December 12, 2010

Wikileaks UPDATES (2010-12-12): New Documentary RE- Wikileaks; New iPatriot Act; Etc.

Generally, my fave institutional sources at present are Greg Mitchell's blog at The Nation (you may have to click around a bit to get to the current day), The UK Guardian, and Foreign Policy's Wikileaked blog. Below are some highlights from those and other sources (for highlights from previous days, click here).


An excellent Swedish documentary re- Wikileaks can be seen here. Highly recommended. [UPDATE: This documentary is still available at the link and is still worth seeing, but it has been revised to present Assange in a less favorable light. I believe the original, rough cut can still be found online; search for original rough cut SVT documentary Assange, or the like.]

In Iceland [today or yesterday? No date on the dam' story; I hate that], "[r]epresentatives from Mastercard and Visa were called before a parliamentary committee to explain the credit companies’ refusal to process donations to the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks. . . .'People wanted to know on what legal grounds the ban was taken, but no one could answer it . . . .' '[Wikileaks] is simply a human rights organization with freedom of speech at its core, and there are lots of people who have Visa cards and want to spend their money supporting exactly this issue. It is understandably irritating when some credit card company somewhere decides what you are allowed to spend your money on.'" (Need I explain how important that is, given that the SCOTUS thinks money = speech?) More here.

Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, says, "We have heard from the Swedish authorities there has been a secretly empaneled grand jury in Alexandria . . . just over the river from Washington, D.C. . . and that if [Assange] comes to Sweden, they will defer their interest in him to the Americans. Now that shows some level of collusion and embarrassment, so it does seem to me what we have here is nothing more than holding charges . . . so ultimately [US authorities] can get their mitts on him." The court hearing on Assange's bail and extradition is scheduled for Tues., 12/14. More here.

RT America [edited to add: and HuffPo] reports the Wikileaks affair is already being used by some in the US to push for the passage of an "iPatriot Act for the Internet" (discussed on this blog in 2008, hereLawrence Lessig: "I had dinner once with Richard Clark [the guy who was trying to get the Bush admin to pay attention to Al Quaeda before 9-11] . . . and I said, 'is there an equivalent to the Patriot Act – an iPatriot Act – just sitting waiting . . . for them to have an excuse for radically changing the way the Internet works?' And he said, 'Of course there is.'") We should expect that, as part of the campaign for iPatriot and whatever else they've got on the shelf, Wikileaks will be demonized and its actions misrepresented (and that the organization will be conflated with the Anons, who will suffer the same treatment).

You can download a mask of Assange's face for use in protests against the actions against him and/or Wikileaks here.

Some of the Anon Twitter accounts I was watching yesterday have been closed, but Anon's hydra-headed; there seem to be twice as many today. Give up, Twitter.

Here are some answers from one Anon in response to questions from another reporter:

1. Why this particular form of attack (DDoS)?
DDoS attacks are high-profile and require little technical knowledge to execute successfully. Once there is a sufficient number of clients in the "hive," it's relatively easy to overwhelm a vulnerable webserver. In this case, Anonymous did not target critical credit card processing infrastructure, instead opting to disrupt mainly corporate "brochure" websites. No lasting damage is done to the target servers, so the DDoS makes for an effective political demonstration.

2. Does Anyonymous identify with Assange in any way or support Wikileaks' actions?
Anonymous overwhelmingly supports the actions of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. They believe that freedom of information is a fundamental right, and perceive the actions of the corporations and government as direct attacks on that freedom. There seems to be a common fear among members of Anonymous that the freedoms we enjoy online are slowly eroding. These fears were compounded when the various corporations chose to suspend their respective accounts with WikiLeaks.

3. (Related) your thoughts on more openness in government, and government itself?
While I understand that the protection of top-secret information is a matter of national security, I believe the government could stand to become more transparent in most areas of daily activity. The people of the United States have a right to know what is happening in their name.

4. Is this an attack on institutions that are identifiable as authoritarian and monetary? I.e., were they attacked for being that way?
The various institutions were targeted because they chose independently to terminate their relationships with WikiLeaks. Their willingness to comply with US pressures ultimately creates a system of privatized censorship in which the government doesn't need to lift a finger. Anonymous has begun attacking these institutions in what is essentially an invocation of the "golden rule": what goes around comes around.

5. What do you want ideally for the results of this action to be?
I don't personally support the DDoS attacks, although they have certainly served their purpose (mainstream media coverage). I think Anonymous has the potential to become a truly significant movement for freedom if they continue to focus their efforts on peaceful protests and creative information campaigns. Ideally, Anonymous would cease the DDoS attacks and cultivate a more publicly accessible voice.
Rival site OpenLeaks is scheduled to launch tomorrow.


Another great essay in The UK Guardian here; as w.r.t. others I've referred you to, too many great observations to pick out just a few, but here's a taste:

In 1771, that great lover of liberty, John Wilkes, and a number of printers challenged the law that prohibited the reporting of Parliamentary debates and speeches, kept secret because those in power argued that the information was too sensitive and would disrupt the life of the country if made public. Using the arcane laws of the City of London, Alderman Wilkes arranged for the interception of the Parliamentary messengers sent to arrest the printers who had published debates, and in doing so successfully blocked Parliament. By 1774, a contemporary was able to write: "The debates in both houses have been constantly printed in the London papers." From that moment, the freedom of the press was born.

* * * * *

Over the past few weeks, there have been similarly dire predictions from sanctimonious men and women of affairs about the likely impacts of publication, and of course Julian Assange finds himself banged up in Wandsworth nick, having neither been formally charged with, nor found guilty of, the sex crimes he is alleged to have committed in Sweden. Making no comment about his guilt or innocence, or the possibility of his entrapment, I limit myself to saying that we have been here before with John Wilkes; and the reason for this is that authorities the world over and through history react the same way when there is a challenge to a monopoly of information.

It is all about power and who has access to information. Nothing more. When those who want society to operate on the basis of the parent-child relationship because it is obviously easier to manage, shut the door and say "not in front of the children," they are usually looking after their interests, not ours.

(Emphasis supplied.) Knowledge is power, and a balance of power requires a balance of information.

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