Home > People Can Be Idiots, Security > WikiLeaks and Secrecy

WikiLeaks and Secrecy

December 6th, 2010

The whole WikiLeaks thing is becoming a bit ridiculous. Whatever you think of the leak itself, the nature of diplomacy, and the motivations of Julian Assange, how the government is handling the incident is somewhat absurd. I am not speaking of the rather heavy-handed way Assange is being treated–you may find it excusable or even a good idea so as to discourage interruption of diplomatic efforts. Instead, I refer to the way the government is dealing with the spread of the information.

So far, WikiLeaks has been removed from a variety of servers, and various URLs have been revoked. Sorry, but this is rather stupid. If I wanted, it would be child’s play to get the data. Not only did they find an alternate URL (U.S. news outlets link to it in their articles), but mirror sites have popped up all over the Internet. Additionally, file-sharing sites are spreading the documents as well. If you can’t stop the recent cam of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from spreading like wildfire, how can you stop this? It’s a practice in futility, makes Assange into a martyr, and steels the resolve of people who believe this stuff should be made available. In this day and age, once information is out, it’s out.

Worse, there’s the reaction against Americans reading the WikiLeaks documents. Federal workers and contractors, including all members of the military, have been warned that they must not view the documents. Even college students have been given notice that the documents are off-limits to them as well, and could kill their career prospects–especially if they demonstrate that they have viewed the cables through their posts on social networking sites. Government contractors, trying to stay in line with this campaign, are blocking any URL with “WikiLeaks” in the address, like they’re the Chinese government trying to keep foreign influences away from its people.

This also is nonsensical. Not just because the information is out there, and not just because it would be near-impossible to monitor home usage (or would it?)–instead, it is bizarre because everyone else in the world knows this data, and has access to it. All they’re doing is trying to keep Americans from knowing what their government is doing–which is supposedly the reverse of what such secrecy is usually about, namely keeping the information out of foreign hands. It’s like it was back in the Cold War, when information was already well-known by the Soviets, but the U.S. government kept it classified from its own people. It didn’t make any sense back then, and it makes no more sense now.

All that is being accomplished is that the U.S. government is coming across to its citizens and the world at large as being both inept and oppressive. Were it to simply now treat the information as being “out there”–which it undeniably is–and focus solely on investigating the origin of the leak and the prosecution of those who released it, then they would at least come across as reasonable and responsible in their reaction to the event.

Categories: People Can Be Idiots, Security Tags: by
  1. December 6th, 2010 at 11:53 | #1

    Strange, strange stuff. And let’s face it, a bit pathetic.
    But really, the obvious solution – acknowledge what’s in the leaks and say without apology “That’s how diplomacy works.” is not something any politician or career civil servant is going to do. The ‘gotcha’ culture of destroying people over one bad remark does not favor stand up people.

  2. Troy
    December 6th, 2010 at 12:03 | #2

    It is in fact a very good idea for people desiring clearances to be “anti-leaking” as it were. Part of the culture of secrecy is in fact actively avoiding information you’re NOT cleared for.

    One of my main problems getting a clearance would be all the online postings I’ve done thinking Daniel Ellsberg did a good thing leaking the PP.

    Now, the nuance of it is that Ellsberg earned the right to leak that given all the years he’d devoted to the cause in Vietnam and the high-level circles he moved in the 1960s, but that’s not going to be enough to win over the reviewer.

  3. Luis
    December 6th, 2010 at 12:23 | #3


    I see what you mean, but–as I am sure you would agree–I somehow doubt that such leak-avoidance practice is the official aim of the warnings going out.

  4. Tim Kane
    December 7th, 2010 at 06:57 | #4

    Well, in general, “know the truth, the truth shall set you free” is a good thing.

    I’m sure there are powerful exceptions to the notion, but on balance, Government shouldn’t be doing things in secret that would embarrass itself if it got out.

    And I agree with Jon on this one, just admit that diplomacy isn’t always pretty, and leave it at that.

    If we are going to hang treasonous revealers of classified information, we should start with Cheney, et. al. for revealing Valerie Plame, who had worked on projects to keep nukes off the black market. All that was compromised by Republicans to settle a personal political score. \

  5. stevetv
    December 8th, 2010 at 06:34 | #5

    Your post suggests that the reason servers dropped Wikileaks is in order to suppress information. Someone wants it suppressed, sure. But Amazon? I remember Amazon and other servers were getting hit hard with DDoS attacks, and the BBC reported a few days ago that it was affecting other customers as well. I don’t know how accurate the information is, but that’s more likely the main reason. I’d drop them too, and I wouldn’t want my business to be hosted on servers that were being cyber attacked.

    Now, where did the cyber attacks come from? That’s another question altogether, but your post and tweet suggests that servers decided to do it for the purpose of blocking Wikileaks from the public. Not necessarily.

    And speaking of businesses… I could imagine businesses that work with Amazon pressuring them to stop hosting Wikileaks or else they’d go elsewhere. It’s a no-win situation.

Comments are closed.