The US government's war on Wikileaks

Glenn Greenwald in Salon: "It's not difficult to understand why the Pentagon wants to destroy WikiLeaks. Here's how the Pentagon's report describes some of the disclosures for which they are responsible: The Pentagon report also claims that WikiLeaks has disclosed documents that could expose U.S. military plans in Afghanistan and Iraq and endanger the military mission, though its discussion is purely hypothetical and no specifics are provided.' " The war on WikiLeaks is not so much about opsec, in other words, it's about avoiding embarassment.


    1. I’ll suggest it. Leaked information may provide a threat to operational security, but WikiLeaks isn’t creating that, it’s simply collecting it in one place. It might make it a bit easier to find, but once it’s out there, someone determined can make use of it regardless.

      Plus this goes both ways: it’s easier to find, but it’s also easier to know it’s been found. A secret that shows up on WikiLeaks is one the military knows has been compromised. You can adjust your plans accordingly, rather than being suprised by what your opponents have discovered, and to some extent that could even help operational security.

      So no, I’m not convinced it significantly adds to the threat.

  1. OpSec. OpSec. OpSec.

    I feel cool just typing it.

    Also: the Leave a Comment link doesn’t seem to work in the mobile version of the site. Safari. iPhone. It just did…nothing when tapped upon.

  2. Wikileaks meaningfully threatens the Government’s ability to override its own employees’ moral judgment.

    Because make no mistake: the original leakers are, by definition, trusted government agents.

    In the past, such people had no low-risk options for exposing secret government behavior that they found immoral or reprehensible. The best they could do is go to the press and hope the reporter didn’t reveal his source, or they could simply go overtly public and let the government imprison them and financially ruin their families.

    Wikileaks forces a culture shift in government: simply designating something as “secret” is no longer sufficient to make it so. Secrecy will only be preserved if those entrusted with the secret don’t find it morally outrageous.

  3. I wonder if a model could be developed for web sites similar to BitTorrent, where the information would reside everywhere, be easily accessible to all, and knocking out one location would have no effect. It seems like this would be a desirable thing, and a worthwhile open source type of project.

    1. It’s called Freenet. Problem is, while it does give plausible deniability for the content that you have on your machine… a government could argue that it was installed to give an alibi, and apparently it’s used for child porn quite a lot, meaning you run a very high risk of getting child porn on your machine. And many governments (US, UK, AU, at the very least) and their people have proven that reason doesn’t come into play when child porn is involved.

      So, use Freenet, someone will get a search warrant to find child porn, child porn may be found, and you’ll be nailed to the wall, whether you intended for it to be there or not.

      1. use Freenet, someone will get a search warrant to find child porn, child porn may be found, and you’ll be nailed to the wall

        Though you may be well intentioned, you’re spreading FUD, and it’s harmful to the cause of internet anonymity because it scares people off using Freenet without cause.

        From the Freenet FAQ: “We don’t currently know of any prosecutions for using merely using Freenet. […] We have done everything we can to make it extremely difficult for any sane legal system to justify punishing someone for running a Freenet node, and there is little precedent for such action in today’s developed countries.”

      2. The average Joe hasn’t heard of Freenet, and even if he has, do you seriously think he’s going to spend hours and hours figuring out how to use it?

  4. I don’t know much about WikiLeaks. Is there any mechanism in place to prevent exposure of secrets that aren’t reprehensible? Or do we operate on the assumption that the government only makes reprehensible activity secret?

    I suspect that there are many government employees who might like to expose secrets purely for the joy of exposing them. Imagine, for instance, a low-level Defense Department employee just bursting to tell the world the US plans to invade the Marjah province in February. WikiLeaks publishes the plans, and the next thing you know, our Marines and Afghan civilians have to face thousands of IEDs and snipers.

    1. The mechanism that prevents Wikileaks from exposing secrets that “aren’t reprehensible” is the morality of each individual entrusted with that secret. The same thing that currently prevents those same individuals from selling secrets to the enemy.

      I’d rather accept the hypothetical risk that a psychopathic-yet-trusted government agent will get his kicks by feeding Wikileaks, rather than tolerate the definitely not hypothetical abuse of “state secrets laws” to cover-up embarrassing and immoral government actions.

  5. Wikileaks doesn’t affect operational security. Pentagon staff have always been able to find foreign agencies or American news outlets to give or sell information to if they are so inclined. US intelligence agencies have many processes to identify leaks, if they are important enough to chase down.

  6. A piece of information might appear reprehensible to someone who lacks full knowledge of the context of the piece of leaked information.

    The low-level leaker better hope he knows enough about the context as well, because otherwise the leak might not be justified.

  7. While I can see valid points on both sides of this issue, I definitely can’t see how “expos[ing] U.S. military plans in Afghanistan and Iraq and endanger[ing] the military mission” could be rephrased as “avoiding embarassment.”

  8. Leaks are always justified.
    The very idea that the government keeps secrets from its citizens makes me sick to my stomach.
    As government is by the people, for the people, it is always fair game to leak the secret. It is every citizens duty to leak those secrets if they have access to be able.

    Once more – all governments secrets must be leaked, no exceptions. NO EXCEPTIONS.

    1. LiudvikasT: Suppose the US finds out where bin Laden is, and has plans to capture and/or kill him. Now suppose someone leaks those plans onto the Internet, and bin Laden reads it. The planned surprise attack on his camp is instead an ambush, and Osama puts another thirty notches on his “Death to America” belt.

      Is that a justified leak?

      1. Hey make up some more examples for us! They are so entertaining.

        Omniscient beings are always so right.

        1. LiudvikasT said, “Leaks are always justified.” I disagree, and figured I’d try to get him/her to elaborate on the statement. Does some part of that bother you for some reason?

  9. MadMolecule, yes that leak would be justified. I repeat once more – GOVERNMENT CANT HAVE SECRETS. It is a privilege only awarded to individuals.

  10. Thanks for the follow-up, LiudvikasT. I disagree, but y’know, “so many flavors of ice cream” and all that.

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