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    Whistle-blowing & Freedom of the Press

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    Whistle-blowing & Freedom of the Press

    Postby Drunken Idaho » 12 Jan 2011 17:39

    This seemed necessary. My first impulse was to create a thread called "Wikileaks," but I think it's important to note that the Wikileaks website/organization probably won't be around forever, and will inevitably become associated with the drama that is Julian Assange. It seems to me that Wikileaks represents the act of whistle-blowing, and promotes freedom of the press, and I think that's what matters in the big picture.

    But until a time when the fate of Julian Assange and his organization is yesterday's news, feel free to discuss all the rapey details! :dance:

    So, what do we know about Wikileaks?

      - Cablegate: The ongoing release of diplomatic cables intercepted from US embassies all over the world. So far, people like to shrug them off as petty gossip and "nothing new." And to a large degree they're not wrong, but there are a few gems in there that highlight injustice and corruption. I've read a couple rather amusing ones from the Ottawa embassy, pretty trivial but they do say a lot about culture and the image of the US to the rest of the world. I'll post that later.

      - Military Leaks: Afghanistan docs, damaging video. Many people talk about how this could endanger our troops as well as afghan civilians, and that's a fair criticism to make. Sometimes the leaks are obviously harmless, and sometimes it's more complex than that, harder to discern what effects they may have. I think it's important to weigh the benefit of knowing the truth about an issue, compared to the benefit of prolonging an futile war (which we know for a fact endangers the lives of troops and civilians). I'm glad that Wikileaks opens up these questions. Remember that US law defends the press's right to publish secret government documents. This was firmly decided after the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, which helped to shed new light on the extent and history of the US' involvement in Vietnam. Courts at that time decided that it was in the spirit of liberty and democracy that when the truth is exposed, it was worth publishing the damning documents. In cases like these, the person who runs the risk is the whistleblower themselves, NOT those who publish the material. Fortunately, Wikileaks admitted that they do filter and evaluate whether docs are safe/newsworthy to publish, the same way a more tradition news org would (and remember, Wikileaks is made up of journalists working for papers all over the world).

      - Sex Crime Charges: While it's no surprise that powerful forces might use rape to smear an inconvenient person's reputation, any rape charge should be dealt with properly. No one except Assange and his lovers/victims know what really happened, and the fact is he hasn't been charged for it yet. Those who represent the victims are free to actually charge Assange and they haven't, they only wanted to "meet with him." The case had already been thrown out once by a judge back in August. But for all I know, Assange was a pervy douche who was a jerk about condoms with these women. In which case, that ought to be dealt with accordingly, which the law seems to have done for the most part.

      - Dead-man switch: Next to their James Bond server bunker, this is one of the coolest things about Wikileaks. Assange has mentioned several times about how he's already released an encrypted trove of documents from a range of corporate/government documents, with a 256-digit encryption key that has not been released. In the event that Assange is jailed (for reasons relating to Wikileaks), convicted, or assassinated, that key will be released and people everywhere will have access to that file and its contents. Apparently this includes dirt on Guantanamo, BP, Fox News, just to name a few. Naturally, if he never needs to use this "insurance" file, I think he'll eventually get around to publishing the important stuff within.

      - Bank Docs: This is the part that makes my balls tingle. Early this year, Assange plans to release docs from a 5-Gb hard drive intercepted from a major US bank (and it looks like it will most likely by Bank of America). He said that these docs will highlight not only this particular bank's unethical behaviour, but an entire "eco-system of corruption" that allows banks to get away with this, which will likely include highlighting regulators who are bought by the companies they are supposed to be policing. Bank of America's stock took a tumble when it was first speculated that they're probably the target, and they have even been found buying up domains like BrianMoynihanBlows.com, BrianMoynihanSucks.com, BrianTMoynihanBlows.com, and BrianTMoynihanSucks.com. Brian Moynihan is the CEO of BoA, and there are equivalent domains bought for other top BoA figures' names as well. This suggests to many that they have something specific to be worried about. I have to admit, seeing those who took the risks nearly crashed the world economy (and continue doing so) pissing their pants over this is delightful. Everyone wants to see them punished (no one has been held accountable for derivatives trading, credit default swaps, etc), and Wikileaks presents an avenue by which they can be held accountable.

    I find the whole subject of Wikileaks fascinating. I think when people in the future look back and talk about the information age, they will talk about the advent of digital whistleblowing, and how it leveled the playing field between those in power and the those who aren't. I think this is the internet coming into its full potential.

    But I think the authorities might be wise to leave Assange alone... I think we can all appreciate how easily he could become a martyr for free speech should anything happen to him. The support for him and his organization is huge, and very tech-savvy as well. Similarly, his supporters should be careful not to lionize him too much. We all know the dangers of that. Like I mentioned before, it's what Wikileaks represents that is the important part.

    But here's one of the main reasons why I like Julian Assange... When asked in a Forbes magazine interview, what advice he has for companies in a world where their activities could easily be leaked to the press, he answered with this:

    Julian Assange wrote:Do things to encourage leaks from dishonest competitors. Be as open and honest as possible. Treat your employees well.


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    Re: Whistle-blowing & Freedom of the Press

    Postby Eyes High » 13 Jan 2011 05:48

    Drunken Idaho wrote:....
    But here's one of the main reasons why I like Julian Assange... When asked in a Forbes magazine interview, what advice he has for companies in a world where their activities could easily be leaked to the press, he answered with this:

    Julian Assange wrote:Do things to encourage leaks from dishonest competitors. Be as open and honest as possible. Treat your employees well.


    :clap:



    Very well put. If businesses (and government would do that very last part [Be as open and honest as possible and treat people well] a lot of today's troubles would be greatly deminished.

    Thanks for the post DI
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    Re: Whistle-blowing & Freedom of the Press

    Postby Drunken Idaho » 13 Jan 2011 12:48

    Thanks Eyes High!

    Baraka Bryan wrote:I'm all for the exposure of corruption in government and business. What I don't like about WL is that there's no consideration given to the possibility that some secrets shoudl remain secret. when it comes to tactical info for Afghanistan, or diplomatic statements that could be harmful to bi-lateral communications, the wikileaks effort begins to look less like a freedom of the press initiative and more like the work of anarchists trying to destabilize politics and the economy. additionally, the attacks on paypal, visa etc by wikileaks supporters are only to continue, further destabilizing the financial system.


    But there actually is some consideration on their part for what should and shouldn't be published... I mentioned it above, but they've addressed this a couple of times. Assange has said that they use much discretion and that even within the Afghanistan documents there was much that was never published because it was too sensitive. And while I agree that upon first impression, the whole Wikileaks mission seems like a beautifully anarchistic expression, Assange has repeatedly denied that he's an anarchist, saying he's more interested in exposing corruption so that our governments are more transparent. He also says that there should be secrets kept and that there are wars that can be justified (though he doesn't seem to think Afghanistan & Iraq are among them).

    And as for the attacks by hackers on the companies you mentioned... Not one of those organized attacks targeted any of the servers Paypal, Mastercard or Visa actually use to service their customers' finances. Every organized attack has been on their public websites. So suggesting that the attacks destabilize the financial system on a level even remotely comparable to those who crashed the economy in the first place is a joke. It's not quite as ambitious as Project Mayhem. And by the groups' own admission, the attacks are meant to be temporarily damaging, more of a slap on the wrist than anything.
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    Re: Whistle-blowing & Freedom of the Press

    Postby Drunken Idaho » 20 Jan 2011 15:24



    And Ron Paul 2012, please.
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    Re: Whistle-blowing & Freedom of the Press

    Postby A Thing of Eternity » 20 Jan 2011 17:50

    I'm torn on the issue. Sometimes the government does need to keep secrets, there's no way around it, total transparency would be impossible/impractical/insane from what I can tell. Some stuff though absolutely should be blown wide open - knowing which is which isn't an easy thing.

    Guys like this aren't going away, take this one down and ten will spring up where he stood. I guess the governments are just going to have to try to get better at keeping bloody secrets.
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    Re: Whistle-blowing & Freedom of the Press

    Postby Drunken Idaho » 21 Jan 2011 13:19

    A Thing of Eternity wrote:I'm torn on the issue. Sometimes the government does need to keep secrets, there's no way around it, total transparency would be impossible/impractical/insane from what I can tell. Some stuff though absolutely should be blown wide open - knowing which is which isn't an easy thing.

    Guys like this aren't going away, take this one down and ten will spring up where he stood. I guess the governments are just going to have to try to get better at keeping bloody secrets.


    That's pretty much the situation in a nutshell... I agree that state secrets are necessary, but it's the government's prerogative to make sure that they're safe. But just like hacking or digital piracy, it will inevitably be a game of cat-and-mouse as technology improves.

    The US is indeed preparing a case against Assange, so this will sort of climax in another Pentagon Papers-style courtroom showdown, via extradition to the US or not. Unless somehow the court rules in the opposite direction that they did back in 1970 (kind of a scary thought), their only case against Wikileaks would be to somehow implicate them in the theft of information in the first place. Obviously, anyone who knows the first thing about Wikileaks is that they have no need to conspire to get info like that. The whole point is encryption and anonymity. Right now Bradley Manning, the alleged whistle-blower on the Afghan war logs, is being kept in brutal conditions in a military jail. Solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for six months now. Mind you he has not been charged with a crime as of yet. Many have suggested that this is part of an effort to "break" Bradley Manning, and get him to testify that Julian Assange helped in stealing the docs. Assange claims (and this is perfectly logical, considering the nature of the Wikileaks site) that he never heard Manning's name until it appeared in the media.

    And for the record, I don't oppose whatever sentence they end up giving Bradley Manning. Again, it's their prerogative to to punish leakers and to disincentivize whistle-blowing. But what I am opposed to is the brutal and ongoing treatment of people who have not yet been given a fair trial. That's also scary.
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