principle, and regret saying the particularly strong thing I did to you. But hey, if you can, it’s really best to walk away from it and take a break for a while, or find/construct some excuse for disengaging.

198

marcel 12.08.10 at 3:49 pm

Henri Vieuxtemps: So you are saying that the new leader does not resemble the Steve Martin character from (the 1990s remake of) “Little Shop of Horrors”?

199

anitchang 12.08.10 at 3:50 pm

@myself comment 22
If anyone is interested, the quote should be “guerrilla information war” instead of “global information war”

“World War III will be a guerrilla information war with no division between civilian & military participation.”

… found in McLuhan, “Culture is our business”, see: http://bit.ly/ikh2oN

200

Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 3:50 pm

State Dept told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward

this is a good one – both sides can deny responsibility. There was no official legally backed instruction to PayPal, so the US state can say it’s just a private company making a business decision. Meanwhile PayPal can pretend that their cooperation was forced by citing US ‘pressure’.

The underlying fact (note that no-one is even consodering a boycott of Mastercard and Visa) is that private companies, in particular the clearing banks, have made themselves indispensable – privately-owned utilities – over the last 30 years or so, and this has been assisted by government, for whom cash transactions are obviously undesirable (usually attacked under the umbrella of ‘money-laundering’). So arguments of the ‘why shouldn’t they choose who to deal with’ kind are particularly inappropriate, here, as if they hadn’t already been rebutted in the Jim Crow era.

201

Straightwood 12.08.10 at 4:02 pm

Tim @199

private companies, in particular the clearing banks, have made themselves indispensable – privately-owned utilities – over the last 30 years or so, and this has been assisted by government

This is how gangsters operate. The quiet exchange of favors and the division of turf among the powerful has now replaced the US Constitution and laws. The US government, Amazon, Paypal, Visa, and Mastercard acted as one in attempting to suppress Wikileaks, without any recourse to law. The message is clear: if you have the temerity to challenge the mob, you will be destroyed. This is the corpocratic authoritarian state in action, and it is a frightening demonstration of what is to come.

202

Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 4:06 pm

Chris Williams @195 – quite agree (about the cables, not who has read what).

This whole latest batch is anomalous. Brezhinski has suggested a plant – sincerely or not.

I’ve been mentioning this possibility on AWatch and the previous thread, and like a lot of these things, my assessment shifts from ‘actually quite plausible’ to ‘really not at all likely’, a bit like one of those shaded drawings of cubes that seem to switch from protruding to receding and back again.

203

Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 4:19 pm

@straightwood – I fully agree that the State Dept. pressuring PayPal is very worrying, and indicative of the uncomfortable synthesis of corporate/state interests in the US. I’m happy to admit that does in fact constitute an attack on Wikileaks and a probably unsupportable one at that.

@Chris Williams
I’ve read the cables that are most relevant to my own research/interests and the news stories about the others – as 99.9% of everyone else has. Given that the most hyped ones have been regarding the US spying on the UN, conducting drone attacks in Yemen etc. I disagree with your assessment that DC has come out ‘smelling like roses’ but I agree that’s a matter of judgement/assessment.

@Salient

Agreed on most of your points. And if Wikileaks is committed to the current modus operandi on releasing the cables, then good for them, but my criticisms about who is actually being entrusted with the capability to pull the trigger stand. I also object to the characterisation of legitimate concerns about Wikileaks structure, organisation and operational principles as ‘concern trolling’ as a means of delegitimisation. But there you go. Chris, I invite you to make another snide joke in lieu of an argument and claim victory cause I’m outta here.

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Chris Williams 12.08.10 at 4:26 pm

The time for snide jokes has passed. Shame you’ve gone, though, because I wanted to press you on your definition of the status of ‘the laws of some democratic countries’ in international law and their relationship to universal moral norms. Ah well – another day perhaps.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 12.08.10 at 4:31 pm

Marcel, I stayed in this hotel last summer; $50 (easily negotiated down from the official rate of $100) for a 5-star two-room suite plus 3 buffet-style meals/day for two people. And the fine painting on the linked photo is really the only way I can imagine Mr. Berdymukhammedov now.

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Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 4:31 pm

Salient – I disagree – it’s not stolid, it’s shifty.

Compare, say, Sebastian or Tim Worstall. Ironically perhaps, their approach means both that I wouldn’t dream of saying (gasp!) that they are acting like a dick, and that if I did they wouldn’t triumphantly brandish said d-word in a ‘come and see the violence inherent in the system’ kind of way.

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Daragh McDowell 12.08.10 at 4:43 pm

@Chris Williams, was referring to Chris Bertram, joke away.

@Tim Worstall – I’ll try to remember that disagreeing with you, and not setting out my arguments in an absolutely airtight manner in a blog comments thread in future constitutes being a shifty dick.

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nick 12.08.10 at 4:43 pm

AmEx has an opportunity to increase market share here, I think, if they’d whip up a quick ad starring Assange: “don’t leave home without it!”

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Barry 12.08.10 at 5:17 pm

Daragh @206 – I thought that you said you were ‘outa here’.

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Substance McGravitas 12.08.10 at 5:30 pm

And if Wikileaks is committed to the current modus operandi on releasing the cables, then good for them, but my criticisms about who is actually being entrusted with the capability to pull the trigger stand.

No it isn’t. Your criticism’s about whatever you think you can criticize them for at any given point. You are as reflexively anti-Wikileaks as you claim they are anti-American. Of the two entities one is at war and continues to try to destroy the economy of the world. Which is more deserving of scrutiny?

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Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 5:41 pm

from the Guardian’s useful live blog:

4.08pm: Good morning from Washington DC – where State Department spokesman PJ Crowley has just tweeted that the US government had nothing to do with PayPal’s action to block WikiLeaks donations:

The U.S. government did not write to PayPal requesting any action regarding #WikiLeaks. Not true.

obviously has to be read adversarially – write and requesting and action – any one of these – interpreted strictly – could make the statement true.

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marcel 12.08.10 at 5:55 pm

Henri Vieuxtemps: OK. Seems like way I should be thinking about him is Michael Caine (not Steve Martin) in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrel”

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Henri Vieuxtemps 12.08.10 at 6:04 pm

Yeah, something like that. BTW, wikileaks has a couple of cables about that yacht.

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Dingbat 12.08.10 at 9:35 pm

Ian (I hope you’re still listening; the thread’s getting interesting again!) @ 133 took up my @ 63
“Privacy and its institutional sibling, secrecy, were phenomena of the 20th century;”
and smacked it down thusly:
“That is an incorrect statement following a common misconception forming part of a wider understanding maintained within particular mental models, plainly it is factually wrong.”

Not at all: it’s an overstatement following a particular way of looking at legal practice, urbanization, mobility, and technology since the industrial revolution. The DSS quotes are nice, but you’ll recall that the Qumran group’s emphasis on secrecy could very easily be described as the mode of practice of a fringe totalitarian group in the context of a society where privacy/secrecy was not part of life. (Does that description fit the US Government?)

Chris Nippert-Eng (Islands of Privacy, Chicago, 2010) defines privacy as “selective concealment and disclosure”–a very good working definition for privacy in everyday life (the topic of her book). Doesn’t the fact that the government can no longer rely on its own selection of what to conceal and disclose imply something about the end of (an assumption, or a culture) of secrecy? The fact that it’s struggling so hard to maintain secrecy says a great deal about whether this secrecy is an assumed privilege of the state.

I’d argue that this is on a continuum with schoolteachers being fired for friends posting and tagging pictures of them on Facebook at parties; they no longer can control what information is known about them. (And the rise of habits of disclosure of huge amounts of information about oneself is, well, Eszter H should weigh in on this.)

I am not an early modern historian, but this rings very true with my understanding of the conditions of life for the majority of people before the huge expansion of wealth of the 19th and 20th centuries made if possible for people to have private bedrooms. Concomitant with things like postal regulations making it illegal to read others’ mail.

Anyhow, the concept of privacy as a nice thing while it lasted is not a central concept of my historical understanding but I think a pretty useful concept to hold.

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bianca steele 12.08.10 at 10:25 pm

There’s actually a difference between privacy and secrecy. For example, secrecy is asserted by a government when it declares all knowledge on a given topic to be “classified” regardless of its origin and so forth. Publication of such knowledge results in automatic withdrawal of the publication from view. I believe the international protocols on nuclear weaponry, for example, require nations to agree to classify related information. “Privacy,” however, would appear to have some connection to “privilege.”

I would like to see more clarity about what is acceptable. Suppose a technology described in Cryptonomicon were actually possible (it may well be, though lower-tech solutions would seem to be more feasible). Who would you trust to have the data it produced? What rules would you want them to assume?

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Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 11:17 pm

…Assange has received a glimmer of hope…

Senior district judge Howard Riddle said Swedish authorities would need to show some convincing evidence if they wanted to oppose bail for the 39-year-old Australian when he appears in court next Tuesday to oppose extradition to Sweden.

Mr Assange was yesterday refused bail and sent to Wandsworth prison when he appeared before Judge Riddle to answer a Swedish extradition application.

The internet activist’s lawyers say if he stays in jail, it will be much harder for them to organise his defence against the Swedish sex charges and to stave off what they believe is a US government plan to charge him with espionage-related crimes over the publication of thousands of secret American cables.

Gemma Lindfield, the lawyer representing Swedish authorities at the initial extradition hearing in the City of Westminster Magistrates Court, said she believed the strength of the evidence over the sex charges was not relevant to the process of extraditing him under a European Arrest Warrant.

Judge Riddle disagreed, saying the four charges, including rape, were “extremely serious allegations (and) if they are false, he suffers a great injustice if he is remanded in custody”.

The judge said he would “suggest” to Ms Lindfield that “if she is going to oppose bail in future”, she would need to be armed with some substantial material to back up the allegations.

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Tim Wilkinson 12.08.10 at 11:18 pm

link didn’t show up; probably mistyped.

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daelm 12.09.10 at 10:56 am

Daragh McDowell:

“How is claiming they have ‘significant access’ to cryptanalytic capabilities materially different from your second sentence, apart from the fact that you seem to think that this should be disregarded unless the decryption meets an arbitrary standard (set by you) of difficulty?”

because, numbnuts, i could organise a brute force dictionary attack, using freeware and google. and i’m a business analyst for an insurance company. you just don’t know what you’re talking about and label your boogie-man stories with adjectives like ‘significant’ for no apparent reason other than to communicate for everyone the twitch you feel when you think about Julian’s cold, white hair and his steady, ruthless gaze, looking at you, machine-like, in the moonlight….

cian is right – you’re way out of your depth.

this page – http://rixstep.com/1/20101202,01.shtml – has background on the case, including the extensive attempts by both women to cover their tracks in the aftermath, their collaboration in developing a story and their plan to contact tabloids before doing anything else. in case you were wondering why no-one who actually learned any facts about this is taking it seriously.

as for the the other leg of your debate ploy, namely your inane, repetitive braying that the Wikileaks model is not being transparent enough, i imagine even someone as seemingly dense as you can figure out the problem with this . let me make it easy….

given the now-public capitulation of Mastercard, Visa, PayPal and the Swedish govt to pressure and force, and given the willingness of the US government to extend its reach wherever it sees fit, given the baying for the killing of the Wikileaks editor from the gaggle of demented intellectual midgets that strut across the US political scene clowning and mugging for the reality theater of “US Politics” and given the frenzy of false accusation and inference that people like yourself are happy to participate in, then protecting the identity of the Wikileaks team seems like a really smart idea.

does that help?

d

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sg 12.09.10 at 1:37 pm

Daragh, wouldn’t your time be better spent at an anti-fees demo?

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bianca steele 12.09.10 at 4:00 pm

@218
When I started using this pseudonym, I decided I would not mention my professional background, largely to keep myself from being tempted to reply to grad students in cultural studies on the subject of the “correct” history of the Internets and such. So I am not going to say anything in response to the subthread represented by @218 except to say that anyone displaying the categorical dogmatism several participants are displaying is almost certainly doing nothing but repeating arguments from authority.

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daelm 12.10.10 at 1:17 pm

bianca, the fact that JA has an extensive crypto background doesn’t make the case that “secret magical crypto stuff is going on”, or that it has.

my point is that the attempts to make it so, rest on arguments that cannot hold them. of course, someone would have to know something about cracking encryption, but the salient point is that a dedicated, fairly intelligent person, technically minded, could (a) find the tools, and (b) learn to apply them fairly easily. no super-special, Bond-villain expertise is required.

The Bond-villain boogie-man characterization of both Wikileaks and JA is being undertaken by a very specific individual on this thread, for purposes of shoring up some very weak arguments. basically, he’s dog-whistling, only instead of ‘scary black people’, it’s ‘scary activists’. the reflexes, the sublimated sexual-thrill sub-text, the unquestioning defense of entrenched power and the misrepresentation of opponents of entrenched power are all the same.

sorry if it offended your professional sensibilities, as too broad a generalization – as a dedicated amateur hacker (in all sorts of domains) and lapsed activist, i found this a quick and direct way to make the point. :)

hope it helps.

d

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daelm 12.10.10 at 1:26 pm

bianca, the fact that JA has an extensive crypto background doesn’t make the case that “secret magical crypto stuff is going on”, or that it has. the fact that they were using free dns servers rather counts against their being the villain-of-the-month, and reeks of the kind of puffery that followed Osama Bin Laden’s attacks – he had thousands of miles of secret underground caves filled with alien tech from Roswell, he masterminded a shadowy syndicate of crazed Arab clone-warriors that would die at his command. he rode a giant Orca to work, mounted with laser beams. he lives in the Bat Cave. basically, the end of the world is coming. and so on.

The Bond-villain boogie-man characterization of both Wikileaks and JA is being undertaken by a very specific individual on this thread, for purposes of shoring up some very weak arguments. basically, he’s dog-whistling, only instead of ‘scary black people’, it’s ‘scary activists’. the reflexes, the sublimated sexual-thrill sub-text, the unquestioning defense of entrenched power and the misrepresentation of opponents of entrenched power are all the same. it’s very redolent of the professional politician’s capacity to whip up a frenzy over nothing, and if Henry is right and this person has designs on political power, then i’d say he’s well on his way to developing the necessary combination of demagoguery and ignorance that”ll get him started. in fact, a lot of this thread reads like stuff he’s trying out in this forum, before huffing and puffing about it in another, elsewhere.

of course someone would have to know something about cracking encryption in Wikileaks, but the salient point is that to do the things that have been described on this thread, a dedicated, fairly intelligent person, technically minded, could (a) find the tools, and (b) learn to apply them fairly easily. no super-special, Bond-villain expertise is required and the characterization is failed.

sorry if it offended your professional sensibilities, as too broad a generalization – i am happy to defer to you. as a dedicated amateur hacker and lapsed activist, i found this a quick and direct way to make the point. :)

hope it helps.

d

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daelm 12.10.10 at 1:28 pm

by the way, this is the second time my comments have double posted – it’s not coming from my side. it’s also not happened before.

if anyone’s reading for sheer amusement, the second comment is the funnier.

d

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bianca steele 12.10.10 at 2:37 pm

Moderator, I would like to request that only posts like daelm’s be allowed through. Meriting especial fondness is the automatic appendage of “evil” to “genius,” much like the way a teenager thirty years ago might have associated “persecuted” with “genius pursued by the Russians” (as cleverly reused by the X-Files near the high point at the end of its run). In fact, I am going to go back and rework a grad school paper on progress as the movement of the mean towards what had been statistical outliers, in light of daelm’s anti-Baconian insight.

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