55
   

WikiLeaks about to hit the fan

 
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 10:54 am
@Cycloptichorn,
Quote:
what are the chances that these cables, so widely-spread, weren't already being leaked to various foreign entities? I think very, very small.


These cables and all of the "top secret" ones that haven't been leaked.
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 10:58 am
@failures art,
How do you feel about Daniel Ellsberg's position that the oath to protect the constitution supercedes the duty to protect lies?
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:04 am
@failures art,
failures art wrote:

All good points.

Part of me thinks that simply putting them up (via bit torrent etc) would have been superior to giving them to Assange/WL. The only problem is then what I asked Thomas: The guy DLs 400,000 documents on the wars, and 250,000 from the State Dept. Unless we believe that he read all of these before posting, he would have been posting information he himself had no knowledge of. All three of the Lord of the Rings books are about 1600 pages in sum (depending on how they are bound), if we assume that each document was one page long, that would be like reading LotR 406 times.


Yah, but I would suspect that 70-80% of those 'pages' were basically meaningless or boring. They also aren't full-page novel text, with a complete narrative that you are looking to keep track of. You can quickly scan through pages to see if there's anything juicy there, much faster than reading sequential pages of a narrative.

Nevertheless, WL and Assange asserted that this is exactly what they did. I have yet to see any compelling evidence that they didn't do at least a cursory review.

Quote:
So bit torrent might be more objective, but it would be second degree reckless as well.

A
R
T


Well, what's worse about the BT thing is that nobody would have believed the accuracy of the documents. It's just how people are. We can look at the Pakistan situation (they faked up a bunch of anti-India cables and claimed WL released them) and see that it would quickly be discredited. That's why people leak to well-known sources such as journalists or newspapers; it gives the info a veneer of credibility.

Regarding the difference between a society of 'true openness' and one of 'leaked openness,' I can see your point; but, you should realize that none of us has even a tiny bit of hope that governments will move to be more open - or that individual voters will push them to do so in any real way. I have no belief that this will ever happen unless they are forced to do so, and none of our politicians seems intent on forcing the gov't to do so. So I and others will take what we can get. If the secrecy state has to be co-opted from within by leakers, so be it.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
BillW
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:06 am
@JPB,
There is a centrist point - do you publish the code to the doomsday button?
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:07 am
@BillW,
BillW wrote:

There is a centrist point - do you publish the code to the doomsday button?


The solution to any problem is almost never to do the exact opposite of what you were doing before.

Cycloptichorn
JPB
 
  2  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:09 am
@BillW,
I'm not sure how that question relates to mine. How is publishing (or not publishing) the code to the doomsday button equivalent to choosing between protecting the Constitution or protecting a lie?
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:09 am
@Cycloptichorn,
Now, there's a sigline!
0 Replies
 
BillW
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:10 am
@Cycloptichorn,
If you are centrist to begin with, the fine balance tuning is never to far right or left!
0 Replies
 
BillW
 
  2  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:11 am
@JPB,
Ah, but your question was in relation to Daniel Ellsburg position - it sounds good in theory, but in his practicing of it, it was too much and when taken literally, way too much. You don't publish the code.
Ceili
 
  2  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:14 am
Slow clap for Ron Paul. I'm impressed. I didn't think I'd see a member of the US government actually say this and a republican to boot...
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:15 am
@BillW,
No, it was in relation to his position that a government employee takes an oath to protect the Constitution which sometimes conflicts with his bosses desires that he protect lies that can cause folks to be killed. It's a conundrum faced by employees who feel that protecting the Constitution means working for the safety and well-being of our citizens. I'm curious how others see that conundrum, not how others see Ellsburg.
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:16 am
@Ceili,
Libertarian who caucuses with the Republicans. Bernie Sanders is a Socialist who caucuses with the Dems. They each have their respective thorns.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:25 am
Cycloptichorn wrote:
Regarding the difference between a society of 'true openness' and one of 'leaked openness,' I can see your point; but, you should realize that none of us has even a tiny bit of hope that governments will move to be more open - or that individual voters will push them to do so in any real way.


I don't know if this helps understand U.S. government. There are two federal acts, the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Government employees respond to requests for information made under FOIA as long as it does not violate the Privacy Act.

In general, an important aspect of the issue we are discussing is that one person's right to information may conflict with another person's right to privacy.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:28 am
@BillW,
ah -- I see you've edited. I still think that a government employee who knows of lies that will bring on the death and destruction of people and places and is expected to protect those lies faces a conundrum, not only of conscience, but of duty to the oath he took to protect and preserve the Constitution upon becoming a government employee.
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:30 am
@BillW,
I don't see the connection. Knowing the code is not protecting a lie.
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:43 am
@hingehead,
hingehead wrote:

Those who forget history....


From Nixon's Oval Office tapes on the release of the Pentagon Papers...

Quote:
... Rumsfeld was making this point this morning. To the ordinary guy, all this is a bunch of gobbledygook. But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing.... It shows that people do things the president wants to do even though it's wrong, and the president can be wrong.[15] wiki
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  4  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:52 am
An interesting essay from a former whistleblower:

Quote:
WikiLeaks: For Better or Worse -- or Both?
(By JOHN W. DEAN, FindLaw Writ, December 10, 2010)

WikiLeaks has been making big headlines again -- most recently, with the arrest of spokesperson and Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange, based on allegations that he committed two sexual assaults in Sweden. As readers are likely well aware, in late November of this year, Wikileaks released some 250,000 diplomatic cables and documents. The documents then trickled out from major news organizations, week after week.

WikiLeaks, of course, is in the business of exposing secret information. It has leaked everything from classified information about the United States's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to secrets of Scientology, not to mention the initiation ritual of the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority.

Because of my own unique experiences with government secrecy in the Watergate years, and because I have written about the excessive secrecy of the Bush II presidency, I have received a number of media inquiries asking if I am interested in publicly defending Assange. However, when radio and television producers discover my feelings about this matter, they quickly see that my take on WikiLeaks will make neither exciting news, nor very good theater.

Notwithstanding the media's portrayal of the situation, this is not a black-and-white issue. Nor is this situation one where you must be either wholly for, or wholly against, WikiLeaks. Those who see Assange and other WikiLeaks members as evil and horrifying are just as wrong as those who find them heroic and praiseworthy. In fact, the organization and its work is all those things, which is both its strength and its weakness. In this sense, the organization is very much like the topic with which it deals, secrecy and openness: inherently conflicted.

I find it troubling that this highly-secret organization, exploiting Internet anonymity, has failed to develop a clear set of criteria as to which secrets should be exposed, and which ought to remain secret. Accordingly, it seems to me that WikiLeaks is exposing for the sake of exposing, and that its members may have little appreciation for the true nature of secrecy.

WikiLeaks describes its mission rather broadly, characterizing itself as " a non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important news and information to the public" through "an innovative, secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information to our journalists." WikiLeaks says it is interested in publishing "material of ethical, political and historical significance while keeping the identity of our sources anonymous, thus providing a universal way for the revealing of suppressed and censored injustices."

If the "revealing of suppressed and censored injustices" were truly the controlling criterion of the organization's decisions of when to leak, then it would be simply irrational to take issue with its mission. However, a close look at the secrets the organization has actually exposed, thus far, shows that -- with some noble exceptions -- their selection of the information that they are publicizing has little to do with "injustices." And, it has everything to do with the simple fact that this information was previously considered secret. Their actions tell us much more than their words.

Consider, for example, the leaks of which the organization is most proud, and which it sets forth on its webpage as exemplars of its work. It describes the 250,000 cables of U.S. Embassy communications traffic as documents that "will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into the US Government's foreign activities." However, as anyone who has looked at these cables knows, they do not feature "injustices"; rather, they simply chronicle the day-to-day workings of our foreign service as it looks out for American interests abroad.

The cables have embarrassed us all because of their private candor, not because of injustices they reveal. And unsurprisingly, there is no evidence that the release of this information has served any useful purpose. To contend that this work constitutes a set of "suppressed and censored injustices" is absurd.

Similarly, the so-called "Iraq War Logs" released by WikiLeaks are described as detailing "events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq . . ." The organization contends that these "are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout."

While a case can be made that all war is "unjust," that is not the nature of the material WikiLeaks has published. Rather, WikiLeaks has simply published revelations about the horrors that accompany all wars. Releasing this raw data has done nothing to heal the wounds of war; rather, it pours salt into them.

Meanwhile, as far I can tell, there is no real claim of injustice whatsoever in WikiLeaks's releasing the secrets of Scientology, or the rituals of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority, and other such TMZ-level information. Yet these leaks are consistent with what I can only conclude is the WikiLeaks assumption underlying all the leaks they publish: That secrecy is always bad, and openness is always good.

This, however, is a deeply flawed assumption. In looking at WikiLeaks's material, I can find only one apparent restraint on their releasing information, which they adopted after the fact -- that the information's release must not cause the death of anyone involved. It certainly was a good afterthought, but they need to think a bit more about what they are doing, before they go ahead and do it, with no better pretext than simply that they are making what was secret, public.

The antidote to excessive secrecy, when and where it exists, is not wanton openness. In fact, there are often good and real reasons for secrecy, far short of a revelation's causing someone's death.

For me, no one has explored more deeply, nor written more clearly, about secrecy than American ethicist and moral philosopher Sissela Bok. Her 1983 work, Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation, addresses the legal, moral, and ethical issues of secrecy. Because these are often issues without clear answers, Bok raises all the questions that an organization like WikiLeaks should be examining before it assumes that all secrets are bad, if not evil.

Bok's three-hundred-page work examines secrecy in a real-world context, as she looks at its nature and its functioning in society. Of particular relevance to WikiLeaks are two aspects of Bok's work: her conclusion that secrecy is neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but rather an essential of human life; and her examination of whistleblowing and leaking.

Bok distills secrecy to its essence: "To keep a secret . . . is to block information about it or evidence of it . . . and to do so intentionally." She finds intentional "concealment, or hiding, to be the defining trait of secrecy." She concludes that silence is "the first defense of secrets," and notes the links between secrecy and "stealth and furtiveness."

Indeed, Bok warns, "The link between secrecy and deceit is so strong in the minds of some, that they mistakenly take all secrecy (especially when protected by silence) to be deceptive. In doing so, they confuse secrecy with what is undoubtedly a common means for preserving it." In fact, Bok points out, "[W]hile all deception requires secrecy, all secrecy is not meant to deceive."

Bok observes that based on his experiences in politics, Woodrow Wilson proclaimed (in 1913) that "Secrecy means impropriety." (Later, as president, after suffering an incapacitating stroke, he used secrecy to remain in office, making good on his view of secrecy.) Bok's work, however, shows that secrecy per se is not bad, nor is it necessarily evil, nor must it be evidence of impropriety.

To the contrary, in drawing on traditions found in philosophy, religion and law, not to mention the nitty-gritty of life, Bok reveals how secrecy can "protect the liberty of some while impairing that of others." Secrets, on one hand, "guard intimacy and creativity," while on the other, they "tend to spread and to invite abuse." Bok notes that secrecy can enhance a sense of brother- and sisterhood -- forging loyalty and equality among insiders, while kindling discrimination against outsiders. Secrecy, she explains, is also needed to make effective plans and execute them, although those plans can be for both good and bad. In short, secrecy can be both appropriate and inappropriate.

Bok is no fuzzy-minded, dreaming idealist, as those who know her work can attest; rather, she is a clear-thinking realist. And after careful analysis, she concludes that there is a "need for secrecy." Secrecy takes on many guises, she explains: It "is as indispensable as fire to human beings, and as greatly feared." Like fire, it can "enhance and protect life, yet both can stifle, lay waste, spread out of control."

After looking closely, Bok found that some "capacity for keeping secrets and for choosing when to reveal them . . . are indispensable for an enduring sense of identity, for the ability to plan and to act, and for essential belongings. With no control over secrecy and openness, human beings could not remain either sane or free."

In short, there is no basis, morally or practically, for the underlying assumption that emerges from WikiLeaks's actions -- namely, that secrecy is inherently bad, if not evil. In truth, not all secrecy is bad; rather, some secrecy is important to human existence. But it is not even WikiLeaks's seemingly total disregard for secrecy and its unclear criteria for publishing secrets that are most troubling about the organization. Rather, it is WikiLeaks's failure to recognize the true nature of leaks, and to see what, in most cases, they really reveal.

The late columnist/journalist Bill Safire, author of Safire's Political Dictionary, defines a leak therein as the "[d]iscloure of information, usually concerning government or political activity, through unofficial channels, by what those embarrassed or exposed by such disclosure consider improper means."

Safire knows what he is talking about, because when he worked at the Nixon White House, he was notorious among his colleagues for his leaking. As a journalist, Safire fished for leaks; as a leaker, he fished for journalists. Thus, he well understood that the motives of a leaker are important in assessing the likely veracity of, and impetus for, any leak. WikiLeaks, however, ignores the motives of the leaker.

Yet, for me, leakers are always cowards -- particularly when they are viewed alongside (and as distinct from) whistleblowers. Sissela Bok looks at both leakers and whistleblowers, and while her approach is purely analytical, it is evident that she approves of whistleblowing, but not leaking.

What, exactly, is the distinction? Whistleblowers, Bok explains, "make revelations meant to call attention to negligence, abuse, or dangers that threaten the public interest." Whistleblowers "confront questions of loyalty, conscience, and personal concerns about careers and peace of mind."

Leakers, in contrast, are stealth operators. Or, as Bok writes, the leaker "is usually unknown to the public and sometimes even to the journalist and other intermediary." They could include, of course, what Safire describes as "authorized leaks," which are trial balloons to get a sense of public reaction, or -- as too often occurs -- to surreptitiously attack a political opponent with insider information and gossip. Usually, if not almost always, the leak is unauthorized and done for the sake of the leaker's agenda.

It has been my experience that whistleblowers are motivated by the public interest, while leakers are motivated by private interests, which may or may not serve the public good. WikiLeaks, which uses anonymous electronic drop boxes to obtain material, more than likely does not have a clue where the information is coming from, or why it is being leaked.

Indeed, a foreign and unfriendly government could hack the U.S. Government's computers, retrieve classified or other sensitive information, and drop the information in a WikiLeaks drop box, for the sole purpose of damaging the United States. Or, one company might hack into a competitor's computers, and use WikiLeaks to damage the competition.

Given WikiLeaks's apparent hostile feelings toward any and all secrecy, and given the system by which they obtain leaks from unknown and unknowable sources -- a fact that they boast will protect sources -- this operation is something of a growing disaster in progress.

While WikiLeaks has the potential for doing great good, it also has the potential for causing great harm. We must all hope that those who have joined Julian Assange in this effort might develop a meaningful set of criteria for what they will and will not publish, and then actually honor those standards.
Cycloptichorn
 
  2  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:54 am
Whoops -

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1337554/WikiLeaks-founder-Julian-Assange-charged-spying-US.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Quote:
America is set to bring spying charges against jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, claims his lawyer.

US prosecutors are said to be finalising their case against the 39-year-old Australian behind the publication of more than 250,000 secret diplomatic messages.


What a bullshit frame-job this is. Truly ridiculous. And it will end up embarrassing America in the end.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 11:55 am
Good article, Wandel. If i were in court, though, it would creep me out considerably to look over and see John Dean sitting next to me. The images of him before the Senate committee are too deeply engraved on my mind.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Dec, 2010 12:22 pm
@wandeljw,
I'm not sure I would classify Dean as a Whistle Blower (unless criminals who turn on their confederates under police coercion are considered Whistle Blowers), but this is a very well reasoned and well written assessment of WikiLeaks and secrecy in general and, while Dean is not as hard on Assange as I am, pretty well captures my own thoughts on the subject.

 

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