It's been All WikiLeaks, All the Time here in Cringeville lately. And why not? As I noted last time out, this is the biggest thing to hit the WebberNets since Tim Berners Lee dreamed it up 20 years ago. We're still unraveling the implications and probably will continue to do so for months if not years.
But I've done enough bloviating on the topic. Now it's your turn. My readers had a lot to say on all sides of the issue.
[ Check out a few samples of Cringely's long history covering WikiLeaks: The Web will eat itself over WikiLeaks. | WikiLeaks: A terrorist's best friend?. | WikiLeaks launches Web War III | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]
Let's start with T. S., who took umbrage when I said my opinion of WikiLeaks had changed after it posted a list of sites vulnerable to terrorist attacks:
So it took this to change your mind? Not the fact that he and his organization are the recipients of STOLEN property belonging to government and corporate entities?...I don't get the attitudes of people like you (who just apparently "found religion") who think that because it is some government, or corporation, that you have "the right" to view what is clearly STOLEN PROPERTY.
On the other hand, Cringester W. J. has this to say on the matter:
Your article "WikiLeaks: A Terrorist's Best Friend?" would be quite amusing if it wasn't so ill-informed. The publication of such a list does nothing to increase the chances of these installations becoming a target. But it does demonstrate contrary to US claims that their embassies engage in intelligence gathering. Seriously, do you really think terrorist organisations haven't already made their own lists of these strategic installations? The information to identify and locate these facilities is and has been available in the public domain for a very very long time.
My response: The Pentagon Papers were also STOL--er, stolen property. It took a landmark Supreme Court decision to determine that the public's right to know trumped the government's desire for secrecy. I just don't think the public good was served by WikiLeaks publishing a list of vital facilities, no matter who may have already known about them.
Not everyone was ticked off about my presumed about-face on WikiLeaks. Reader V. L. writes:
It's nice to see some reporting on the turn for the worse this has taken instead of the blind support for what this organization once stood for.
Next up: Theo de Raadt, the founder of the OpenBSD and OpenSSH projects, has a more international take on the WikiLeaks cables. I'd written that regardless of whose side you're on, the release of the cables will hurt America's ability to act on the world stage. Theo says maybe that's not such a bad thing:
Inside America, regular (but non-apathetic) citizens are choosing a side. Apparently Americans must choose sides. But outside America, from a (non-apathetic) citizen perspective, the result of this is going to be very, very one sided. We will choose to know how much the elite have lied to us... In the last 15 years while working on OpenBSD and OpenSSH, I've been to 45 countries. Let me tell you, the view out there is very different. The world is tired of this thing Americans call sharing.....
There are incredible injustices that got forced by the American government to go under the table, and they are now exposed. That is the real danger for America.
Blogger AndyX says its time for America to wake up and smell the Leaky coffee:
Although I think it's pretty easy to make a case against Mr. Assange's choice to release classified information obtained via questionable means, I also think government officials need to come to grips with the simple notion that privacy is an illusion. It's also time for Big Brother to realize that he, too may be spied upon....
In short, it's fine if the U.S. government wants to sue Mr. Assange and wikiLeaks, but I have to side with critics who cry foul at the closure of his bank accounts and PayPal accounts without due process.
Meanwhile, reader G. A. says I'm missing the bigger point about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
If Assange were to disappear today, another WikiLeaks would spring up tomorrow, simply because the information is out there to be collected and disseminated and because there are many people who would like to see these documents made public. It's easy to blame the "messenger", but it doesn't solve the problem.
The answer to WikiLeaks is (a) tighter document distribution combined with (b) serious encryption. I also understand why this hasn't been implemented: training government employees to use encryption is too difficult, given current technology. But that's a problem that can be overcome, given time and resources.
He's right. The question people should really be asking -- and so far, the U.S. government appears to be ducking the issue -- is how in God's name did a Private First Class manage to steal 250,000-plus classified cables without somebody noticing?
Assuming he is found guilty, PFC Bradley Manning is a spy. But it's the system that allowed him to become one that's broken. And no amount of moralizing, cable-browsing, DDoSing, or bloviating will fix it.
Will the WikiLeaks ever get plugged? Got anything more to say about them? E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.