WikiLeaks and the inconvenience of truth — 2

Forget what’s in the latest WikiLeaks release of classified documents.

I’d like to see the communications between the U.S. and Sweden, the U.K, and Interpol that resulted in Julian Assange, the Australian who runs WikiLeaks, turning himself into British police after being the subject of an international manhunt on “rape” charges.

The charge of “rape” conjures up images of violence and forced sex. It would certainly tarnish the reputation of this international folk hero if it turned out that he doesn’t respect women enough to obtain their consent before having sex with them.

But, as it turns out, “rape” in Sweden means something else entirely. That enlightened, progressive and politically correct democracy defines “rape” as having sex without using a condom. After you stop laughing, you’ll realize it’s not such a laughing matter when you learn that the penalty for this is a minimum of two years in prison.

According to Assange’s accuser(s) — I’m not sure if there’s one or two at this point — the sex was consensual and he used a condom, or started out to use one. But it broke. So it looks like he’s facing a minimum of two years in prison for buying a cheap condom. And Interpol spread a wide dragnet to bring this cheapskate before Sweden’s bar of justice.

Did the U.S. government promise something to Sweden or threaten the Swedish government? It sure looks that way.

I’d also like to see the communications between the U.S. government and, which was hosting WikiLeaks on its U.S. servers before booting them off Thursday. So would Daniel Ellsberg, who nearly four decades ago leaked the infamous Pentagon Papers that exposed the lies that got us into the war in Vietnam. Ellsberg has called on employees to leak any information they have about how the government pressured the internet bookseller to kick WikiLeaks off its servers.

According to news reports, dropped WikiLeaks after being contacted by the staff of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), but I’d be curious to find out what, if any, role the IRS had to play in this.

And what pressures were brought to bear on EveryDNS, a free U.S.-based domain name service (DNS) provider? A DNS resolves a uniform resource locator (URL) like to a numeric internet protocol (IP) address. On Thursday, EveryDNS stopped resolving the WikiLeaks URL. Was the DNS provider threatened in some way?

Then on Friday PayPal, the online payment service, dropped its WikiLeaks account. MasterCard followed suit on Monday and Visa on Tuesday. All of them cited their acceptable use policies, which prohibit the use of their services to promote “illegal activity”. This is a crock, because those policies are intended to prevent people from using the services to pay for contraband, such as illegal drugs, or sex-for-hire. WikiLeaks did not use the services to pay for anything, but to permit people to make contributions to keep the site up and running. Again, were these payment services threatened in some way? Perhaps a leaker can provide the information.

And maybe a new leak can shed some light on who’s responsible for the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that have been made against the servers on which the WikiLeaks websites reside. Certainly the U.S. government has the capability of mounting a DDoS attack. If they’re doing it, they’re breaking the law because a DDoS attack requires hijacking thousands of computers.

We don’t need another leak to reveal that the government’s real target is Assange himself. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Justice Department is looking to prosecute Assange. But prosecute him for what? As former federal prosecutor Baruch Weiss pointed out in an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post, “there is no statute making it illegal to reveal classified information”. And, he said, the government has never successfully prosecuted a media outlet for publishing classified information.

And, yes, WikiLeaks is a media outlet. If the government tries to argue that WikiLeaks is somehow not “legitimate”, that it’s wrong for WikiLeaks to release classified information, but it’s OK for The New York Times to do it, it runs smack into the First Amendment. It is not for the government to decide what is or is not a legitimate media outlet.

The difficulty of finding a statute under which to charge Assange helps explain why Interpol was so anxious to find him and why the British have denied him bail. This gives the Justice Department time to research the law and develop a creative strategy for prosecuting him. Maybe they can do something like Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle did with Tom Delay — add two legal acts together to come up with a crime.

However, there is one crime they will not be able to charge him with: treason. Only an American citizen can commit an act of treason against the United States.

Whatever they do to Assange, they are not going to stop WikiLeaks. It is turning up on more and more servers. Before surrendering to the British authorities, Assange told reporters that he has a “poison pill”, a massive cache of sensitive documents protected by an almost-impossible-to-break 256-bit enrcryption key, and that it has been downloaded by tens of thousands of WikiLeaks supporters all over the world. If he is arrested or killed, said Assange, the key will be released.

Rather than try to kill WikiLeaks, governments would do better to revise their secrecy policies so that future leaks will not compromise security.

8 thoughts on “WikiLeaks and the inconvenience of truth — 2”


    This whole thing is all about the release of classified information, and nothing else. Everything else you talk about is meaningless except to conspiracy theorists and Assange supporters who mistakenly think the world is better because of what they are doing.

    We are talking about the release of highly classified information that could threaten the safety of people around the world. At least one terrorist group has stated that they intend to take advantage of the information they have gleaned from WikiLeaks to help them identify targets to attack. Sure a lot of the stuff was little more than embarrassing, but some documents contained information that deserved to be highly classified. You can’t put people in danger just because you don’t like the government.

    Forget about Assange’s personal problems; they have nothing to do with the crux of the problem. Forget about the rats leaving a sinking ship; all of the businesses you deride for abandoning their association with WikiLeaks are just acting in their own best interests.

    You portray Assange as the victim of ruthless and tyrannical governments conspiring to get him for what you interpret as doing nothing illegal. Yet you back up your assertions with questions and theories, not facts. Where’s your evidence? You obviously choose to believe Assange and WikiLeaks have done nothing wrong and have built your argument with that assertion as its foundation. I believe that qualifies you as a conspiracy theorist.

    Here’s a theory for you: Assange has an agenda, and it isn’t to help feed starving people, or cure cancer, or bring peace to the world. WikiLeaks serves no useful purpose in this world and deserves to be exposed for what it is, an effort by a group of disaffected people to punish governments for what they perceive to be wrongs perpetrated against them. As such, WikiLeaks should be shut down. Of course, I don’t have the facts to back up my theory, but what the heck, it sure sounds good to me.

    Personally, I lay most of the blame at the feet of our government for its failure to safeguard its secrets. But I also believe most ardently that governments have a need to keep secrets in order to protect their citizens from harm. We expect our governments to keep us safe, and, as such, are responsible for helping them to do so. Anything anyone does to interfere only serves to put all of us in danger.

    Forget all of your conspiracy theories and legal arguments. If nothing else, what Assange is doing with WikiLeaks, seemingly for no other reason than to spite the government, is morally wrong, and if the leaks result in causing harm to innocent people who would otherwise not have been harmed, Assange should be held accountable.

  2. I’m just going to post a verbatim quote from blogger Vox Popoli as I could not say it any better.

    “In the case of a state in which the people are sovereign, (which is to say that the people are the state), the state cannot morally conceal its actions, intentions, and international communications from the people, which is to say itself.

    It is completely false and historically illiterate to argue, as some would have it, that it would be self-destructive for a state in which the people are sovereign to retain no secrets. Quite the opposite is true; because most great powers fall to internal corruption prior to their conquest by external parties, it is the ability of powerful elements within the state to conceal information from the rest of the state that leads to the subversion of the state and its eventual transformation and collapse.

    The example of war, so often cited in support of state secrets, actually supports the contrary case even more strongly. While it might have been more difficult make the D-Day landings, the more significant point is that they never would have needed to be made had the American people not been led blindly into World War I, which allowed the stage to be set for the rise of Hitler, the National Socialists, and the conquest of France. In the same manner, the informants who are supposedly endangered by the Wikileaks releases would never have faced any danger if the American people had been in full possession of the facts with regards to Afghanistan and Iraq; those invasions would never have taken place.

    Obviously, it is worse for the government to lie in request for information; sins of commission are generally considered worse than sins of omission. But in a supposedly free and democratic society, there is no place for either. And finally, the difference between a state lie and an individual lie is that in the case of the former, (assuming a nominally free and democratic state), the state is lying to itself whereas the individual is lying to someone else. Needless to say, whether one is a state or an individual, one who lies to himself is very unlikely to make optimal decisions. And that is precisely the practical problem that underlines not only the immorality, but the self-destructive foolishness of state secrets.

    In a state where the people are sovereign, state secrets are maintained for one reason and one reason only: to permit certain elements of the state to operate freely without taking into account the will of the other elements of the state. This is why state secrets are intrinsically authoritarian and invariably lead to the loss of human liberty over time.”

  3. Information is power. In the wrong hands, it can be an incredibly damaging weapon. Governments aren’t alone in keeping secrets; people do it as do businesses. Could you imagine the havoc that might be reaped upon you if your personal information became public? Fortunately, you have a constitutionally-protected right to privacy. Society has long recognized the need for secrecy and it is no accident that it created laws that allow governments to protect sensitive information.

  4. You are trying to equate government secrets with an individual’s secrets. That doesn’t wash.
    I would never argue that I have the right to any individual’s secrets, or a business that I didn’t own.
    In a democracy the government is me, or at least my employee. I have every right to demand that my employee not keep any secrets from me while performing his duties as my employee. For the government, since the only reason they exist is to serve me, that means everything they do.
    If you could please point me to my right to privacy in the Constitution that would be great. My copy doesn’t seem to have that clause.
    Also, passing a law doesn’t make something right. Plenty of unjust things have been (and still are) perfectly legal.

  5. If the government, acting on behalf of the people of this country under the powers granted it by the Constitution, makes a law that gives it the authority to keep secrets, then it has every right to keep those secrets from its citizens. The only redress for those opposed to government secrecy would be to challenge the constitutionality of the law, or to seek the election of a government willing to change the law. When faced with the argument that secrecy is an essential element of protecting the lives of the citizenry, one would be hard-pressed to successfully challenge the law. I suspect the majority of Americans believe the law is perfectly justified and entirely necessary. And while the Constitution doesn’t directly address an individual’s right to privacy, the Supreme Court has, in numerous rulings, interpreted various amendments as guaranteeing that right.

  6. “The only redress for those opposed to government secrecy would be to challenge the constitutionality of the law, or to seek the election of a government willing to change the law.”
    Well, there’s at least one other form of redress, but we haven’t invoked it in a couple of hundred years.

    “When faced with the argument that secrecy is an essential element of protecting the lives of the citizenry, one would be hard-pressed to successfully challenge the law.” If Watergate, the Tuskegee experiments, the Iran-Contra affair, the Gulf of Tonkin, and the Iraq WMD debacle haven’t convinced you of the harm caused by government secrets, I don’t know what will.

    “I suspect the majority of Americans believe the law is perfectly justified and entirely necessary.” A majority of Americans believe a lot of stupid crap. That doesn’t make it right. Tyranny by the majority is still tyranny.

  7. Somehow I don’t think the people are going to rise up to overthrow the government because it keeps secrets. If they’re going to try, they better do their planning in secret.

    It is the nature of all living things to compete for survival. Anything that can provide an advantage in competition is embraced. Secrets among men are inevitable because they create advantage. Governments also compete for survival. The idea that there could ever exist a government that has no secrets is preposterous.

    Tyranny by the majority is democracy.

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