Wikileaks is Dead – Long Live Wikileaks!   Leave a comment

I just recieved the following email from a friend of mine, and I think it is worth sharing with all of you:

——————————-

From:  “Steve Kinney”

Wikileaks is dead, long live Wikileaks. 

From the present Wikileaks site at http://www.wikileaks.ch/Submissions.html

“NOTE: At the moment WikiLeaks is not accepting new submissions due to re-engineering improvements the site to make it both more secure and more user-friendly. Since we are not currently accepting submissions during the re-engineering, we have also temporarily closed our online chat support for how to make a submission. We anticipate reopening the electronic drop box and live chat support in the near future.”

This is possibly a Good Thing, since for at least a year Wikileaks’ secure online submission  channels have been broken.  Ever since Wikileaks “went on strike” to focus on fund raising for a couple of months in 2009, there has been no secure method for submitting documents to the project, and very weak excuses were given for fundamental deficiencies such as Wikileaks’ refusal to publish a PGP/GPG cipher key for use by correspondents and leakers.  Some ex-insiders have speculated that this “strike” reflects compromise of the Wikileaks project by German intelligence services, motivated by a leak that named some German politicians as former members of Stasi, East Germany’s infamous “secret police.”  It may be a coincidence that everything Wikileaks has published since then has been harmful to Germany’s adversaries in the realm of diplomacy and foreign policy.

Every aspect of the Wikileaks project has been turbulent.  Originally, it was intended that the project would have a real Wiki format and that volunteers from the general public would participate in free and open analysis of leaked materials.  This idea fell by the wayside quickly and the job of reviewing leaked materials was given to a small closed circle of authorized volunteers.  Since that time, the only thing “Wiki” about Wikileaks is its name and the general appearance of its web page layouts.

Originally, it was intended that Wikileaks serve as an open public archive of all materials submitted, the only restriction being that submissions would have to pass review to meet the site’s criteria that leaked documents be of public interest, appear to be authentic, etc.  Now only a few items selected for their publicity and fund raising value are available from Wikileaks.  The original Wikileaks archives are only available through third parties who downloaded the documents while Wikileaks “still existed” as a free and open public service for whistle blowers.

Recently, Wikileaks has started supporting censorship by crawling into bed with mainstream news outlets and allowing them to determine which documents Wikileaks shall and shall not publish, and what parts of the published documents to censor.  Although it is possible to make arguments in favor of this move, it is certainly alien to the stated goals and methods of the Wikileaks project and adds weight to the observation that Wikileaks is already dead. 

Looking at Wikileaks from the viewpoint of people who have risked permanent job loss, crippling lawsuits, and in some cases prison time or worse to submit documents, the project has failed utterly:  Documents submitted at high risk, under security conditions much more dangerous that Wikileaks acknowledges, are not being published.  It is possible that they are not even being warehoused for “eventual” publication.  This is a serious breach of trust.  People who helped start Wikileaks have unresolved questions about secretive management of the project’s finances, and the personal authority of Julian Assange.  Internal mailing list posts from the early days of the Wikileaks project “leaked” by John Young at cryptome.org, indicate that Assange rapidly evolved from a leader into the autocratic ruler of the project, and at that point some of the most trustworthy and useful people involved dropped out of the project.

But in a wider context Wikileaks has been a dramatic success even in its epic failure.  Because of the Wikileaks project, the world has been informed of the fact that large scale organized crime can not be hidden from public view forever.  Once a criminal enterprise grows large enough to require extensive internal communication, somebody motivated by conscience or looking for revenge is going to spill the beans.  All those “somebodies” who have access to documents worth leaking are now aware that they can do that thing, and almost certainly get away with it.  The other side of this coin is that the leaders of criminal conspiracies are on notice that they must reduce the size of their human networks and tighten up their communication security dramatically, or face almost inevitable exposure.  This additional security will carry a large price tag, slowing down and limiting the flow of information necessary to the success of the criminal enterprise. 

In the wake of Wikileaks’ collapse several similar projects are now under development, each taking a somewhat different direction from the others, all informed and strengthened by the examples of success and failure present in the Wikileaks story.  The real objective of the Wikileaks project – to make it reasonably safe and easy for insiders to disclose criminal activity in corporate and government operations – has been well served by Julian Assange’s grandstand tactics, even though Wikileaks itself has not survived.  Where we are going next is difficult to predict with any confidence, but your guess and mine should probably be made in the context of three famous quotes:

Information wants to be free.
— Stewart Brand

The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.
— John Gilmore

We do not forgive.  We do not forget.  Expect us.
— Anonymous

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Posted December 21, 2010 by kheph777 in Intellectual Rights, politics

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