December 8, 2010

Wikileaks: What's at Stake?

FURTHER UPDATE: For a more recent, complete statement of the case for Wikileaks, see here.

UPDATE: Anonymous's "Operation Payback" has now taken down the main Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal sites.

I'm more or less obsessed with this story for many reasons, some of which are roughly outlined as follows:

  • For the chronological coincidence of the prospective disclosure of Bank of America secrets with the dramatic step-up in efforts to shut Wikileaks down by whatever means necessary (see also Market Ticker).
  • For the fact that you can now donate to the KKK or the American Nazi Party with your MC or Visa, but you can't donate to Wikileaks.
  • For the comparison between the hunt for Julian Assange and the hunt for Bin Laden.
  • For the use of the women charging Assange with still unspecified sexual improprieties, considered together with the use of similar charges to neutralize other figures perceived as threats to the powers that be (e.g., Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Gary Condit, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, et al. – see here re- the latter, and see here re- the charges against Assange).
  • For the use of the mass media to slander or discount a public figure seen as dangerous to the powers that be (Jimmy Carter, Cindy Sheehan, Dennis Kucinich, Howard Dean, et al.).
  • For the comparison between Wikileaks' publications and the publication by The New York Times of the Pentagon Papers.
  • For the contrast – to date – between Dr. David Kelly's fate vs. that of Assange, in light of the precautions each did/did not take.
  • For what it shows about the toothlessness of the law when it comes to redress for abuses of power – i.e., what redress will Wikileaks have, if it ever establishes that Paypal, Amazon, Mastercard, et al. wrongfully terminated its accounts?
  • For the First Amendment/freedom of speech issues.
  • For the Fourth Amendment/privacy issues.
  • For the comparison between the "treason" alleged to have been committed – though Assange is not a U.S. citizen and, despite frantic, months'-long efforts by governments in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Sweden, and elsewhere, Wikileaks' activities have yet to be argued plausibly to have broken the laws of any country – vs. that of members of the U.S. Congress and executive branch, who, despite their oaths to uphold the U.S. Constitution and laws, are known to have committed, acquiesced in, or failed to investigate the following, most of which are still ongoing:
  • The creation of a "Constitution-free zone" (see here);
  • NSA/AT&T violations of Fourth Amendment and privacy rights, including mass wire-tapping and mining of e-mails of U.S. citizens (see various posts here and sources cited therein);
  • TSA and other governmental or quasi-gov'l violations of Fourth Amendment and privacy rights, including unreasonable, invasive searches without the least pretext of probable cause (see posts here {may include some repeats from previous link} and sources cited therein);
  • Secret service and police violations of First Amendment rights, including preemptive round-ups and detentions of protesters in connection with RNC's and other events (see various posts here and sources cited therein, esp. here and here);
  • The institution of policies of torture and assassination of U.S. citizens and others (see, e.g., here, here, and here);
  • The invasion of Iraq based on lies;
  • Etc.
  • For the contrast, speaking of treason, between the efforts made to find and prosecute Assange vs. the relative lack of serious investigation or prosecution of those responsible for the outing of Valerie Plame and attendant destruction of her anti-WMD operations (see here and sources cited therein), or the lies that led to the US invasion of Iraq, or any of the Constitutional violations listed above.
  • For what the story shows about how free the internet still is (see essay here).
  • For what it suggests about how free the internet isn't (see posts here and sources cited therein), including the terrible risks we take by relying on the Cloud.

Note, not one person is known to have died as a result of any Wikileaks disclosure ever – while as of this writing, the still-mounting, governmentally-confirmed Coalition military deaths in Iraq total 4,748 (not to mention contractors, or the wounded) and Iraqi deaths total 1,421,933 (see the left side bar of this blog).

The inescapable inference is that what the powers that be fear most is not terrorists, but the truth.

As set out in my previous post, a balance of power requires a balance of knowledge; but the way things are now, corporations and the government know everything about us and we know almost nothing important about them.

There's a great deal at stake here, and I greatly fear many possible, negative effects. Perhaps most importantly, I believe we must prepare for the fact that this affair will greatly benefit the powers that be by mapping out in considerable detail the areas in which their control is still relatively weak, e.g., control over internet and other infrastructure, applicable law, etc.

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