The Fall of the House of Usher
December 22, 2010 5:12 PM   Subscribe

The Wikileaks Cablegate scandal is the most exciting and interesting hacker scandal ever. I rather commonly write about such things, and I’m surrounded by online acquaintances who take a burning interest in every little jot and tittle of this ongoing saga. So it’s going to take me a while to explain why this highly newsworthy event fills me with such a chilly, deadening sense of Edgar Allen Poe melancholia.

But it sure does.


Bruce Sterling on the world of post-Wikileaks diplomacy.
posted by Artw (396 comments total) 94 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've never thought of it in the terms Bruce lays out here... this truly is one of the few articles that I've read that has expanded my understanding of what's happening and why.
posted by MikeWarot at 5:22 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


some stuff came from the cypherpunk list. Mixmaster remailers, nym servers. He is right thought, there was a lot of " some day some cool shit will happen!" on that list.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:25 PM on December 22, 2010


"If Assange had happened to out the cable-library of some outlaw pariah state, say, Paraguay or North Korea"

Wha...?
posted by Kattullus at 5:32 PM on December 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is good stuff.
posted by empath at 5:35 PM on December 22, 2010


"He’s extremely intelligent, but, as a political, social and moral actor, he’s the kind of guy who gets depressed by the happiness of the stupid.

I don’t say these cruel things about Julian Assange because I feel distant from him, but, on the contrary, because I feel close to him. I don’t doubt the two of us would have a lot to talk about. I know hordes of men like him; it’s just that they are programmers, mathematicians, potheads and science fiction fans instead of fiercely committed guys who aspire to topple the international order and replace it with subversive wikipedians."

Be still my beating heart!
posted by mhjb at 5:36 PM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


He’s certainly not a “terrorist,” because nobody is scared and no one got injured. He’s not a “spy,” because nobody spies by revealing the doings of a government to its own civil population. He is orthogonal. He’s asymmetrical. He panics people in power and he makes them look stupid. And I feel sorry for them. But sorrier for the rest of us.

To the extent that this is just another celebrity piece that ignores WL content, ugh. But at least Sterling-as-media-voice doesn't lie about what's going on, so that's a plus.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:40 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey a thing about wikileaks that didn't make me nauseous and frustrated!
posted by silby at 5:43 PM on December 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Watch The Spy Factory
posted by clavdivs at 5:44 PM on December 22, 2010


The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks By Jaron Lanier
posted by HLD at 5:54 PM on December 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Great article.

It does raise an interesting question -- what exactly does a guy like Julian Assange want? What does he want that someone, anyone, can give him? Not celebrity, not money, not power ... What is left?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:56 PM on December 22, 2010


tl;bIria (too long, but I read it all)
"... The world has lousy diplomacy now. It’s dysfunctional. The world corps diplomatique are weak, really weak, and the US diplomatic corps, which used to be the senior and best-engineered outfit there, is rattling around bottled-up in blast-proofed bunkers. It’s scary how weak and useless they are. ..."
Amen, brother, especially since the Clintons have been stirring the diplomatic pot. Although I don't agree, that since the mid-1960's, that the U.S. diplomatic corps "used to be the senior and best-engineered outfit there" by any means. Career U.S. diplomats have been underpaid, over tasked, and generally over managed by political hacks, since the JFK era; Eisenhower was the last U.S. President to accord any real respect, funding, and tolerance to State, and that was mainly because of John Foster Dulles and his lesser remembered brother at the CIA, Allen Welsh Dulles.

When I first heard of Bradley Manning, and the whole WikiLeaks thing, I immediately thought of Queen Elizabeth, quietly "doing" her daily "red boxes," day by day now, for close on to 60 years, as the real, if no longer modern model of diplomacy. I bet the contents of her "boxes" have gotten a lot more interesting in recent weeks. Because that's what diplomacy really boils down to: real people, in long term seats, quietly keeping one another informed about the hot heads, mad men, and criminals that the rest of us would like not to be bothered by, and discussing what best, and earliest, at least cost and difficulty, might be done about them. And then helping turn that into positive international result through cooperation with political and economic leadership of nations.

Manning and Assange have put all that to bed, for a long time I think, without putting forth anything proven better in the long run, except their misty eyed, vague beliefs in transparency. And we're all a little less well served in the present, for their bullshit mythos.

I think the military courts will insist on shooting Manning; the only alternative of a life sentence doesn't send the right message to similar people in similar positions, any more than the massive, long overdue reworking of U.S. diplomatic and military IT systems design and security will have, if it truly results from all this. Assange, I suspect, will be dealt with differently, but in the end, I think he will be dealt with.
posted by paulsc at 5:57 PM on December 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Bruce has written the sort of commentary I've been waiting for on the whole Wikileaks saga. It's got a sort of first draft spew feel to it and could be vastly improved, but it makes the points that have been needing to be made.

Sorry BP, but the content is only part of it. The context is the world is changing and networks are gaining space as a form of social organization. I've been a fan of David Ronfeldt's 1996 study on the evolution of social organization.

As far as the context of Wikileaks goes, this is the same sort of network activity that has been going on since the early 1990's: Zapatistas (and FloodNet), the WTO protests, IndyMedia, Hackerspaces, Etsy, etc. The network form of organization is starting to displace and transform some of the social/political functions previously owned by tribes, institutions and markets.

The context of the transformation is more important in the long run than the content of the moment. This will keep happening. Social evolution always starts as subversion.
posted by warbaby at 5:58 PM on December 22, 2010 [18 favorites]


To know that he did something, maybe.
posted by jaduncan at 5:58 PM on December 22, 2010


Very good, thanks Artw.
[Julian Assange] is something we don't yet have words for.

He’s a different, modern type of serious troublemaker. He’s certainly not a “terrorist,” because nobody is scared and no one got injured. He’s not a “spy,” because nobody spies by revealing the doings of a government to its own civil population. He is orthogonal. He’s asymmetrical. He panics people in power and he makes them look stupid. And I feel sorry for them. But sorrier for the rest of us.
posted by shothotbot at 5:58 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


[Julian Assange] is something we don't yet have words for.

Chaotic Neutral.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:01 PM on December 22, 2010 [44 favorites]


It does raise an interesting question -- what exactly does a guy like Julian Assange want? What does he want that someone, anyone, can give him? Not celebrity, not money, not power ... What is left?

See, this is the thing about people who act primarily on their principles: There's no way to buy them off. This is why Islamic terrorism or Soviet communism were such threats. The actors involved (mostly) hold their values as the end-all, be-all, justifying whatever means they choose, and nothing that you - as a diplomat or economic bigwig - can do will be able to buy them off of their track. When we mix in the distributed nature of modern information networks, you get entities that are more-or-less immune to military force, in addition to simple bribery.

At that point, the game becomes not to figure out how to stop this particular guy, but how to keep his ideas from joining the core values of the larger population. Because the only way to stop the movement is to keep it from growing.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:04 PM on December 22, 2010 [22 favorites]


what exactly does a guy like Julian Assange want? What does he want that someone, anyone, can give him? Not celebrity, not money, not power ... What is left?

I don't think he's very shy about discussing his stake in this. In this Frost Over the World interview he seems quite frank about his expectations.
posted by hermitosis at 6:05 PM on December 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


One of the things to keep in mind about the WL scandal thus far is that the contents that have been released thus far haven't really released anything most people didn't already know or at least surmise about the US and its foreign policy. Sterling is right in that the government's freak-out has more to do with its inability to understand Julian Assange and his actions than the actual cations themselves. Let's face it, as HP Lovecraft once said, mankind's greatest fear is the fear of the unknown, and Assange (and Wikileaks) represent a great Unknown for the government intelligence apparatus.

As far as the Paypal, Amazon, et al go with their ditching of Wikileaks support mechanisms (donations, servers, etc), I can't help but wonder if THAT particular bit of pressure isn't being applied not so much from the government but from the finance sector. Isn't the next big "infodump" from WL going to be email and documents from a money-center bank (presumed to be Bank of America) that will clearly show that they knowingly engaged in illegal and fraudulent activities leading up to the Finacial Crisis? I can definetely see a scenario where the money-center banks (who provide a lot of the finacial services for many of these comanies) have quietly told them "Nix the Wikilieaks services, or you're going to get hammered on the Street." Of course, this only occurs to me in more paranoid moments.

Sounds like the Finance sector has a lot more to gain by discrediting and crippling the WL apparatus than the government. After all, the government just gets embarrassed by WL. That bank, though-- if those documents are what Assange says they are, somebody(s) from that bank is going to jail. And once that particular cat is out of the bag, others are sure to follow.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:09 PM on December 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


I made this comment in the other open thread just before I saw this thread; cross-posting the relevant section:

The Guardian's daily summary page is excellent for keeping abreast of the waves of information coming out of the cables.

Some other interesting data:
* Direct description of the US pressuring Italy to stop prosecution of CIA agents for illegal kidnappings.

* New nuclear plants perhaps not actually all that safe...

* Price-fixers in Iraq are bleeding US companies like Halliburton. (On the one hand, fuck Halliburton. On the other hand, it's probably all tax-payer dollars being flushed down these toilets.)

* American Republican congressman mucks in international affairs, setting up sweetheart deals for friends and undermining State Dept's authority.

and much, much more... These stories in particular are of great public interest, the kinds of stories that would in any other year lead to investigative journalism awards for those reporting them.

Many others reflect gnarly situations in many countries on which we hear very little in the media, such as the human rights violations going on in Eritrea. In addition to raising awareness, those cables will prove invaluable to those working in the region and historians. (FWIW, I feel my assessment that the Afghanistan war is really all about Pakistan and India has been wholly born out by the cable we've seen so far.) I know that the cables relating to Kenya have had a huge effect locally, and sent a message about the problem of corruption in the Kenyan government that was unlikely to be sent through any kind of official channels.

--(end reposting)--

In any case, don't let anyone but anyone deceive you into thinking that the things coming out of these cables are uninteresting, irrelevant, or merely confirmation of things we 'already knew.'
posted by kaibutsu at 6:14 PM on December 22, 2010 [28 favorites]


That bank, though-- if those documents are what Assange says they are, somebody(s) from that bank is going to jail.

Oh, if only I could have your simple, beautiful faith.
posted by JHarris at 6:15 PM on December 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Great article, thanks for posting it. It's the best summary of Wikileaks I've read, and maybe even of the time that we live in.
posted by codacorolla at 6:20 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of surprised that the State Department hasn't realized that, in the long run, WikiLeaks might have handed them a gold mine. I mean, this was all Junior-level stuff, stuff that was known secretly but people generally agreed not to be talked about, right? Having this made public while being able to plausibly deny it (not that I'm claiming they set this up) could be something of a boon, they can now use what they can rightfully claim was their internal dialogue and talk about it in public.

It's like if you keep a diary from your girlfriend in which you write down the things about her that bug you, and she finds it one day and reads it, and you have a fight, or maybe a teary-eyed moment, but in the end she know what bugs you can you can work together, in a spirit of mutu--

Aw hell. We're screwed.
posted by JHarris at 6:21 PM on December 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


I think the military courts will insist on shooting Manning

No. Manning is being kept in isolation in order to drive him crazy. This is so when Sweden extradites Assange for whatever Eric Holder manages to dream up, Manning will be the hollowed-out star witness in the show trial.

what exactly does a guy like Julian Assange want? What does he want that someone, anyone, can give him? Not celebrity, not money, not power ... What is left?

What he's said he wants all along.
posted by clarknova at 6:22 PM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sterling's article is awesome. He's a great writer, and it was fun to read, but Jaron's was the one that really threw me for a loop. I'm gonna have to re-think some of this shit based on Lanier's take.

Thanks to both Artw and HLD!
posted by valkane at 6:23 PM on December 22, 2010


This is why Islamic terrorism or Soviet communism were such threats. The actors involved (mostly) hold their values as the end-all, be-all, justifying whatever means they choose, and nothing that you - as a diplomat or economic bigwig - can do will be able to buy them off of their track.

Hmm, this statement is pretty ignorant about the entire history and context of both terrorism and soviet communism. In fact, the opposite is true in the vast majority of cases. Whether it will be true for Assange remains to be seen, but these are terrible examples to cite when arguing that his values are be-all and end-all.
posted by smoke at 6:31 PM on December 22, 2010


One thing about these dead man switches: if there's someone who's even more dedicated to transparency than Assange, who feels that he didn't go FAR ENOUGH with this leak, then doesn't that set up a perverse incentive to have him killed so the insurance files finally break?

What a crazy story. I can't fucking believe Assange wasn't Time's man of the year.
posted by codacorolla at 6:36 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh god is Jaron Lanier talking about the Josh Quitner "war in cyberspace article?" I emailed with Quitner about his book. Seems he had become disillusioned with "hacker culture" because it was totally apolitical and amounted to high tech pissing matches. I seem to remember the EFF was founded to provide legal support to hackers who had been arrested but quickly lost all enthusiasm for hackers once they came into contact with them and realized they were largely sullen 13 year olds with massive resentment issues. Am I misremembering this?
posted by Ad hominem at 6:41 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, if only I could have your simple, beautiful faith

Hey, a guy can dream, right? Now let me put this molar under my pillow and wait for the Tooth Fairy to come. (I'm going long on Tooth futures).
posted by KingEdRa at 6:46 PM on December 22, 2010


One of the things to keep in mind about the WL scandal thus far is that the contents that have been released thus far haven't really released anything most people didn't already know or at least surmise about the US and its foreign policy.

Why are you repeating this line? It's simply not true. Nobody "surmised" that State was instructing staff to steal credit card numbers and biometric information from people. Nobody surmised that the U.S. was directly attacking targets in Yemen. There are dozens of other examples, at least.

So, I'd like to know, again, why are you repeating this?
posted by odinsdream at 6:48 PM on December 22, 2010 [26 favorites]


Assange is never gonna become a diplomat, but he’s arranged it so that diplomats henceforth are gonna be a whole lot more like Assange. They’ll behave just like him. They receive the goods just like he did, semi-surreptitiously. They may be wearing an ascot and striped pants, but they’ve got that hacker hunch in their necks and they’re staring into the glowing screen.

And I don’t much like that situation. It doesn’t make me feel better. I feel sorry for them and what it does to their values, to their self-esteem. If there’s one single watchword, one central virtue, of the diplomatic life, it’s “discretion.” Not “transparency.” Diplomatic discretion. Discretion is why diplomats do not say transparent things to foreigners. When diplomats tell foreigners what they really think, war results.


Exactly. Sterling sees the damage of the cable releases. It hurts the ability of diplomats to speak frankly with Washington.

The whole reason they opened up the cables to SPIRnet was to allow analysts and other professionals to see the links on terrorist threats and also to prevent the Cheneys of this world from doing what they did with the Iraq war--"stovepiping" intelligence to counter facts in order to win the internal battle on the issue of the war.

And Sterling has it right on Assange--computer geeks identify with him and it is the source of the hero-worship of this bizzare man. A guy with a computer pissing off people has a powerful emotional effect on people--and it stops them thinking about what the larger implications of this are--the idea that somehow the voters were going to be changed by shocking revelations. But Sterling again has it right--turns out the government is being honest with us--and there are few surprises.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:48 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Learn More!
posted by clavdivs at 6:49 PM on December 22, 2010


It does raise an interesting question -- what exactly does a guy like Julian Assange want? What does he want that someone, anyone, can give him? Not celebrity, not money, not power ... What is left?

That, to me, is an extraordinary question. And, by that, I don't mean it's a stupid one. It's actually an elegant, pithy wording of a common attitude -- one that's diametrically opposed to a less common attitude. The part that kills me is "what is left?" It's like a knife in my belly.

An even pithier version is "Looks like someone has too much time on his hands." I've complained, on Metafilter and other places, about that phrase. I hate it. Like Assange, I have a lot of oddball interests (luckily for me -- and I really mean "luckily," because there but for the grace of God... -- hacking isn't one of them), interests that have nothing to do with power, money, notoriety or sex. I spend hours and hours on those interests, and so I get "Looks like someone has too much time on his hands" a lot. To be honest, my response (which I generally keep to myself) is "up yours, you soulless fuck!"

But I understand that, for many, those urges are pretty much all there is, except that I'd replace "celebrity" with a the larger category of social cache. According to this view, we do what we do for love, friendship, respect, money, power and sex. And that's it. Everything we do should be traceable (if not reducible) to one of those fundamental drives. So if I spend two years building a lego tower that I never show to anyone, I'm acting in an inexplicable way. I have too much time on my hands. I am doing stuff "for no reason," because when you take those commonly understood reasons, "what is left?"

What's left is working through a system, completing a project, learning a new skill, experiencing a particular sensation or ritual... not for any of those common purposes -- not so you can impress people, get girls or whatever -- but, as the famous Everest climber said, "Because it's there."

Sticking steadfastly to some political ideal is the same urge. Ultimately, it's aesthetic. It's working a system through to its logical ends, insisting on dotting every i and crossing every t. To that mindset, a system is pointless unless it's perfect -- or unless its experienced perfectly. This is the same drive that propels nuns to take vows of silence. It drove Jackson Pollack. It makes Stephen Sondheim say that every tiny word in a song lyric is vitally important. It makes computer programmers -- some of them -- spend hours coining names for variables.

(Amateur programers think the whole point is making the program work. It will work just as well if a variable is named hs as if it's named highScore. Pros know that getting the program to work is just part of the point. It should be readable, self-documenting and elegant. So highScore is a much better choice. Or should it be playerHighScore? Or humanPlayerHighScore? ...)

One of my obsessions is directing plays. Yes, I do it partly because it's a way for me to hang out with my friends. Yes, I do it because I like the praise. Yes, I do it -- or I did it -- to meet girls (I married an actress). I would happily do it for money, if only someone would offer me some.

But if you told me I'll never get paid (which is likely), that I could only direct actors I don't particularly like, that no one will ever see my plays, that (assuming I was single), girls wouldn't give a shit... Well, I'd be upset, but I'd still direct plays. That's right: I'd direct plays even if I had to act them out myself, in an otherwise empty room, for an audience of myself. And if you don't understand why I'd do that, you'll never understand "what's left." Because what's left is the process of working on the play. That can't be reduced to sex, money, power or social needs. It's its own need.
posted by grumblebee at 6:51 PM on December 22, 2010 [98 favorites]


In any case, don't let anyone but anyone deceive you into thinking that the things coming out of these cables are uninteresting, irrelevant, or merely confirmation of things we 'already knew.'

Yes, I was shocked to learn the US wants to persuade Italy from prosecuting CIA operatives, nuclear plants might be unsafe, Haliburton is wasting money in Iraq, and a congressional representative is crooked.

Interesting? Yes. Revelatory? No.

Artw, thank you for this. It's really amazing stuff.
posted by incessant at 6:54 PM on December 22, 2010


Thank god, finally an intelligent piece of commentary on the personality of Assange that doesn't fall into either the pathetic, fawning hero worship of the Internet or the ruthless character assassination spewed by proto-fascists on Fox.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:58 PM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I assumed that Assange does it for the same reason all the hackers I've encountered do it: to know something nobody else knows. Thing is, one day you have to spill the beans so everyone else can acknowledge that you knew it first.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:59 PM on December 22, 2010


Programmers: we love flowers.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:00 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


What he's said he wants all along.

Yeah, and that piece gives the lie to Sterling's descriptions of Assange as basically just an old-school black-hat hacker scaled up, whose main motivation is to pwn lusers. (Seriously, that's what the paragraphs starting "Then there is Julian Assange" seem to be saying. And what's with the apparent need to point out that encrypting and distributing stuff isn't that technically difficult?) A lot of this piece is pretty unsatisfactory, IMO.
posted by kenko at 7:01 PM on December 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I mean really: "That’s half the human race that’s beyond his comprehension there, and I rather surmise that, from his stern point of view, it was sure to be all their fault."

Nothing like condescending psychologizing. Love it.
posted by kenko at 7:03 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fragility of a system is a sign of bad design. If less than five people can bring down your empire, it's time had come already.

United States diplomacy is built on lies for the benefit of a small group of rich people. If it had been built on honesty for the benefit of US citizens instead, none of these cables would mean anything to anyone. Biden said it himself: "He's made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends." He probably had no idea what he was saying, but it's absolutely true: our diplomacy existed to grease the wheels of American business interests, not to establish peaceful trade with other nations.

Take one instance where we were fully aware that Nigeria's government was infiltrated by oil industry players who reported all of the government's moves to headquarters so the government could not effectively govern. That sentiment at it's core is anti-democratic. The State Department should have immediately punished the oil company and made it public. Instead, it's buried and ignored in the interest of profits for the American corporation.

So when Bruce states "When diplomats tell foreigners what they really think, war results," I don't fucking buy it. War happens when all of the secret bullshit the State Department puts together falls apart after one of the secret conspirators stops doing their end of the dirty work, and all of the sudden we flip on the news to learn that the nation we were selling weapons to last week is suddenly our greatest enemy.

The headline in a few years should be this: "Yeah, well, actually we're going to war in Pakistan because the secular military we've been propping up for decades, even to the point of allowing them to develop nuclear weapons, has suddenly been overrun by it's population that overwhelmingly disagrees with our mercenary warfare over there. So we're going to call the smaller, illegitimate power the legitimate power, and kill a bunch of people who disagree."

Instead the headline will be this: "Pakistan is the greatest threat to world peace and American Democracy since Iraq." Roll footage of peasants protesting the deaths of another wedding party -- see how angry these Muslim terrorists are? they want to kill your family with nukes -- write the check for fifty billion dollars (first mill buys body bags, we'll ask for the rest later) and ramp up the defenders of freedom cutscenes at all the major media outlets. All of the stories about injustice by the Pakistani military will be pushed off of page A26 into the memory hole, and all of the stuff we had been covering up about child rape and religious persecution in friendly provinces that are now controlled by "terrorists" will finally hit the front page, ten years too late.

The problem ain't the ref who decides to turn on the lights. It's the fucking game.
posted by notion at 7:08 PM on December 22, 2010 [66 favorites]


This isn't THE Bruce Sterling, right? Because I don't recognize this guy. Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention lately and missed where he became enamored of the NSA because... they keep it to themselves. Or have haircuts and medical benefits(?!) Or whatever.

So ignore the sex slave minors supplied by our contractors and assert that Assange is social engineering because he's redacting sensitive information and... screw it. This just makes no sense.

But do give a faint cheer at the end there. Just to cover your bases.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:09 PM on December 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


PS: exploitation != trade
posted by notion at 7:13 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


ChurchHatesTucker: This isn't THE Bruce Sterling, right? Because I don't recognize this guy. Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention lately and missed where he became enamored of the NSA because... they keep it to themselves. Or have haircuts and medical benefits(?!) Or whatever.

He likens the NSA to A-bombs. And not in a 'they're so the bomb they're the goddamn A-bomb' kinda way, but in a 'this could destroy everything' kinda way.
posted by Kattullus at 7:15 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Old school black hat hackers LOVE the NSA. The NSA is the apotheosis of every thing hackers desire, infinite knowledge, infinite power. Unlike the CIA, who kills people, the NSA are nerd gods who know all the secrets.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:17 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


He likens the NSA to A-bombs. And not in a 'they're so the bomb they're the goddamn A-bomb' kinda way, but in a 'this could destroy everything' kinda way.

Not how I read it:

It’s [the NSA] a little younger than the A-Bomb, and we don’t fuss much about that now, either.

It's an odd complacency. Maybe he's just getting old.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:22 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't THE Bruce Sterling, right? Because I don't recognize this guy. Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention lately and missed where he became enamored of the NSA because... they keep it to themselves. Or have haircuts and medical benefits(?!) Or whatever.

I suspect you skipped the chapters of The Hacker Crackdown that dealt with goverment agencies.

Sterling has never been that much of a cheerleader for right-on causes. Which is good, really, because cheerleaders rarely tell you as interesting things.
posted by Artw at 7:24 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why are you repeating this line? It's simply not true. Nobody "surmised" that State was instructing staff to steal credit card numbers and biometric information from people. Nobody surmised that the U.S. was directly attacking targets in Yemen. There are dozens of other examples, at least.

We've known since the Bush Administration we've been striking directly with drones in Yemen. Its been well-known.

And diplomats are spying on other diplomats! Oh my! This is massive news? Gee, the government attempted to protect its own agents! The government has been speaking publically on this for years.

These are not major stories. Not at all. This is a country where in the last 15 years, a president got caught getting a blowjob from an intern, the same President was impeached for allegedly lying about it, then that same President won his trial in the Senate. Then, the next presidential election was decided by 600 Nader voters and the US Supreme Court, which brazenly and in a partisan manner, handed the election to a man who got less votes. Then 19 terrorists hijaclked 4 planes, destroying the entire World Trade Center, part of the Pentagon, killing 3000 people. Then we invaded Afghanistan and overthrew its government, then invaded Iraq and got caught in a devistating guerilla war that lasted 7 years. Then, the biggest recession in 80 years happened--a titanic meltdown. Then a black guy got elected president, enacted comprehensive health care, financial reform and a host of other giant reforms.

Hence, these tiny stories, which people who actually read the news closely have known about for years, are nothing. Tiny, insignificant. Really, after all of this, the fact that diplomats are trying to find out whose in the North Korean delegation to the UN is plain and simple, nothing. A drop in the bucket as compared to the titanic, tumultuous events that have happened in the last 14 years.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:26 PM on December 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't understand why so many people care about "What Assange want?".
I am more interested in what Assange did.

I believe that anything about Assange is a way to look away from Wikileaks.
posted by bru at 7:28 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sterling has never been that much of a cheerleader for right-on causes. Which is good, really, because cheerleaders rarely tell you as interesting things.

Well, he seems to be cheering for the 'grownups,' and he's not telling us anything terribly interesting. So I guess we agree.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:29 PM on December 22, 2010


Yeah, ChurchHatesTucker, I hear you. Sterling comes across as an apologist for American imperialism in this piece. And not even a very coherent apologist.

I mean, comparing what Assange did to U.S. diplomats to what Bush did to the Iraqi civilians? Seriously? Causing people who are complicit in lying/covering up torture public embarrassment is somehow equivalent to causing death, crippling disabilities, and PTSD to ordinary people just trying to live their lives?

At times it sounds like Sterling is saying, yes, the U.S. has done bad things ("briskly repressed" Communists, for example) and nations are violent entities, but we can't risk any actual change because of course the revolutionaries are worse and who knows what would happen? It would probably be worse! It's like reading what Henry Kissinger would say or something.

And all that talk of the melancholy of empires in decline, and how Sterling feels sorry for everyone (except apparently the actual victims of U.S. imperialism, those "Iraqi civilians" who he only mentions as a metaphor that tries to somehow paint Assange as the moral equivalent to Bush)... it reminds me of those articles that are pretty transparently trying to get the public to feel sorry for rich people because, oh no, they are so sad because they had to sell their third yacht or something.
posted by overglow at 7:29 PM on December 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I am unconvinced that WL will have any impact at all on how diplomats phrase their communiques.

So, there was a leak. So what? All that's in the past. Assuming that diplomats will act as though everything they say from now on is in the public eye? Ridiculous.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:30 PM on December 22, 2010


@ Odin'sdream: How about "not surprised" instead? Does that work better for you? While none of us knew specifics beforehand, I'm reasonably certain that most intelligent people assumed that our government was engaged in those TYPES of activities long before the release of the cables. It takes a startingly naive view of the world to get all ZOMG! about the content of that information. The only people who did were State Department officials and the mainstream media. The former because of The Emperor's New Clothes effect and the latter, because stirring up controversy and outrage over something is what they do.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:31 PM on December 22, 2010


The cables remind me of Pascalli's Island. In that story Pascalli is a spy for the Ottoman Empire in its final years, diligently filing reports the Sultan, never once receiving any acknowledgement that they were read.

The sad truth is that some disclosure of these cables would make the US Dept of State far more relevant. The fact that most of them are never shared beyond a small cadre of people and never read by the policy makers they were intended for is pretty tragic. I mean the stuff about the underground youth parties in Saudi Arabia, or the human rights situation in Rio's slums is really valuable journalism. It is stupid that so much of it is locked away. I do think that secrets and confidential information is important, but I also know that most of these cables were just sitting on a hard drive somewhere unread and unacknowledged.
posted by humanfont at 7:33 PM on December 22, 2010


most intelligent people assumed that our government was engaged in those TYPES of activities long before the release of the cables

And most intelligent people thought Nixon was a slimy motherfucker, but that doesn't make Watergate a non-story, though lord knows if it broke today there'd be no shortage of people rushing onto Metafilter to dismiss it as just that with the oh-so-much-more-worldly-than-thou air they practice in front of their mirrors.
posted by enn at 7:36 PM on December 22, 2010 [26 favorites]


As an example, this link goes to a story on preadator direct strikes in Yemen in 2005 http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=755961&tqkw=&tqshow=WN

Australian TV ran one in 2004. This has been known for years.

This is what blows me away. Less here, but you go on Reddit, where this guy is worshipped, and they are amazed about the X, Y, Z "revelations" from wikileaks. Invariably, anyone who has followed the news closely has known about this for years.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:47 PM on December 22, 2010


This isn't THE Bruce Sterling, right? Because I don't recognize this guy. Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention lately and missed where he became enamored of the NSA because... they keep it to themselves. Or have haircuts and medical benefits(?!) Or whatever.

He's actually been that way a long time. From what I remember it was about the same time he caught his first computer virus, maybe a little bit later than that. Mid-late 90s, certainly.
posted by scalefree at 7:48 PM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, and that piece gives the lie to Sterling's descriptions of Assange as basically just an old-school black-hat hacker scaled up

Sterling has read Assange's works closely, and he's no dummy, so he knows what Assange's ideology is. But yes, he pretends Assange has none, or if he does it's beside the point.

Sterling also says "I feel sorry for" a lot of people in this article. Who does he feel sorry for?

° "American prosecutorial lawyers" trying to trump up a case
° "people in power" who are panicked by transparency
° "diplomats henceforth" who will have to fear more public scrutiny
° "some American diplomats" that Sterling has met socially

Who doesn't he feel sorry for?

° Bradley Manning, trapped in solitary confinement.
° Julian Assange, facing trials in two countries
° Alienated "programmers, mathematicians, potheads and science fiction fans"

Of course I'm supposed to read this all in the context of sympathy for rivals and critique of friends. But I think it's more honest at face value.
posted by clarknova at 7:55 PM on December 22, 2010 [17 favorites]


Oh my!, so much wailing and mashing of teeth; I do hope Mr. Sterling's pearls are ok.

On preview:
But Sterling again has it right--turns out the government is being honest with us--and there are few surprises.

Pardon my Anglo-Saxon, but bull-fucking-shit! It's a surprise to me that:
posted by MikeKD at 7:58 PM on December 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


I guess I shouldn't be surprised any more by the persistent misrepresentation of what Assange is after. No matter how many times you repeat "The goal is justice, transparency is just a means to an end", people with a vested interest in the status quo will reframe you as a radical advocate for transparency. Here, Bruce Sterling claims to read the tea leaves to divine the deep mystery of Assange's motivations based on Bruce's familiarity with other people who he thinks resemble him. Maybe could we dispense with the crystal ball and actually read what Assange has written about what he is doing and listen to his public statements? 4chan and the hacker community could also learn something, since they've rallied around him as a symbol for an orthodox hacker ideology that he actually seems disagree with, and has ejected people from his organization for inflexibly adhering to. And for good reason, because the hacker philosophy was never genuinely radical or subversive, it never adopted any political position like justice, it stuck to the safe waters of meta-politics: information should be available, politics should be conducted transparently, all voices should be heard, etc.

Assange sticks his head above this bland crowd of empty slogan-chanters and dares to stand for something, and this cannot stand, liberals and progressives shout him down because they've accepted Hollywood's ideological framing of evil as the sincere non-ironic attachment to a belief. Every movie villain believes in a cause, the good ordinary people ultimately defeat him, but not in the name some other true belief, but simply to preserve the status quo, so that the neoliberal capitalist system should continue unmolested. The failure of the Democratic party to offer any true alternative is therefore not the fault of craven centrists, blue dogs, etc., rather it is the left wing who is playing at radical politics while secretly depending on the fact that the "sensible" moderates will win out in the end. They'll write a lengthy blog post complaining that Obama hasn't done enough to free us from the corporate oligarchy, then we step out to catch a matinee and cheer the defeat of a fantasy villain by the forces of the status quo.

No wonder that every liberal Wikileaks opponent or advocate for the importance of discretion and secrecy eventually outs themselves as a believer that the US as a force for good in the world. One huge benefit is that the Wikileaks issue is a line in the sand for the left, we know where you stand.
posted by AlsoMike at 7:58 PM on December 22, 2010 [33 favorites]


The Wikileaks method punishes a nation -- or any human undertaking -- that falls short of absolute, total transparency, which is all human undertakings, but perversely rewards an absolute lack of transparency. Thus an iron-shut government doesn't have leaks to the site, but a mostly-open government does.

That Atlantic article hits home. People need to think what the actual implications of these things are.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:00 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thus an iron-shut government doesn't have leaks to the site, but a mostly-open government does.

The argument presumably being that we should just shut up and allow our government all the benefits of an 'iron-shut' regime, because if we start to push back then they'll have to throw off the pretense.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:04 PM on December 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Here, Bruce Sterling claims to read the tea leaves to divine the deep mystery of Assange's motivations based on Bruce's familiarity with other people who he thinks resemble him. Maybe could we dispense with the crystal ball and actually read what Assange has written about what he is doing and listen to his public statements? ...

liberals and progressives shout him down because they've accepted Hollywood's ideological framing of evil as the sincere non-ironic attachment to a belief.


Do me a favor. If you are going to call Sterling out for using a crystal ball to assume what Assange wants, don't tell me why I believe what I believe. Read what I say, instead of doing the very thing you decry in Sterling.

No wonder that every liberal Wikileaks opponent or advocate for the importance of discretion and secrecy eventually outs themselves as a believer that the US as a force for good in the world.

If you think about it, this is the black and white view, not ours. The US is a force of good and evil, like any other human institution. It isn't all bad or all good. The world is complex and shades of gray. Assange seems to see none of this. His world view seems simplistic, and the idea that just releasing en masse, reams of data will help more than harm is childlike.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:16 PM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Joe Biden, US Vice President, on damage from Wikileaks:
I don't think there's any damage. I don't think there's any substantive damage, no. Look, some of the cables are embarrassing . . . but nothing that I'm aware of that goes to the essence of the relationship that would allow another nation to say: 'they lied to me, we don't trust them, they really are not dealing fairly with us.'
Robert M. Gates, current US Secretary of Defense and former Director of Central Intelligence (head of the CIA) on damage from Wikileaks:
Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments — some governments — deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.

So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another.

Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.
posted by NortonDC at 8:16 PM on December 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Yes , Sterling and Lanier are both trying to connect Assange to the political arm of "hacker culture", this makes sense as both guys are very rooted in pre web computer culture. Sterling through real or ideologial associations with Tim May and the cypherpunk list. Lanier through association with the EFF. The orthodox ideology is something like " infinite privacy for individuals by ubiquitous crypto, total transparency for governments." Hackers, like most technical people, look for technical solutions first, and ignore human issues. The problem of repression by governments spawns remailers, freenet, pgp. Repression by corporations spawns ddos attacks.

I get the sense that they are both saying "you wanted transparency , this is what it looks like. ." That Assange is sort of fufilling the promise of the cypherpunks and hacker culture in general. But that hacker culture never cared about injustice or the life and death struggle many people face every day.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:19 PM on December 22, 2010


"... One huge benefit is that the Wikileaks issue is a line in the sand for the left, we know where you stand."
posted by AlsoMike at 7:58 PM on December 22

So, um, are y'all keeping files on us, or a list, or something that should be leaked to the media? Or, should we just wait, quaking in our beds, for some jack booted liberal leftists to come 'round and collect those of us on the "wrong" side of some "line in the sand" that you're drawing, for questioning?

And by the way, what are your qualifications and licenses for sand line architecture?
posted by paulsc at 8:20 PM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Take one instance where we were fully aware that Nigeria's government was infiltrated by oil industry players who reported all of the government's moves to headquarters so the government could not effectively govern. That sentiment at it's core is anti-democratic. The State Department should have immediately punished the oil company and made it public. Instead, it's buried and ignored in the interest of profits for the American corporation.

Royal Dutch Shell is owned by the, wait for it... Dutch.
posted by Cyrano at 8:20 PM on December 22, 2010


The US did not collude with China to sabotage climate talks. The US and China worked to get support for a diplomatic accord that they thought their countries and other could accept. Even with the modest targets in the accord our diplomats had to do quite a bit of arm twisting to get anywhere. There are lots of countries that don't give a crap at all about AGW, even though they should. The Copenhagen Accord is a step up from Kyoto in that it gets the US and China to commit to emissions targets For 2020. Previously China had no cap, and much of the European savings in co2 emissions had ended up with China just taking on production.
posted by humanfont at 8:29 PM on December 22, 2010


Royal Dutch Shell is owned by the, wait for it... Dutch.


This is grinding for GP and HP in the beginner levels.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:34 PM on December 22, 2010


Or, should we just wait, quaking in our beds, for some jack booted liberal leftists to come 'round and collect those of us on the "wrong" side of some "line in the sand" that you're drawing, for questioning?

Talk dirty to me.
posted by clarknova at 8:35 PM on December 22, 2010


What makes the Wikileaks story important is not so much the content of the cables, but that those cables have been made public. I have not heard the State Department vociferiously dispute the cables' contents. What has their knickers in a twist is that they can't be coy about what their doing anymore. As Sterling notes, diplomacy relies on a certain amount of "we all know this posturing is bullshit but we're going to pretend it's not because otherwise we're held accountable for our actions."

The cables are embarrassing for State, but its not going to change the fact that our government will continue to do shady things at home and abroad. All Wikileaks changes is that they can't make up children's stories to explain why we're allied with some insane autocratic government in Lower Bezerkistan. "It's in our interests to do so." End of Story.

And on preview, what NortonDC posted.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:44 PM on December 22, 2010


I'm reading, utterly baffled as to where all this misery is coming from and then I see this, "guys who aspire to topple the international order"....What?

Who's trying to topple the international order? No-one. Not Wikileaks. A piece about scary, banal people who live in their heads written by someone who is making shit up. Wow.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 8:49 PM on December 22, 2010


It does raise an interesting question -- what exactly does a guy like Julian Assange want?

he wants people to follow his example - wherever they might be, whatever information that those in power don't want everyone to know that they have access to - he wants the beans to be spilled - he wants the same kind of attitude towards secret governmental and corporate information that the warez groups have towards software and digital rights management - crack it, release it and ensure those who want it have access to it

wikileaks could stand to learn a few things from the warez groups about distribution of information that the powers that be don't want distributed

it occurs to me that assange may not consciously want this, or hasn't thought this through - but if he really wants to change things, he should say this -

"look, you can do this, too - why aren't you?"

bruce sterling disappoints me, as he really should have thought of this
posted by pyramid termite at 9:14 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sterling is the second person I've seen link WikiLeaks to cypherpunks in the last few days; the first one was John Young. If Young is to be believed, a list of some of the people behind WikiLeaks is right here. Not sure if Young is full of it, but it's certainly something to think about.
posted by ryoshu at 9:19 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lesser known cypherpunk, a young AdHominem. Most of these guys were or are the sort of fringe libertarians that made me very uncomfortable, mixed in with the actually very non technical crypto boosterism you could get your fill of rants about ruby ridge, info on ceramic body armor for when the man came knocking. But yeah EFF/cypherpunks/wikileaks are separated by a matter of degree. Like I said I think the EFF offered a lot of support for arrested hackers in the early days around the time of operation sundevil.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:30 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Royal Dutch Shell is owned by the, wait for it... Dutch.

Really? Huh. I was under the impression that it was a multinational corporation owned by international shareholders, formed from the merger of two companies--one Dutch and one British--and run by a Swiss dude.

But it's owned by the Dutch, you say? Well, I learn something new every day!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:31 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


".... Who's trying to topple the international order? ..."
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 11:49 PM on December 22

From clarknova's link:
“To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.”

Julian Assange, “State and Terrorist Conspiracies”
By "remove," Assange may not, in a charitable reading, be talking about armed revolt, or, perhaps, he may. But just because Assange himself may be banal, doesn't mean his image, efforts, and writings in service of such "goals" aren't dangerous to mainstream society, in much the same ways radical right writings have proven, distilled through the likes of Tim McVeigh. I think that's a fair reading of some of Sterling's points in this article, and I agree with him about that.

Since the Romans took Pontius Pilate's word that Christ was guilty of something worth a death sentence, however, some caution has been warranted regarding direct responses by governments, against prophets/social theorists. The mechanisms of Wikileaks, in strange contrast, may be the end of that...
posted by paulsc at 9:31 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it did use all of the cables for blackmail. Encrypted copies were sent around the world, creating what is known as a "dead man switch." It was claimed that the encrypted cables contained genuinely dangerous information. Under certain circumstances the key would be released.

that's from lanier's article - and it's occurred to me that perhaps the encrypted "insurance" file does not have any newsworthy, bolt from the blue, revelations at all

perhaps just accounts and passwords

and i believe the fallacy in lanier's argument that a totally open information regime would result in dictatorship in response to anarchy is that it is much easier to maintain a repressive system when one can adopt the pretense that those under it are free, have power and agency, and are able to influence what governments do - augustus caesar knew this, which is why he carefully adopted the public persona of someone who "consulted" closely with the senate, when behind the scenes, he ruthlessly dictated what he wanted done

by requiring repressiveness from the state in order to control things, the true nature of the power relationship is revealed and the reaction to this control can be much more severe and radical

not that i think assange has thought about this deeply - he's from the spaghetti school of political hacking - throw it at the refrigerator and see if it sticks

but those who choose to follow him may be more sophisticated
posted by pyramid termite at 9:35 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Assange may not, in a charitable reading, be talking about armed revolt..."

"May not". "Charitable reading". "Armed revolt".

So as a Wikileaks supporter I'm supporting a plan to topple the US government with force if necessary. Y'know, this is why I'm never visiting the States again: some of you guys have no idea how to tell the difference between a terrorist and a dissident.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:41 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


"... Y'know, this is why I'm never visiting the States again: some of you guys have no idea how to tell the difference between a terrorist and a dissident."
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 12:41 AM on December 23

M'kay, I'll play along. What's your reading of "remove" so different in meaning from "change" in the above quoted Assange statement, as to warrant explicit inclusion by Assange? Because if you want to refocus the interests of governments and society by democratic means, you generally aim to change them through electoral process. You only talk about "removing" governments or their functionaries, if you don't believe in democratic means as being sufficient for your goals...
posted by paulsc at 9:49 PM on December 22, 2010


Because if you want to refocus the interests of governments and society by democratic means, you generally aim to change them through electoral process. You only talk about "removing" governments or their functionaries, if you don't believe in democratic means as being sufficient for your goals...

*coughIRAQcough*
posted by Sys Rq at 9:51 PM on December 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


And, I mean, really, is informing the electorate about the actions of their government really so anti-democratic?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:54 PM on December 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


"Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove."

The word is "behavior". But at least now I know what the fuck people are so worried about: nothing. As usual.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:55 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


*coughIRAQcough*
posted by Sys Rq at 9:51 PM on December 22

I'll be the first to admit that the U.S. wound up in Iraq, the second time, for a lot of the wrong reasons, including a lot of hang over from the first Gulf War, and major diplomatic and intelligence failures. But if you're trying to suggest that there were any effective democratic institutions in Saddam's government which could have been effective changed by internal Iraqi democratic means prior to U.S. intervention, you're gonna have to start, for me, at a more basic level than atoms and quarks...
posted by paulsc at 9:58 PM on December 22, 2010


Another interesting aspect is the odd connections between Adrian Lamo , Kevin Poulsen and Manning. If sterling is to be believed, Assange is in with the CCC, Lamo and Poulsen would have known Assange from way back.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:59 PM on December 22, 2010


"But if you're trying to suggest that there were any effective democratic institutions in Saddam's government which could have been effective changed by internal Iraqi democratic means prior to U.S. intervention"

You people and your interventions. The arrogance.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:03 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The word is "behavior". But at least now I know what the fuck people are so worried about: nothing. As usual."
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 12:55 AM on December 23

Okay, and hence my nod to charitable readings. But, um, why does Assange need to echo "remove" with "effective" in his final sentence? "Effective," as you may know, is kind of a charged word in radical circles, right and left... Why that word? Why the parallelism of that construction?

Meaningless rhetorical flourish?
posted by paulsc at 10:06 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it's owned by the Dutch, you say? Well, I learn something new every day!

I'm sorry. I'm a little too Inside Baseball with the company and phrased that poorly. I meant "owned" in the sense of "run by."
posted by Cyrano at 10:10 PM on December 22, 2010


>Royal Dutch Shell is owned by the, wait for it... Dutch.

$8,120,000 was spent in 2010 on lobbyists in the United States by... wait for it... wait for it... Royal Dutch Shell.

One of the five companies that got a chunk of Anglo Iranian Oil company after Iran was overthrown in a US/UK sponsored coup in Iran was... wait for it... wait for it... Royal Dutch Shell.

What company has been awarded billions of dollars in defense contracts through a series of subsidiaries in the United States? Wait for it... wait for it... Royal Dutch Shell.

Thanks for playing.
posted by notion at 10:10 PM on December 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


Meaningless rhetorical flourish?
Rhetoric far more inflammatory than this gets routinely thrown around by people running for national office.

Your bogeyman is in another castle.
posted by lumensimus at 10:11 PM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Read what I say, instead of doing the very thing you decry in Sterling.

I wasn't writing about you, so I'm not sure why you are volunteering to be my target. In any case, I'm trying to demonstrate that the usual rationales for opposing Wikileaks depend on characterizing Assange in ways that don't resemble his actual stated views in the least, and his opponents seem to be immune to correction. This cries out for an explanation, and mine is that he is being assigned an opinion for the convenience of his opponents to knock down because they don't want to come out as apologists for the status quo. If Sterling had some reason to doubt the sincerity of Assange's ideas, that would be fine with me, but it looks like he hasn't even read them, so instead he's saying "Oh ya, reminds me of a guy I knew once, here's what's wrong..."

If you think about it, this is the black and white view, not ours. The US is a force of good and evil, like any other human institution. It isn't all bad or all good.

I think it's possible to understand complexity and shades of gray, and also believe that the situation is dark enough to warrant radical change.

paulsc: So, um, are y'all keeping files on us, or a list, or something that should be leaked to the media?

I think many liberals like to complain that our votes don't matter, etc., but when push comes to shove they reveal themselves as defenders of the status quo, and this is symptomatic of a concealed investment in the system that persists despite all the superficial calls for change. The point of drawing the line is not to round people up, but to bring this fact to the fore, so that we stop kidding ourselves - it's not the all-powerful corporate oligarchs, nor media brainwashing that's the problem.

(But don't worry, I will also make a special request that all bourgeois liberal MeFiers get assigned to one of the more comfortable reeducation camps!)
posted by AlsoMike at 10:11 PM on December 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


But if you're trying to suggest that there were any effective democratic institutions in Saddam's government which could have been effective changed by internal Iraqi democratic means prior to U.S. intervention

I'm not. I am suggesting, however, that opposing the dissemination of information held secret by a government that regularly assassinates foreign heads of state on the grounds that said dissemination of said information is supposedly anti-democratic is COMPLETELY FUCKED IN THE HEAD.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:12 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


You are saying Julian Assange wants to topple to the US government. It amazes me that people who care so much for attention to detail can come up with statements of wrongness so profound I now clearly understand why America is a retarded empire.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:14 PM on December 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hence, these tiny stories, which people who actually read the news closely have known about for years, are nothing. Tiny, insignificant. Really, after all of this, the fact that diplomats are trying to find out whose in the North Korean delegation to the UN is plain and simple, nothing. A drop in the bucket as compared to the titanic, tumultuous events that have happened in the last 14 years.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:26 PM on December 22, 2010


This is exactly what is wrong with the press today. They basically just make shit up.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:17 AM on February 26, 2008


Which one of you should I believe?
posted by notion at 10:18 PM on December 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


$8,120,000 was spent in 2010 on lobbyists in the United States by... wait for it... wait for it... Royal Dutch Shell.

One of the five companies that got a chunk of Anglo Iranian Oil company after Iran was overthrown in a US/UK sponsored coup in Iran was... wait for it... wait for it... Royal Dutch Shell.

What company has been awarded billions of dollars in defense contracts through a series of subsidiaries in the United States? Wait for it... wait for it... Royal Dutch Shell.

Thanks for playing.


And all of those decisions were made in The Hague or Rijswijk.
posted by Cyrano at 10:21 PM on December 22, 2010


"... You people and your interventions. The arrogance."
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 1:03 AM on December 23

"You people"????

Chuckle.

On behalf of the at least 154 million other Americans who, at any second of any minute, surely think I'm a braying idiot, and whose right to their misguided opinions of me I personally, simultaneously, and constantly support, I assure you that I don't speak for anybody else, but myself. But that's just the believer in small "d" democracy in me, writing.


"You people" Heh.
posted by paulsc at 10:23 PM on December 22, 2010


I assure you that I don't speak for anybody else, but myself

Who does your government speak for?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:24 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bullshit. This is utter bullshit. This has nothing to do with Assange (who has made his goals pretty clear) and everything to do with a stereotype that Sterling has built up in his head (complete with a list of big words to make him sound smarter while describing it). Sterling is completely unable to see the larger context (who cares if he feels sad for the diplomats, when the US is engaged in wars around the world). This is just more sophistry, designed to distract people from reality

I am surprised to see so many here think that this is a worthwhile article.
posted by ssg at 10:29 PM on December 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


"You are saying Julian Assange wants to topple to the US government."
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 1:14 AM on December 23

Nope. I'm saying that his writings, as quoted, at least give cover to radicals supporters who might, and that my reading of Sterling's article suggests as much also, and that such suggestions may be worth consideration by the public, and by governments and others involved.
posted by paulsc at 10:30 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Who does your government speak for?"
posted by Sys Rq at 1:24 AM on December 23

1 minute after it is sworn in, for itself. Because that's about how long it takes before I and 200 million other Americans start arguing with it, suing it, and trying to replace it. The American government is not, as Assange maintains, one of many "regimes [that] do not want to be changed."

Indeed, it's a regularly changed wart on our society, whom we're rarely proud of, and constantly willing to rethink. But only in the public arenas of discussion, and at our ballot boxes. Moreover, it is charged with maintaining the means of its own change (the judiciary, the Congress, the ballot and electoral schedules) and of regularly challenging its own survival in a democratic process so tightly argued that it has wound up, in living memory, at the highest level, in the highest court it supports.

What other country has a better record of adherence to process in tough circumstances?
posted by paulsc at 10:42 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


"... Rhetoric far more inflammatory than this gets routinely thrown around by people running for national office. ..."
posted by lumensimus at 10:11 PM on December 22

By all means, call 'em on their BS, as you find it. But this thread is about Sterling's article, and calling Assange on his.
posted by paulsc at 10:53 PM on December 22, 2010


And all of those decisions were made in The Hague or Rijswijk.

No, US defense contracts and CIA covert actions are not formulated in The Hague or Rijswijk. The lobbyists were hanging out on K street, not in the Netherlands.
posted by notion at 10:55 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, you're calling Assange on his bullshit by paying no attention to what he actually says, which is bullshit. Your arguments lack all integrity.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:56 PM on December 22, 2010


I can't find a full archive but cryptome has archives of many of Assange's posts to the cypherpunk list.

The crypto anarchy manifesto Tim May posted to the list
posted by Ad hominem at 10:57 PM on December 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Poring over stylistic elements of Assange's writings à la The Da Vinci Code, expecting it to offer up some vaguely violent subtext is ridiculous. There is no dog whistle here. The paragraph you cite easily boils down to

- figure out what behaviors of governments or corporations ought to be changed
- use technology in new and clever ways
- establish a clear narrative
- don't give up

That's called political engagement.
posted by lumensimus at 11:06 PM on December 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


Because if you want to refocus the interests of governments and society by democratic means, you generally aim to change them through electoral process.

It's a lot easier to do that if you know what your government is doing.
posted by rodgerd at 11:12 PM on December 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


Nice article. Some of his melancholy is for Bradley Manning and Assange, but his general sense of melancholy seems to be because ... the internet ('transparency') is now coming up against the big powers ('nsa', etc), challenging the status quo and thats going to get messy. Am I reading this right?
posted by memebake at 11:16 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Assange on MSNBC earlier tonight.

"If we are to have a civil society, we cannot have senior people making calls on national TV to go around the judiciary and illegally murder people... that is not a country that obeys the rule of law."
posted by notion at 11:17 PM on December 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


"... Your arguments lack all integrity."
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:56 PM on December 22

I've quoted Assange verbatim, questioned his choice of vocabulary, and his choice of construction, and opined that such choices are reasonably admitting various meanings, and even of nefarious motives, if not directly, than as a means of encouraging supporters, which is a point Sterling makes, in language choice and construction, just as obliquely:
"... So Wikileaks is a manifestation of something that this has been growing all around us, for decades, with volcanic inexorability. The NSA is the world’s most public unknown secret agency. And for four years now, its twisted sister Wikileaks has been the world’s most blatant, most publicly praised, encrypted underground site.

Wikileaks is “underground” in the way that the NSA is “covert”; not because it’s inherently obscure, but because it’s discreetly not spoken about.

The NSA is “discreet,” so, somehow, people tolerate it. Wikileaks is “transparent,” like a cardboard blast shack full of kitchen-sink nitroglycerine in a vacant lot. ..."
You can disagree with the conclusions Sterling is arguing, or my analyses of Assange's writing, but to say that my arguments "lack all integrity" is kind of like tossing sand in the bull's eyes, isn't it?
posted by paulsc at 11:18 PM on December 22, 2010


"... That's called political engagement."
posted by lumensimus at 2:06 AM on December 23

And it is easier to call it that, I suppose, when you completely leave out words like "remove" and "effective." Perhaps you should write Assange, suggesting that.
posted by paulsc at 11:21 PM on December 22, 2010


If you keep playing with those words you'll go blind.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 11:26 PM on December 22, 2010


Indeed, it's a regularly changed wart on our society, whom we're rarely proud of, and constantly willing to rethink. But only in the public arenas of discussion, and at our ballot boxes.

If this were true, we wouldn't be arguing. Because the CIA, State Department, and Pentagon do not have public discussions that are then put up for a vote. They unilaterally make decisions on our behalf, first without consulting us, second without any review by another part of the government, and third denying us access to raw information even after the fact.

What other country has a better record of adherence to process in tough circumstances?

The United States before the end of WWII and the establishment of the conspiratorial military-congressional-industrial complex that denies our Constitutional right to know what our tax dollars are used for.
posted by notion at 11:33 PM on December 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


"If you keep playing with those words you'll go blind."
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 2:26 AM on December 23

Oh please, I don't wanna go blind! How about I "play" with words from Assange's quote in his first sentence.
"To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed."
Why use charged words like "radically," "boldly" and "regime" if you're not potentially code switching to a particular audience?
posted by paulsc at 11:43 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Code switching? Just how paranoid are you?
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 11:45 PM on December 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Secret messages. That's just sad.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 11:48 PM on December 22, 2010


This is one of the more nuanced commentaries on the whole affair that I've seen so far, and rather close to my own position. It has indeed been a long time coming; I met Sterling socially around 1991 because I had encountered his name while learning about public key cryptography, and it so happened he was coming to London to do a book signing.

At the time, a guy called Phil Zimmerman had just published an algorithm for something called Pretty Good Privacy, which gave anyone with a computer access to the sort of cryptographic tools that were considered state of the art at the time. There were restrictions on distribution of cryptographic software (which the US government classed as a sort of munition) which Zimmerman eventually put to rest by publishing the source in a book under color of the first amendment. But in the meantime it was whizzing all over the internet and people were using it just because they could. Distribution was a lot more haphazard back then; the web didn't exist yet so Usenet (a forum) and Archie & Veronica (primitive search engines) were often used to distribute material piecewise, from open-source software to porn (surprise). Linux had just appeared as a kind of Unix that anyone could use on a PC, which added to the feeling of walls having come down. I was not particularly into crypto, but I was involved with lobbying to prevent a bulletin board tax in the UK and so had established loose contacts with something called the Electronic Frontier Foundation over in the US.

At the time, it seemed like we were headed for an era of ever-expanding freedom. And in many ways, that was correct - especially from a technological point of view. The phone I have now is more powerful than any individual computers I used for work back then, for example. But economically, socially, and politically, things tend to move by fits and starts. Sometimes the technology arrives quite a bit earlier than anyone can think of what to do with it; a lot of people couldn't wrap their heads around the concept of the internet in the early 90s, because their reference point was the telephone network and they assumed this internet thing must therefore be the property of a similar entity. For the technically savvy, the conflict between the established order and the disruptive potential of the internet was fairly obvious; what was less obvious was the commercial potential of the web, which made it practical to browse endlessly rather than the more focused activity of looking for something specific or pulling down email and news twice a day.

I suspect that a lot of the more apocalyptically-minded crypto-warriors who installed PGP and then encrypted everything email they sent just to emphasize the fact that they could were infuriated to see their dangerous-but-exciting digital playground get turned into a community center and later a mall and what-all else. It's hard to maintain the pioneer mentality of living on the digital frontier when your relatives are sending you photos of fluffy the cat, and it's equally frustrating to contemplate that although people (in the developed world at least) have near-instant access to more information about their government, legal system, and economy that the President of the goddam United States did back in 1991, most of them spend their time reading and writing things like '@friendlist got my hand stuck in the toaster, I iz on fire LOL,' rather than bringing about the techno-rapture of the singularity, recreating Athenian democracy on a global scale, or even bothering to vote.

There's no evil global conspiracy that's responsible for this situation; it's just that our technological capability has begun to progress faster and more predictably than humanity's ability to adapt on an institutional and social level. Consider that when the US was first established as a nation in its own right, the prevailing political model involved an aristocratic monarch who headed the state for the length of his or occasionally her lifetime. Changes to that order were usually the result of assassination or war, something the incumbents were generally anxious to avoid. Where parliamentary systems existed, they were (and mostly remain) subject to longer terms of office and dissolution only under specific conditions. For the US to go down the republican path was radical enough; the idea of switching out the executive branch of the government every 4 years and parts of the legislative branch every 2 years must have looked dizzyingly fast to the point of being inefficient - kind of like changing your shoes every time you walk into a different room. Nowadays we still stick with that political system, but for the last 20 years or so we've been increasingly aware that our computer power tends to double every 18 months. Not our whole society's computing power or anything like that, but the computers that we have on our desks or increasingly, in our pockets. About every 18 months or so, you can purchase about twice as much processing power for the same amount of money. Not everyone will want the best and latest and most expensive, but the low-powered junk computer that can be bought for $100 will double in power over the same period. Regardless of what price point you select, you can expect rapid and sustained exponential growth of processing power.

Think about that for a minute. A US senator is elected to serve for 6 years, and in the length of a single term the power of a computer (and by extension, the variety and scope of things that can be done with computers) has increased by a factor of 16. The laws of physics, economics, or industrial production haven't changed all that much (although they may get discovered more quickly or in greater detail), but large sectors of the economy have become 10-15 times more productive and competitive without any special cooperation on the part of the public. In sectors like finance which depend very heavily on calculation and where transfers involve changes of ownership rather than actually trucking bags of gold coins around, it's the equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. And that's in the length of a single senate term. Over the ~20 years that we're discussing the intersection of civil society and the internet, computers have become about 8000 times more powerful.

Eight. Thousand. Times. And that's just CPU power; when it comes to data storage capacities tend to double about every year. It's not because humans have suddenly become much more brilliant or necessarily begun running down our resources at a much faster rate (resource use has stayed surprisingly consistent with population, which has continued to level off gracefully to the surprise of many neo-malthusians). The primary reason for this exponential growth is that every time our computers get more powerful, they make it easier for use to design more complex computer technology, which we can easily sell because of the competitive advantage it delivers, and which in turn makes it easier to build faster technology again. All those transistors inside a modern CPU are placed there in accordance with mathematical rules; no human engineer has much direct input into or knowledge of exactly how they're laid out inside the chip, nor have they had for many years.

The last thing which had such a disruptive effect on the economy of industrialized nations was electricity; then the discovery of oil as a practical fuel source (thanks to various innovations from chemistry about how to refine it from an unpleasant black sludge into something that would ignite reliably). Prior to that was the discovery of steam engineering which resulted from the combination of coal and steel. Any economic input increasing in availability by a factor of 8000 over 20 years is going to be massively disruptive of its industry. With general-purpose innovations, you get massive disruptions of all industries. Steam led to factories, or mass availability of productive capacity (rather than being limited by concentrations of skilled workers); oil led to mass availability of high speed travel; electricity led to mass communications; electronics - after a long slow start - has led to a staggering expansion of calculating power, which process of course underlies a great deal of other human activities such as science, business, and so on. biotechnology will do the same in the future, although only about half of us will live to see it.

Now, the problem is that governance - the making and administration of laws - employs technology, but is not itself a technological process. Most of what is necessary to understand the existence of society, politics and the relationship between the individual and the state was summarized by Aristotle some 2500 years ago, and even his insights are considered by some as just the first in a long series of 'footnotes to Plato.' All our political words, and even the word 'politics' itself are derived from Greek, and most of our political and philosophical concepts were articulated in detail around the same time. The Athenians would be astonished by some of our technology, but would find our political problems entirely familiar - and a good many of our pretensions disingenuous. Governance itself is an intrinsically human process, and while the ends of government may be more easily realized with the aid of technology, the actual operations of government still boils down to a bunch of people having arguments about What Should We Do Now. The United States is an outlier in terms of its size and complexity; Europe has more people but their electoral franchise is considerably limited by comparison, China is not a democracy in any meaningful way, and India's political sophistication is limited by illiteracy and administrative dystrophy. But despite these and many other differences, the 200 or so nations of the world are more closely connected and mutually interdependent than at any time in the past, because technology tends to reduce barriers. The number of people in the world who are so far out of the mainstream that they are not aware of the existence of modern technology is rapidly approaching zero. About 50% of adults in Africa have cellphones now, because it turns out to be a lot more convenient and affordable to provide cell service than trying to build a wired telephone network. Texting is cheaper than talking but easy to learn, so Africa is developing a continental internet despite all the other technological and economic hurdles it faces - at staggering speed, considering the general lack of development in most of the continent a few decades ago.

So the ongoing shrinkage of the world by technology has now reached a decisive phase. All but the very poorest or most repressive nations are now able to participate in the same global communications network and people worldwide are converging on having a similar degree of access to information. The differences between a high speed computer terminal in Manhattan and a low-speed cellular one in the Congo are trivial in comparison to the difference between today's world and one without any internet or without telephony, because the cellphones and minimally capable computers in Africa are doubling in power every 18 months the same as they are here in the west, and each doubling in power halves the barriers to communication and information transfer, in general. It's not going to solve poverty or eliminate injustice overnight, because there's a lot more to society and an economy than just communication and access to knowledge. But just as today's internet is astonishingly capable and accessible to pretty much everyone in the developed world compared to the way things were back in the 1991, the internet of 2020 will provide at least as much functionality as we enjoy now to virtually the entire world.

The fact of everyone being on more or less the same network is a critical one, because it has a disintermediating effect. Things like aid agencies and other NGOs will still exist, but increasingly their activities will revolve around the delivery of skills or logistic capabilities, because their traditional roles of communication and distribution (both of information and economic currency) will have been subsumed by technology. After many years of people in the developed world saying that handing out aid to developing countries was no substitute for them building up their own economies, the west has found itself singularly ill-prepared for the realities of global industrial competition and rather alarmed by the relatively sudden evaporation of its main competitive advantages (literacy, infrastructure, technological superiority). Put simply, we did not expect the rest of the rest of the world to catch up as quickly as it has, and many countries that looked grindingly primitive when we were growing up are now at a level of development that we can recognize from our own experience, not least because people there have been able to skip a lot of the intermediate stages in technological development. If you can get some sort of bare bones laptop computer and internet service, for example, there's no particular need to recreate the experience of black-and-white TV or the fax machine. You can just cut straight to the good stuff.

This disintermediation provides tremendous opportunities for economic and social development; but it also significantly undermines a lot of our institutional structures, resulting in a fragmentation of political consensus and frequent polarization of those with competing or conflicting interests. A prime example, much joked about here on MeFi, is the difference between the quality of debate we like to take part in and the mind-boggling stupidity of 'discussion' in comments on YouTube or indeed most newspaper websites. I've actually got set up my browser to just not display any of the comment sections on news sites I visit regularly because it's so terminally stupid. And much as I love MeFi, it's a lightweight social diversion by professional or academic standards (you'll be relieved to know I won't have as much time for reading or posting in the new year). This stupidity is not due to any government, corporate, ancient or alien conspiracy: it's the simple fact observed by John Gabriel that a normal person, given both anonymity and an audience, frequently behaves like a 'total fuckwad.' It was depressing but not surprising that the first runaway commercial success in the iPhone App Store was a $1.99 'utility' for making fart noises. The kind of people who think this a worthwhile use of their money are not likely to make sophisticated or even meaningful voting decisions, and it was for this reason that Aristotle classed pure democracy as a degraded form of constitutional government, and suggested that the idea state might be better off with a mixed system in which several different kinds of governance would exist in parallel with varying degrees of electoral franchise. The three-legged stool of executive, legislative and judicial branches checking and balancing each other meets this goal to some degree.

So whither WikiLeaks in all of this, for the 2.5 people who are still heroically reading? My feeling is that Assange's ability to effect positive change peaked earlier this year. At the outset, Wikileaks hosted a wide variety of different data, most of which was of extremely limited interest to the general public, but whose interest in good governance was well-served by a non-partisan verifiable document repository. (I am using the word 'interest' here in a technical sense of a legitimate claim; you have a civic interest in liberty and justice in the same way that you have a financial interest in the contents of a savings account.) Journalists could use the existence of Wikileaks reveal truths that government or corporate entities might prefer to conceal or suppress via the legal system and the commercial media. For a newspaper or TV station to break an unpopular story by citing secret documents which had come into their possession was often to invite the offices of the media outlet to be burglarized, raided, or destroyed and the journalists to face similar risks. But if the document was available to the entire world via Wikileaks, and the general public was sufficiently aware of Wikileaks as a disinterested organization devoted only to verifiable accuracy, then a crusading media outlet could publish its story, citing documents that were in Wikileaks' possession rather than their own, and thus not susceptible to the usual techniques of censorship or repression. It was like the philosopher's stone of journalism; ethical considerations of accuracy, credibility, neutrality and reliability were all satisfied at once, by a transnational actor seemingly immune from corruption or intimidation. This is less of a big deal in the developed world - where the press may not always be very good, but is almost completely free, legally speaking - but an absolutely huge innovation in countries where press freedom is limited and the popularity of a story or outlet with a domestic audience is not enough to guarantee legal safety. Up until this summer, Wikileaks enjoyed almost universal approval among professional journalists and media observers.

Then came 'collateral murder,' the video of an American military helicopter crew in Iraq shooting and killing several non-combatants in an incident which was later covered up. Most opponents of the Iraq war were naturally furious, and quick to defend Wikileaks' purpose and and methods of releasing the information...and that was where the problems began. There were two groups of people who were not happy about it, and supporters of Wikileaks failed to distinguish between them - as did Julian Assange, with whom I had some (very limited) private communications around this time. The first and larger group of people comprised those people who supported the war, or at any rate supported any and all military action carried out by the USA, and thought the USA and in particular its military should not be criticized - probably by anyone, anywhere, ever, but certainly not by some bunch of self-appointed internet truth commission. In short, conservative voters. The other and much smaller group consisted of people who thought the information itself was both valid and important, but objected strenuously to the editorializing in the video, from the title use of the word 'murder' to the moralistic and dramatic tone of the videos subtitles and general presentation. This group, which includes me, felt that the sudden shift towards advocacy and interpretation on Wikileaks' part severely compromised the evidentiary value of the material, and the widespread perception of Wikileaks' neutrality along with it.

You wouldn't call it a fair trial if the judge said 'Members of the jury, what is your verdict on this wicked murderer?' The judge, having listened to the same evidence that the jury had and much more besides that they hadn't, might well have such a firm opinion about the person on trial, and that opinion might be very well founded on the facts. But you still wouldn't call it a fair trial, because our modern conception of justice depends on the court maintaining a studied neutrality even if it knows the defendant is guilty. This is a relatively recent historical development, arguably not properly established until 1840 and still poorly understood outside of the legal profession. By presenting evidence with a conclusory fame, Wikileaks/Assange abandoned the painstakingly-built reputation for neutrality it had developed and moved from being an independent observer to an interested actor, from an informational to a judgmental position. In my view, this was a fatal mistake which drastically undermined the mission of the organization at a single stroke. I cannot know for sure, but this change seemed to originate with Julian Assange and be coincident with strains inside the organization - but the exact details of who did what and why are not really important, what mattered was shift in perceptions that resulted. The only concession in response to these criticisms was that the unedited version of the video was available too (with the implication that anyone who viewed it would be forced to arrive at the same conclusion, obviating any questions of bias).

With hindsight, I think the reason for this step was less a change in the attitude or purpose of the Wikileaks organization, but rather something much more mundane: a media outlet that was used to presenting textual information to a critical audience tried to do the same thing with video, and fell into the trap of imitating TV. Text is easy to read and jump through in non-linear fashion. Audio and video are bound in time, and if you don't know what you're looking at it's often very boring. To maintain interest, one must create suspense, and to create suspense one must set up expectations in the viewer's mind. In trying to explain to its intended audience why the video was important, Wikileaks erred by beginning with a statement of the conclusion it expected the audience to reach. In all likelihood, this was the error of someone who does not much like television, and thus watches very little of it - the result being a blunting of sensitivity to the nuances and conventions of television journalism, and a failure to appreciate how the material would be processed by a general audience.

The subsequent release of the various war longs could have rectified the error, but instead compounded it by employing no discrimination at all, even though the material released had the potential to identify a large number of people who were participants but not decision-makers or responsible parties. I won't rehash that debate which has been conducted at length here already; suffice it to say that people who were skeptical of Wikileaks following the video release became more so, and a perception that the organization was antagonistic to the US in particular began to grow, overshadowing the significance of the leaked content.

By now, we've arrived at the situation of 250,000 state department cables, which as of today is rumored to be out in the wild as a complete rather than a partial collection. We've gone from ~2000 documents over 3 weeks (which would have required most of the decade for the entire collection to emerge) to the possibility of having them all available for download by the public at once by this time tomorrow. Some of the leaked cables seem most interesting and/or significant; which ones and how and why depend heavily on your individual political views, but nobody will deny that some of the cables contain information whose release will serve the public interest. But a great deal of the information does not, and in some case its release may even undermine the public interest - again, where you draw the line about such matters depends on your political views.

The extremely broad scope and decreasing selectivity of the releases suggest that at this point we're seeing leaking for leaking's sake, without any real coherent purpose. To throw this amount of fuel in front of a politically adolescent public while characterizing it as generally wicked and poisonous (when a great deal of it is plainly quite bland) is really very much shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater. To riff off Sterling's metaphor, Wikileaks has gone from opening doors into dark places in the name of transparency, to smashing people's windows and calling in the same thing.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:51 PM on December 22, 2010 [59 favorites]


I think the increasing speed of the leaks might have something to do with being leaned on very, very hard.
posted by lumensimus at 12:04 AM on December 23, 2010


"... The United States before the end of WWII and the establishment of the conspiratorial military-congressional-industrial complex that denies our Constitutional right to know what our tax dollars are used for."
posted by notion at 2:33 AM on December 23

Oh, please, even the CIA says that's not true. As far back as the American Revolutionary war, even before there was an actual U.S. government, the American nation was getting and spending money covertly, sometimes on premises as thin as diplomatic promises by Ben Franklin to the French that the yet to solidify American nation was the party to back, and would eventually raise taxes, issue and pay on bonds, and create favorable trade agreements with allies who helped them against British force.

Nations tax, pay and account very differently than you seem to think, one man's conspiracy being another man's legitimate international interests.
posted by paulsc at 12:05 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


That was an odd time. Zimmerman almost went to jail over PGP. I don't think there were any public IPSec implementations and SSH didn't start till 95. People tattooed perl implementations of 3des on themselves because they thought the government would seize all the source somehow. There were, and probably still are, people who thought spam was a CIA plot to launch known plaintext attacks against ubiquitous crypto like free/swan.

I got on the cypherpunks list in 92 or 93 after someone who went to one of the meets in berkley told me about it. Many of them were luminaries in their fields. Tim May was the guy that discovered that cosmic rays could effect microchips. But I've never seen a bigger group of crackpots.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:10 AM on December 23, 2010


To maintain interest, one must create suspense, and to create suspense one must set up expectations in the viewer's mind. In trying to explain to its intended audience why the video was important, Wikileaks erred by beginning with a statement of the conclusion it expected the audience to reach. In all likelihood, this was the error of someone who does not much like television, and thus watches very little of it - the result being a blunting of sensitivity to the nuances and conventions of television journalism, and a failure to appreciate how the material would be processed by a general audience.

What TV journalism? The same journalists who are embedded, and thus owe their entire coverage to staying in the good graces of the US government? Or the TV journalism from other nations that less than 1% of Americans ever see?

And when there are pundits regularly comparing the Obama Administration to Nazis and Stalinists, can you say "nuances and conventions" with a straight face?

The subsequent release of the various war logs could have rectified the error, but instead compounded it by employing no discrimination at all, even though the material released had the potential to identify a large number of people who were participants but not decision-makers or responsible parties. . .

This is plainly false. Reports were redacted. The Pentagon and NATO have both said unequivocally that no person was put in danger.

By now, we've arrived at the situation of 250,000 state department cables, which as of today is rumored to be out in the wild as a complete rather than a partial collection. We've gone from ~2000 documents over 3 weeks (which would have required most of the decade for the entire collection to emerge) to the possibility of having them all available for download by the public at once by this time tomorrow. Some of the leaked cables seem most interesting and/or significant; which ones and how and why depend heavily on your individual political views, but nobody will deny that some of the cables contain information whose release will serve the public interest. But a great deal of the information does not, and in some case its release may even undermine the public interest - again, where you draw the line about such matters depends on your political views.

Public knowledge about public institutions rarely undermine public interest.

The extremely broad scope and decreasing selectivity of the releases suggest that at this point we're seeing leaking for leaking's sake, without any real coherent purpose. To throw this amount of fuel in front of a politically adolescent public while characterizing it as generally wicked and poisonous (when a great deal of it is plainly quite bland) is really very much shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater. To riff off Sterling's metaphor, Wikileaks has gone from opening doors into dark places in the name of transparency, to smashing people's windows and calling in the same thing.

You are basically making the argument that people cannot be trusted with democracy because they are too stupid. I completely disagree with you.
posted by notion at 12:12 AM on December 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


I was just thinking the other day that Assange is pretty similar to a character in Gibson's Bridge series. No wonder Gibson started writing books set in the present, we've basically caught up with a lot of the stuff he was writing about.
posted by delmoi at 12:15 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


From Ad Hominem's link, an exchange between Declan McCullaugh (libertarian, former Wired columnist) and Assange that bears on my point:

--------------

> I'm actually surprised to see Steve launch into a critique of laissez-faire
> capitalism here on cypherpunks, of all places. One can admit that
> globalization has ill effects (mostly, bricks through windows of Starbucks
> thrown by bored, upper-middle-class, college-age protesters), certainly.
> But when responding to claims that factory workers in poorer countries are
> only being paid $2/hour or whatnot, it makes sense to ask: Is this worse
> than their other alternatives, like mud huts in villages?
>
> To argue against people voluntarily entering into market-based transactions
> with each other is so a-economical and contrary to cypherpunk philosophies*
> -- wlel, I just don't think it's worth taking the time to go any further in
> a response.

Declan, Declan.

Put away your straw man. There are alternative's other than huts
and two dollars an hour (which is high, btw). Nobel ecconomic
laureates have been telling us for years to be careful about
idealised market models and to start looking at players not as mere
as capital and labour but as information processing nodes.

This years Nobel for Economics won by George A. Akerlof, A. Michael
Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz "for their analysis of markets with
assymetric information" is typical.

You don't need a Nobel to realise that the relationship between a
large employer and employee is brutally assymetric. One entity
knows far more about the rules of the negotiation than the other.
There's you as a prospective employee and then there's the local
workplace monopoly with hundreds of industrial relations lawyers,
psychologists, and other assorted strategists who'll hand you a
document thick with legalese and tell you where to sign. Without
a legal team, you'll never understand it or the political connections
backing it up. And even if you do there's a million other mugs to
choose from who won't.

To counter this sort of assymetry. Employees naturally start trying
to collectivise to increase their information processing and
bargaining power. That's right. UNIONS Declan. Those devious entities
that first world companies and governments have had a hand in
suppressing all over the third world by curtailing freedom of
association, speech and other basic political rights we take for
granted.

--------------

McCullaugh is probably correct that anti-capitalism is contrary to "cypherpunk philosophies". In this presentation (starting at 00:55), Nate Tkacz traces the history of openness to Karl Popper who mobilized it to justify free market capitalism, and of course Karl Popper was closely allied with Friedrich Hayek. So it's somewhat problematic for the Left to uncritically seize on openness as a principle, which Tkacz notes is fast becoming an unquestionable master category in politics. And not to make Assange into any kind of Marxist, but his analysis of the authoritarian conspiracy as decentralized could have easily been taken from Hardt and Negri's Empire.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:37 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


paulsc: Why use charged words like "radically," "boldly" and "regime" if you're not potentially code switching to a particular audience?

Well, the next two sentences say:
We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove.
Ways to act in which our forebears could not? I guess he's not talking about the storming of the bastille then, cos thats been done before. Also the word 'remove' that you focus on so much is referring to a behaviour (as in 'change or remove a behaviour'). Did you miss that?

Your initial comment on this was "But just because Assange himself may be banal, doesn't mean his image, efforts, and writings in service of such "goals" aren't dangerous to mainstream society, in much the same ways radical right writings have proven, distilled through the likes of Tim McVeigh.", in which I don't find that much to argue with.

But since then you seem to have gone down a rabbit hole of tenuous micro-analysis of single words which doesn't serve your argument well.
posted by memebake at 1:11 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here is a very good, very recent interview with Assange in which he turns allegations of terrorism back on his accusers and points out the danger to mainstream investigative journalists posed by the US's attempt to cook up espionage charges against him.
posted by Marla Singer at 1:18 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


No wonder Gibson started writing books set in the present, we've basically caught up with a lot of the stuff he was writing about.

I sometimes wonder if this delights and terrifies him in equal measure.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:29 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It does raise an interesting question -- what exactly does a guy like Julian Assange want? What does he want that someone, anyone, can give him? Not celebrity, not money, not power ... What is left?
Pussy.

---

Anyway, Sterling's article is interesting, but it's infused with a sort of weird nostalgia for the establishment. And the thing is, he's an upper-middle class American, a baby boomer, he's basically the beneficiary of these systems. The government works for him. But I doubt someone in Iraq, or Pakistan for that matter who sees their innocent loved ones killed is really going to really have a lot of affection for the current diplomatic order.

And that's the thing, Sterling writes as if he, Assange and everyone else who lives in the bubble of western society are the only ones who matter. Maybe what motivates Assange is a belif that what he's doing can help people who get ground under by the machinations of international/business relations? Instead Sterling seems to think that Assange is just doing it "for the lulz" or out of curiosity or something. And I suppose that's possible. Who knows? I do find the whole thing immensely entertaining myself.

But the affection sterling has for the established order where the NSA just spys on everyone and people just agree not to talk about it is grating.

---

Also, Paulsc's ranting about Assange's "secret messages" to imagined "radicals" is absurd. He said regimes don't want to change not that they don't want to be changed out (although obviously they don't). The clear meaning is that Assange wants to make them change. That style of rhetoric is common among people discussing democratic change.

Hell I think Barak Obama's campaign theme was actually "Change" Was he a secret radical too? Perhaps even a secret muslin? Was he even born in America?!?!?
posted by delmoi at 1:40 AM on December 23, 2010 [11 favorites]



The clear meaning is that Assange wants to make them change. That style of rhetoric is common among people discussing democratic change.

Indeed, but it's a short step from prescriptive morality to coercion. One day you're talking about what policies you think would best benefit regional development and wondering why it is that people just don't get it, the next you're propping up some right-wing dictatorship or justifying some new flavor of stalinism. People have a tendency to focus on their entirely legitimate desire for improved outcomes that benefit everyone and rely on that legitimacy to justify all sorts of warped, idiotic or horrible means which they have convinced themselves are the only possible method of achieving that end. Alternatively, you can go to the opposite extreme and demand complete perfection of all methods, without regard to to ends, on the assumption that adherence to the correct forms will always yield morally valid outcomes, which unfortunately turns out not to be the case. There is no systematically correct path that will garner unqualified approval for the same reason that there is no objective epistemology of good and evil.

Take Pakistan, mentioned by you and several other people. Is the country full of good-hearted innocent people, who are at risk of dying because of geopolitical games beyond their understanding? for sure. Have they not voted themselves a variety of corrupt civilian governments interspersed with authoritarian military regimes at various times, and assassinated various people at the peak of the public popularity? That too. Is that all the fault of the US/UK/whoever? Probably not. It's partly their fault, but Pakistan is a relatively young country and being young tends to involve making a lot of stupid mistakes. The world might be a better place if wisdom and integrity could be distributed in pill form or even in a single book that everyone agrees is right and just, but past experience suggests we actually progress by muddling along and making frequent mistakes in the process. Magic drugs/ideologies tend to be most popular among suicide cults, whose certitude is in inverse proportion to their longevity.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:26 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Indeed, but it's a short step from prescriptive morality to coercion. One day you're talking about what policies you think would best benefit regional development ... the next you're propping up some right-wing dictatorship or justifying some new flavor of stalinism.
What?
posted by delmoi at 2:32 AM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's the difference between wanting someone to change and wanting to make them change. I realize this was just a turn of phrase on your part but I feel it's a fundamentally accurate summary of Assange's approach. The problem with this strategy is that it's predicated on the belief that one can predict people's behavior well enough to manipulate it effectively. On an individual level one can beat the odds for a while but on a larger scale one can probably do little better than chance.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:04 AM on December 23, 2010


anigbrowl: [3894 word comment about the internet, politics and wikileaks]

Once I overcame my tl;dr-ist impulse and read your long comment it was extremely interesting. It seems like two disconnected topics though; in the first part you outline the strain that rapid information-technology progress is creating on politics, and in the second part you lament Wikileak's loss of perceived neutrality. How do you think the latter affects the former? For example: Do you think Wikileaks-style sites (and the 'mega-leaks' that they allow) are going to become a permanent feature of our culture?
posted by memebake at 3:30 AM on December 23, 2010


So. What I'm getting is people critical pf Assange and Wikileaks are basing their ideas on being completely fucking insane.

"it's a short step from prescriptive morality to coercion."

In. Sane.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 3:32 AM on December 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


for example, stalin could make his entourage dance. almost at will.


boffenspace echo chamber with chattering teeth and midi
posted by clavdivs at 3:35 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


im you nhuckleberry now gamien.
What I'm getting is people critical pf Assange and Wikileaks

what, what do you get. cables. stories on boards. face to face. news feed. the fella at the foodline?

completely fucking insane.
oh, I see, not just insane. oh moral arguments slides and
IN. Sane.

to make you bumpersticker yammer see sleek?
posted by clavdivs at 3:39 AM on December 23, 2010


It's the difference between wanting someone to change and wanting to make them change.

"Wanting to make them change" is the fundamental point of all political activity.
posted by delmoi at 4:33 AM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Those who want their secrets kept will increasingly have to offer more value in exchange for that service; this is well and just.

Those who previously enjoyed deference they could not earn and did not deserve will be wont to complain and bluster (and 'twas ever thus); those who do merit such deference will proceed apace.

For a concrete example, contrast the comments of Biden and Gates with many of those on exhibit here and elsewhere.
posted by hoople at 6:37 AM on December 23, 2010


boffenspace echo chamber with chattering teeth and midi

im you nhuckleberry now gamien.

to make you bumpersticker yammer see sleek?

Is this an example of this new "hashtag rap" thing I've been hearing about?
posted by acb at 7:22 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really liked this piece... Sterling was one of my early introductions to the world of hackers, and he's pretty right on with his thinking in this article as well. It's a complicated subject.
posted by ph00dz at 8:27 AM on December 23, 2010


"The Pentagon and NATO have both said unequivocally that no person was put in danger."

I love the variable credibility given to the Pentagon based on how much we agree with what they're saying.
posted by klangklangston at 8:29 AM on December 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Human society has slowly evolved into groupings of larger and larger numbers and complexity. The sequence has been tribes, institutions, markets, networks (TIMN). The later, larger and more complex forms don't displace the earlier forms entirely, they take over systemic functions that they can do more efficiently and economically (in a thermodynamic sense) than their predecessors.

Institutions, like armies, churches and states, took over many of the functions of tribes, particularly war, commerce and governance. Some tribally-based societies persist: Saudi Arabia, for instance. Later, markets evolved and took over much of the commercial functions of state institutions operating as mercantilism. Now networks are starting to take over functions previously the domain of institutions and markets. This is most notable in reformist NGOs, most of which are configured as acephalous/polycephalous networks organized around limited (as opposed to totalistic) ideologies. Luther Gerlach's notion of SPINs (PDF link) is helpful here.

In the early phases of the transition to incorporating network forms of social organization, what could be considered the transition from T+I+M to T+I+M+N society, a successful network would become an establishment institution. The rise of the US Ecology movement and its institutionalization as the federal Environmental Protection Agency is an example of the leading edge of networks transforming institutions. The next phase is networks directly confronting and displacing institutions: the Zapatista social network and the WTO protests are an example of this form of conflict that radically transforms (and severely limits) the scope of institutional actions.

The major catalyst for the rise of networks as a form of social organization is the astounding fall in the cost of communications. Not just cybernets, but communication networks. The price started to fall in the 1980s with the breakup of the Bell monopoly, but the spread of fiber, cell networks and digital communications all played a role.

Networks have extremely high communication costs. They are also subject to fissioning and the problem of freeloaders. However, in many situations, networks (or segmented strategies) can run rings around monlithic centralized institutions.

Wikileaks isn't the first (and definitely not the last) networked NGO or movement that will be rocking the institutional and market boats. It is definitely the biggest and noisiest right now.

This is what I've been alluding to in previous comments about the context of Wikileaks may be much more important than the content. Not that the content isn't important or that the personalities of Assange and Manning aren't interesting. But the content and personalities are particular to Wikileaks and the underlying transition to societies incorporating networks as an organizational form is the much more profound issue.
posted by warbaby at 8:30 AM on December 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


Is this an example of this new "hashtag rap" thing I've been hearing about?
posted by acb

Oh no my friend they are acrostics woven into the thread and when the right amount of light is emitted, a burst transmitter in my shed redirects the Martian traffic (W group), they want the moon for cement. The orders from the Consignio dei Deice are being intercepted, in the trade this is known as STEPPED-ON. I suspect the ‘Bobby Ray Inman’ cafeteria and gift shop at Ft. Meade is mere cover for taxidermy but I only have two sources.

I’m starting to think these docs are NEGATIVE INTELLIGENCE being recycled for CNA-WATCHCON.

The NSA was started in 1952, not 1947.
posted by clavdivs at 9:16 AM on December 23, 2010


Warbaby, you sound a bit like Robert Greene in The Descent of Power, although he hasn't addressed the topic of Wikileaks specifically.
posted by Marla Singer at 9:17 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I’m starting to think these docs are NEGATIVE INTELLIGENCE being recycled for CNA-WATCHCON.

Man, I knew those Certified Nurse's Aides were up to no good!
posted by Marla Singer at 9:20 AM on December 23, 2010


I love the variable credibility given to the Pentagon based on how much we agree with what they're saying.

Here's my take on that: if someone is yammering on about the "danger" of the leaked cables and I can quote the Pentagon and Joe Biden saying the exact opposite, that should shut them up, since I'm quoting a source they trust. Kind of like how it's fun to throw certain actual quotes from the Bible at religious people who have chosen some dubious interpretation over what the book actually says. (E.g. Quoting Mark 10:25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" at someone spouting prosperity gospel.) The point is that I'm using their trusted source (whether I happen to accept that source myself), so they really ought to accept it.
posted by Marla Singer at 9:29 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oops, not Biden, Gates. Grah, need coffee.
posted by Marla Singer at 9:32 AM on December 23, 2010


Man, I knew those Certified Nurse's Aides were up to no good!
posted by Marla S*****

In the trade this is known as a CLEAN CLANSIG that has failed OPSEC.

The point is that I'm using their trusted source (whether I happen to accept that source myself), so they really ought to accept it.

This is violation of basic TRAFFIC ANALYSIS. This why Julian is being held in a ZOO.
posted by clavdivs at 9:39 AM on December 23, 2010


Gamien Boffenburg:

"code switching"

Secret messages. That's just sad.


"Code switching" doesn't mean secret messages. If your'e going to be this pompous, you need to at least know what you're responding too. You've repeatedly made a strawman out of other posters in this thread, and whether it's out of malice or ignorance, it makes your posts not worth any one else's time.
posted by spaltavian at 9:40 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love the variable credibility given to the Pentagon based on how much we agree with what they're saying

Rather than it being a binary thing, maybe it's a Bayesian thing: The Pentagon and NATO would gain much public support by claiming people were getting hurt (whether the claim itself is true or false). Perhaps it is therefore in their interest to say so — again, whether the claim itself is actually true or false.

If they therefore admit that people are not getting hurt, what is the likelihood they are lying — against their own interests, no less?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:48 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Here's my take on that: if someone is yammering on about the "danger" of the leaked cables and I can quote the Pentagon and Joe Biden saying the exact opposite, that should shut them up, since I'm quoting a source they trust."

Except that saying that there's legitimate concerns over the danger of identities being leaked doesn't mean (or even necessarily imply) that they hold the Pentagon or Gates as being reliable in this instance — it's trivial to say that the Pentagon and Gates have a vested interest in damage control, and minimizing the harm posed in public is no more credible than if they'd argued this was a mortal wounding of our national interest. The biblical analogy is tenuous at best.
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


At this point Assange is using the tactic of GREY MAIL. It aint working.
posted by clavdivs at 9:54 AM on December 23, 2010


Well, I disagree. If someone genuinely concerned about US national security wants to argue that the Pentagon is not a reliable source on such matters, I happen to think that weakens their argument.
posted by Marla Singer at 10:10 AM on December 23, 2010


TIL Assange wrote strobe.

He is also all over Firewalls list and BugTraq around 95 if anyone cares to look.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:29 AM on December 23, 2010


"Code switching" doesn't mean secret messages. If your'e going to be this pompous, you need to at least know what you're responding too.

Such as whether it's a punne, or play on words?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:34 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


But Sterling again has it right--turns out the government is being honest with us--and there are few surprises.
Pardon my Anglo-Saxon, but bull-fucking-shit! It's a surprise to me that:

* the government pressured a reporter to not report on a contractor helping to procure boy-whores for warlords
Can you please explain to me why you think that happened? The article that you linked to about it seems to say essentially the exact opposite: Foreign contractors hired "dancing boys", and an official from the Afghan government "begged" the American embassy to quash the story, and the Americans refused. Then, in fact, an article about the incident appeared in the Washington Post, well before the current Wikileaks brouhaha.
He [the Afghan interior minister] insisted that a journalist looking into the incident should be told that the story would endanger lives, and that the US should try to quash the story. But US diplomats cautioned against an "overreaction" and said that approaching the journalist involved would only make the story worse.
I've read the cable in question; I didn't see anything other than a report that the Afghan official requested this. Can you point to further information showing that the US government pressured a reporter not to report on this, please? Thank you.
posted by Flunkie at 10:45 AM on December 23, 2010


Well, I disagree. If someone genuinely concerned about US national security wants to argue that the Pentagon is not a reliable source on such matters, I happen to think that weakens their argument.
posted by Marla Singer

'Department of Defense officials said military members will continue to have access to the Internet but that commanders can use their discretion to set tighter restrictions.'

- a newspaper
posted by clavdivs at 10:45 AM on December 23, 2010


"If someone genuinely concerned about US national security wants to argue that the Pentagon is not a reliable source on such matters, I happen to think that weakens their argument."

I'm sorry, I thought we were both from a world where the Pentagon supported the invasion of Iraq under the pretense of "national security." But as the Office of Special Plans and Douglas Feith didn't happen in your timeline, I suppose your faith is entirely justified.
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


> On 20 May 96 at 4:07, Dave Harman wrote:
>
> Information doesn't want to be free (or anything else) anymore than
> the stapler on my desk wants to be free.
>
> The day that abstract qualities like "information" or "color" have
> desires would be an interesting day indeed.

Nonsense. Mathematics wants to be rational. Symmetry wants to be
self-similar. Memes want to be free.


Some fun stuff in the cypherpunks list excerpts.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:20 AM on December 23, 2010


I love the variable credibility given to the Pentagon based on how much we agree with what they're saying.

Protip for you klang: consider the motive of the source. The Pentagon and NATO would love to say that Assange was responsible for such things. It's reasonable to accept that they are not lying in this case.

However, when the Pentagon tells me that they need the same budget as the rest of the world's militaries combined, or that all of their war plans are going swimmingly, there's cause for doubt.
posted by notion at 11:39 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's the difference between wanting someone to change and wanting to make them change.

"Wanting to make them change" is the fundamental point of all political activity.


One is inside the democratic process, the other has contempt for it. The people support this security in large numbers. Assange does not. He wishes to force government to do something the electorate that put it in power does not want to do it. This wrong. And I support the power of the state stopping this. Just dumping information is useless.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:39 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


John Brunner's 'science fiction novel from 1975 prefigures WikiLeaks' (Dec 7 2010)
posted by Twang at 11:39 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


One is inside the democratic process, the other has contempt for it. The people support this security in large numbers. Assange does not. He wishes to force government to do something the electorate that put it in power does not want to do it. This wrong. And I support the power of the state stopping this. Just dumping information is useless.

I think that we all understand you support using the full power of the government and its military to take out journalists, extrajudicial or otherwise.

And repeating something over and over does not make it a fact. WikiLeaks has not been "just dumping information." They have been collaborating with newspapers across the globe to release stories. Go ahead, look up the New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El Pais. What you incorrectly call "dumping" other people correctly call "vetting and publishing."
posted by ryoshu at 11:49 AM on December 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Can you please explain to me why you think that happened?

Apparently poor comprehension due to reading too quickly and in fits and starts.
posted by MikeKD at 11:56 AM on December 23, 2010


"Protip for you klang: consider the motive of the source. The Pentagon and NATO would love to say that Assange was responsible for such things. It's reasonable to accept that they are not lying in this case."

As I mentioned earlier, there's also a motive to minimize the damage caused, especially publicly. The Pentagon would not necessarily love to blame Assange, especially if that would mean acknowledging damage to other governments.

Pro-tip: Acting like something that can't be known is obvious only makes you look like a buffoon.
posted by klangklangston at 11:59 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some fun stuff in the cypherpunks list excerpts

My favorite part is Assange talking about TEMPEST on the list. In Stephenson's cryptonomicon cypherpunks list == secret admirers and TEMPEST == "Van Eck Phreaking"

Assange also hung out as Proff in #hack on EFnet, I am trying to track down logs.

BTW: More complete archives of the whole list.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


never complain never explain
posted by clavdivs at 12:09 PM on December 23, 2010


klang, you need a hug.

((((klangklangston))))
posted by notion at 12:17 PM on December 23, 2010


I was wondering why there haven't been many Wikileaks stories about Israel yet, given how much diplomatic activity is focused there. Assange discussed that recently in an interview on Al-Jazeera. Some extracts of the interview are published by the The Peninsula (Qatar).

Basically, there are thousands of cables relating to Israel but ... “The Guardian, El-Pais and Le Monde have published only two percent of the files related to Israel due to the sensitive relations between Germany, France and Israel.”
posted by memebake at 12:25 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


So if I understand klang correctly, his rebuttal for the Pentagon's statements is that they're downplaying the damage done by the cables in an effort to run damage control? They're saying "meh" in order to keep people from panicking? Pardon me while I LOL.
posted by Marla Singer at 12:27 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Code switching" doesn't mean secret messages. If your'e going to be this pompous, you need to at least know what you're responding too. You've repeatedly made a strawman out of other posters in this thread, and whether it's out of malice or ignorance, it makes your posts not worth any one else's time.
Yeah, except paulsc was using "code switching" to imply that Assange was trying to secretly communicate with radical followers by using loaded terminology, and therefore saying he wanted to violently overthrow governments. That's pretty far into crazytown, and it's also an example of strawmanning in and of itself.

Seriously, you're pretty far off the deep end when you're using these cabbalistic interpretation of various word choices to deny the plain meaning of language. The language was no more "revolutionary" then Obama's 2008 campaign rhetoric.
One is inside the democratic process, the other has contempt for it.
Only if you consider American voters the only ones who matter. I don't think Spain, Italy and German voters appreciate the US government. That's what shows real contempt for democracy. Simply "operating with a democratic process" doesn't make you a democrat. Karl Rove and Kathrine Harris were "inside the democratic process" when they ran around suppressing votes.

Interestingly I didn't know who wrote that, It was ryoshu's comment and I didn't bother to read Ironmouth's comments. But I wasn't too surprised when I Ctrl+f'd to see who wrote it.
posted by delmoi at 12:35 PM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, I thought we were both from a world where the Pentagon supported the invasion of Iraq under the pretense of "national security." But as the Office of Special Plans and Douglas Feith didn't happen in your timeline, I suppose your faith is entirely justified.

Er, faith? What faith? I can quote the Pentagon without having any faith in them, the same way I can quote the Bible without having any faith in it. The Pentagon should stand as a reliable source for the Go Team America crowd, the same way the Bible should for Christians. My analogy was entirely spot-on, despite your handwavy dismissal.
posted by Marla Singer at 12:49 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


So far most of the big scandals in the Wikileaks archives evaporate when you read the cables. The Nigeria-Shell cables show US diplomats trying to make Nigeria less dominated by corporate interests and less corrupt. The Dancing Boys scandal as noted was reported and the US refused to collude in the cover up. The US didn't invade/bomb Iran at the urging of the Saudis. The US is thinking about providing some training to a paramilitary force in baglDesh with a reputation for human rights abuses. Human rights training that is.

The scandalous stuff is really more the Europeans:
-Prince Andrew boasting of rebuilding a British empire in central Asia, like he's some kind of latter day Raj. WTF "the game never ended and this time we mean to win." Were I a uni student in the UK I'd be wondering why my fees are going up while he wanders the Wolfe on the public dole. Meanwhile in Italy Burlesconi is becoming best buds with Putin. Chinas BFFs Myanmar and North Korea both have outsized nuclear ambitions.

About the biggest scandal has been some spying at the UN. Which as others noted is about as shocking as Gambling at Ricks Cafe. The more i read, the more I think Gates has it spot in when he said the damage is minor. Countries deal with US because it is in their interess to do so; not out of trust or respect. If anything the cables show the US as fairly honest broker.
posted by humanfont at 12:50 PM on December 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


"I can quote the Pentagon without having any faith in them, the same way I can quote the Bible without having any faith in it. The Pentagon should stand as a reliable source for the Go Team America crowd, the same way the Bible should for Christians."

Well, no.

Here's where you're wrong:

First off, quoting the Pentagon without having faith in them, and relying on the presumption that your interlocutor must because they accept some statements from the Pentagon is bad faith argumentation, in that you're arguing from a source you consider non-credible.

Second off, not everyone who is critical or conflicted about Wikileaks is from Team Go America, and lumping all objections in together is either dishonest or stupid. Your pick.

Third off, the Bible's only an authoritative source for all Christians in the broadest possible sense, and that's without even getting into hermeneutics. I only really make this point because your entire reasoning is specious and sloppy, and that sloppiness seems to have affected all of your arguments. It's not a very good analogy at all, and one that shows that you're pretty ignorant not only of Christianity, but of how theological argumentation works.

So, you mischaracterize your opponents, you argue in bad faith, and you don't know what you're talking about. It's a trifecta of wrongness.

"So if I understand klang correctly, his rebuttal for the Pentagon's statements is that they're downplaying the damage done by the cables in an effort to run damage control? They're saying "meh" in order to keep people from panicking? Pardon me while I LOL."

My rebuttal is that there's no way to know, that you're arguing from ideology and not facts, and that your LOL makes you look like a jackass. Especially when you, say, post links like this to your twitter feed, wherein the CIA is announcing that it doesn't know the extent of damage, despite earlier claiming that there was little damage done.
posted by klangklangston at 1:06 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Or, should we just wait, quaking in our beds, for some jack booted liberal leftists to come 'round and collect those of us on the "wrong" side of some "line in the sand" that you're drawing, for questioning?

Talk dirty to me


Sounds to me like the main objection you have to the current state of affairs is that you aren't the one's wearing the jackboots.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:07 PM on December 23, 2010


I'd like to know where the hell regard for the democratic process was hanging out on the day that Paypal, Amazon, Visa, and MasterCard all decided to terminate their services with Wikileaks.
posted by Marla Singer at 1:09 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Human society has slowly evolved into groupings of larger and larger numbers and complexity. The sequence has been tribes, institutions, markets, networks (TIMN).

That'd be from the RAND white paper Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks: A Framework About Societal Evolution. Good stuff.
posted by scalefree at 1:16 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Only if you consider American voters the only ones who matter. I don't think Spain, Italy and German voters appreciate the US government.

In the release of US secret docs, I'm supposed to care what the German voters think? No. I live here, I vote here. And it is no contempt for democracy to place the votes of US voters and their opinions over those of Germans and French, who act as much in their own economic interests as those in America do. And you can't tell me that intrinsically, the German electorate is somehow better than the US one. So if some jerk from Australia wants to expose our secrets to the world, I am opposed. I say stop people from doing that. And I could care less what people in Germany think. Don't kid yourself that they aren't excercising their power on behalf of their corporations, or that somehow they are more wonderful than we are. So yes, in terms of American secrets released to the world, I think only American voters matter. And it is those voters who are going to press the government to lock up Assange. The German voters have no say in the matter, nor should they.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:20 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to know where the hell regard for the democratic process was hanging out on the day that Paypal, Amazon, Visa, and MasterCard all decided to terminate their services with Wikileaks.

The American people are very much opposed, on the whole, to Assange and his ilk. Substantial majorities in opinion polls dislike him and feel that he should be prosecuted. These conmpanies are US corporations and only did it because they follow US public opinion. And Assange violated the terms of service of these providers.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:24 PM on December 23, 2010


I'd like to know where the hell regard for the democratic process was hanging out on the day that Paypal, Amazon, Visa, and MasterCard all decided to terminate their services with Wikileaks.

buying coffee and things with

Paypal, Amazon, Visa, and MasterCard
posted by clavdivs at 1:24 PM on December 23, 2010


Yo dawg, we heard you like leaks...
posted by ryoshu at 1:27 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the trade this called BACKSTOPPING.
posted by clavdivs at 1:30 PM on December 23, 2010


Oh, good heavens. Bad faith? A bad faith argument is one in which "the advocate knowingly takes an unprincipled position or carries out an unprincipled action while disingenuously claiming to be motivated by principle." An example of this would be, say, claiming to be concerned about the privacy of certain individuals in order to achieve the censorship of one's opponents' posts.

As for lumping together all people critical of Wikileaks (not Assange, mind you, but Wikileaks) under the Go Team America banner: I'm simply not aware of anyone overly critical of Wikileaks who isn't American. Whether those people want to own up to the American exceptionalist viewpoint which rather transparently drives their argument is no more my concern than whether Birthers will admit they're just racist.

As for the Bible as an accepted, valid source to certain hardline Christians (whether or not to Christianity broadly, the way you've tried to misconstrue my argument), that is too much of a derail to go into here, but suffice to say that you're just handwaving again.

As for the CIA investigation, that is an interesting development, isn't it? It goes to show that there still is no confirmed damage of any kind, despite what Go Team America says.

Also, they chose to name the task force W.T.F. - you can't make this stuff up!
posted by Marla Singer at 1:33 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd like to know where the hell regard for the democratic process was hanging out on the day that Paypal, Amazon, Visa, and MasterCard all decided to terminate their services with Wikileaks.

What cladivs and Ironmouth said. And another thing Visa, MasterCard, Amazon and PayPal are not the government. They are free to do business with whom they choose to and you are free to use cash. They can protest Wikileaks, and thanks to the Supreme Court they have full acres to the first amendment. Corps are people just like Soylent Green.
posted by humanfont at 1:35 PM on December 23, 2010


So royshu, all 250,000 cables have been leaked in Norway? There goes Assange's great responsible way of releasing them.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:36 PM on December 23, 2010


Oh, please, even the CIA says that's not true.

Well, case closed, then. It's not like the CIA would ever intentionally spread disinformation, as if it were their normal modus operandi or anything OH WAIT
posted by Sys Rq at 1:39 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whether those people want to own up to the American exceptionalist viewpoint which rather transparently drives their argument

You know what makes America exceptional to me? I live here. But, no as an American voter, I am not allowed to want my country's secrets to remain that way. Did you know wikileaks released a classified government list of facilities and places in the US which, if struck by terrorists, would cripple the country? Is this something you support?

Perhaps you live in some leafy suburb and don't care. I live in Washington, DC and was here when we were hit by a terrorist attack. And the fact that George Bush went overboard and did some colossaly stupid things in the name of protecting the place I live in does not mean that it shouldn't be protected at all, or that the government should not use secrecy while protecting it. There's nothing dumber, in my mind, then declaring all efforts by the US to protect its citizens wrong, just because some things that were done were stupid and wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:48 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whether those people want to own up to the American exceptionalist viewpoint which rather transparently drives their argument

Also: straw man
posted by Ironmouth at 1:50 PM on December 23, 2010


Did you know wikileaks released a classified government list of facilities and places in the US which, if struck by terrorists, would cripple the country?

Did you know that such a list could be compiled by anyone willing to give it a bit of a think for all of five minutes?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:52 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


As for lumping together all people critical of Wikileaks (not Assange, mind you, but Wikileaks) under the Go Team America banner: I'm simply not aware of anyone overly critical of Wikileaks who isn't American. Whether those people want to own up to the American exceptionalist viewpoint which rather transparently drives their argument is no more my concern than whether Birthers will admit they're just racist.

You're an American, and so it is obvious that your arguments are based on a viewpoint of American exceptionalism. Whether you want to own up to it or not is irrelevant, it is manifestly true because you are an American. That's no an ad hominem or anything, oh no, just dealing with obvious verifiable facts. The fact that Marla Singer is American has no bearing on her arguments, in her case, her Americanism is simply not an issue.

If this is your level of comprehension, it would be just as easy to say to you that Assange is not an American, and therefore, his statements and actions are transparently anti-American, and you should accept it with the same faith as your quoted statement.
posted by Snyder at 1:54 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did you know that such a list could be compiled by anyone willing to give it a bit of a think for all of five minutes?

Nice try at justifying the release of information which has the potential for getting people hurt. Do you think it morally right that such information be released? Morally right?
posted by Ironmouth at 1:55 PM on December 23, 2010


I believe it doesn't make one lick of difference, if that's what you're asking.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:59 PM on December 23, 2010


You're an American, and so it is obvious that your arguments are based on a viewpoint of American exceptionalism. Whether you want to own up to it or not is irrelevant, it is manifestly true because you are an American.

Total bullshit. You lack the ability to read my mind and you cannot counter my actual arguments, so you make up a straw man and go at it. It is a transparent logical fallacy. If you want to counter the content of my arguments, please do so, but do so with facts and logic.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:00 PM on December 23, 2010


"Oh, good heavens. Bad faith? A bad faith argument is one in which "the advocate knowingly takes an unprincipled position or carries out an unprincipled action while disingenuously claiming to be motivated by principle." An example of this would be, say, claiming to be concerned about the privacy of certain individuals in order to achieve the censorship of one's opponents' posts."

Oh, horseshit, and your little dig at Ironmouth was bullshit too. Impugning his motives is the type of toxic assholery you must resort to when you don't have a legitimate claim against his argument. Likewise, attempting to rebut by deflecting onto whether I have use "bad faith" in accordance with the blogs you can google really just shows that you are, in fact, acting in bad faith — you are presenting arguments that you don't agree with in order to advocate for Wikileaks. It's disingenuous, and disingenuity is bad faith.

"As for lumping together all people critical of Wikileaks (not Assange, mind you, but Wikileaks) under the Go Team America banner: I'm simply not aware of anyone overly critical of Wikileaks who isn't American. Whether those people want to own up to the American exceptionalist viewpoint which rather transparently drives their argument is no more my concern than whether Birthers will admit they're just racist."

Are you not aware that Amnesty International has criticized Wikileaks? Or are you not aware they're not American? Or are you going to do some sort of rhetorical gymnastics to put them under the rubric of American exceptionalism (hey, great ad hominem attack on anyone who disagrees with you. You're clearly a logic champ!)? And Amnesty is just one of many organizations that have been critical, including a raft of UN-affiliated NGOs and human rights groups.

What you've got is insults, not argument.

"As for the Bible as an accepted, valid source to certain hardline Christians (whether or not to Christianity broadly, the way you've tried to misconstrue my argument), that is too much of a derail to go into here, but suffice to say that you're just handwaving again."

It is a derail, but when you say Christians, then want to walk it back to "certain hardline Christians," just fucking cop to being sloppy. And given that even for that realm of "certain hardline Christians," the bible is an authoritative source definitionally. Arguing that the Pentagon is definitionally an authoritative source is idiotic, especially when you don't believe it yourself. Which brings us back to bad faith argumentation. So knock off your smug horseshit until you have something better to support it with.
posted by klangklangston at 2:02 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth So royshu, all 250,000 cables have been leaked in Norway? There goes Assange's great responsible way of releasing them.

So now you are accusing Assange of leaking all of the cables to Aftenposten? Do you have any evidence to back that up? At least you are finally admitting that WikiLeaks hasn't been "just dumping information."

How do we know that you didn't leak all 250,000 cables to Aftenposten?

:dun: :dun: :dunnnn:
posted by ryoshu at 2:02 PM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


> [3894 word comment]

Oops - I do go on a bit, don't I. You are right about it being a bit disjointed; punting along a stream of consciousness, it's easier to describe the riverbanks than actually bridge them.

What I'm getting at is that technology's multiplier effects, though beneficial over the long term, can cause major instability in the short term. In an almost completely networked world, where barriers of geographic, economic, and even linguistic disparities are eroded or eliminated by technology, runaway feedback effects are increasingly common. Youtube, Twitter and Facebook all exemplify this in various ways, to name but three recent examples. These services each provide a platform for the free exchange of video, chatter, and social capital respectively. In this, they echo the nature of the internet itself - an enabling technology which serves as a platform for communication in general, and that's probably why they've been so successful. Individual trends or fads can be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint, but in general people find it easy to distinguish between the platform and the content which is hosted upon it. So while you might hate Barack Obama or Sarah Palin with a passion, you don't get angry at these social media companies for providing your political villain with the means of communication.

Wikileaks at one point looked to be providing the same service for leaked material. One could argue that there was a degree of editorial activity just in the selection of which documents to verify and publish, but because they didn't pay for or solicit any kind of leaks in particular, and presented the information with minimal comment beyond that required to establish its veracity, most people were happy to consider it as a neutral platform. As a sort of public repository for socioeconomic bug reports which is not subject to the normal mechanisms of political arbitrage, it performs a valuable democratic function. But once it got into the business of taking public moral positions, it blew a giant hole in the whole concept of a neutral platform for sharing contentious information.

Suppose the administrators of one of the social media companies mentioned above had very strong feelings about one of the political candidates that uses their service, and either blocked them from any use of the service or altered their output. Visitors to YouTwitFace.com who want to know the latest thoughts of Barack Palin find the operators of the site have added a laugh track to all the videos, or changed all the fonts to Comic Sans, or otherwise demonstrated their disapproval. It might have a very negative short-term impact on the candidate, but it would have a much greater impact upon the service, because people would no longer trust it as a neutral delivery platform. This is the position wikileaks finds itself in now. Not only has its own reputation for neutrality evaporated, any other kind of leaking site is now going to be viewed with suspicion for quite a while, and people will incline to the default assumption that the operators have an agenda and will only serve as a conduit for information whose release serves that agenda. Just as partisans of the left and right argue simultaneously that the mainstream media is a tool of both fascist corpocrats and commie traitors, anyone setting up a leaking site is first going to answer the question of 'whose side are they on,' no matter how politically agnostic or meta-political their motivations and procedures.

I mean, here in the US people have more direct access to the text of legislative bills, statutes, regulations, judicial opinions and court filings than the founding fathers could ever dream of. While still a work in progress, any civic minded person with a bit of technical skill can dig up primary sources for just about any legal case in the entire history of the US, often for free. Never have the raw materials of the legal system been so widely available at such little expense. And yet any time a court issues a contentious decision, most discussions on the internet degenerate rapidly into furious arguments, with hardly anyone referencing the source material but instead basing their arguments on which political party influenced a judge's appointment and vilifying or glorifying the decision, the judge, or the entire legal system. You would hope that the near total availability of information would actually improve the general understanding, increase civic participation, and lead to more thoughtful and reasoned debate. But it hasn't, much; because of the complexity and the huge volume of information involved, it tends to end up as some sort of popularity contest for legal pundits, awash with blog copypasta whose useful half-life is measured in hours. Mere volume of available information does not automatically improve democracy; if there is so much information that it becomes difficult to process then people are just as likely to take an overly simplistic view of it and end up less informed but more sure of their conclusions.

Wikileaks was always going to be somewhat controversial, as is anything which has the potential to piss people off, expose wrongdoing, or level a playing field. But it was seen as a content-neutral technical platform for long enough to gain widespread acceptance. Like Wikipedia, you wouldn't want to rely completely on it but the benefits largely outweighed the shortcomings. That is no longer the case. Wikileaks is no longer even a Wiki, allowing the creation and editing of pages by volunteers; it has become more like a broadcasting operation, with Julian Assange as the gatekeeper and a variety of technical walls designed to keep everyone else out. If you have some information that you feel needs to be leaked for the public good right now, or can shed light on the significance of information in past leaks, too bad because WikiLeaks is not open for submissions or editing the way it used to be and none of the other leaking sites that are springing have established a good reputation yet, of the kind Wikileaks had earlier this year. At least a few of them are rather obviously operated for information-gathering purposes instead of in the public interest.

I view this as a setback for democracy, rather than a step forward. I think it's a rather serious problem in the context of a shrinking global village because it comes at a time when our social institutions are under intense pressure to adapt to the realities of rapid technological change. Releasing floods of information while at the same time undermining the idea of neutrality is more likely to lead to confusion and hyper-partisanship than substantive public debate. It looks to me like a global version of where Europe was in the early years of the 20th century in the runup to World War 1. That conflict delivered plenty of radical social change, but whether the world was better off as a result is highly debatable.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:03 PM on December 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


This was a good article, and I like Sterling's pointing out 'BIG CHANGES ARE HAPPENING' because the narrative put forth by the News is tediously cut and dried and feels at best reductive.
It's an enormous story for the US because it requires the US to explain itself. And just as it's finished explaining why it did one thing, out comes another 'leak' and it has to start over again, like a kid whose caught hand-in-cookie jar yet again.

posted by From Bklyn at 2:14 PM on December 23, 2010


Did you know wikileaks released a classified government list of facilities and places in the US which, if struck by terrorists, would cripple the country?

Did you see a different cable than I did? The one I saw listed assets and infrastructure in virtually every country but the US, which was probably very interesting for foreigners to read. "Why are my nation's resources considered by the US government to be a matter of their national security?" they might rightly wonder. But maybe the cable I saw was redacted. I'm trying to track the thing down now, but if you can provide a link that would really help.
posted by Marla Singer at 2:17 PM on December 23, 2010


Are you not aware that Amnesty International has criticized Wikileaks?

This was enough of a concern of mine that you know what I did? I went to their website and looked at their full statement for myself rather than rely on the selective quoting (or misquoting) of some media outlet. You are, in short, very much mischaracterizing their view if you want to imply that they condemn Wikileaks. They are far more concerned with the attacks on Wikileaks, the attempts to censor it, and the possible human rights violations happening in the imprisonment of Bradley Manning than some damage to the US's ego, just as a person who was actually familiar with AI might guess. I'll quote you the relevant part here, but please do go read the whole thing for yourself.
Is Amnesty International concerned about the potential for harm to individuals as a result of the leaked information?

Amnesty International has consistently called on Wikileaks to make every possible effort to ensure that individuals are not put at increased risk of violence or other human rights abuses as a result of, for instance, being identifiable as sources in the documents.

However, risks of this kind are not the same as the risk of public embarrassment or calls for accountability that public officials could face if documents expose their involvement in human rights abuses or other forms of misconduct.
I'll say again: please go read their official statement for yourself, and if you can find anything to back up your claim that Amnesty International is critical of Wikileaks, then please post it here.
posted by Marla Singer at 2:35 PM on December 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Anigbrowl, what is the basis for your argument that Wikileaks lacks journalistic neutrality? Does the whole argument rest on the edited collateral damage video, or is there something I'm missing? If so, how is that editing different from the editing done by MSNBC or Fox or CNN?

I think there's an interesting argument about neutrality in journalism in there somewhere, but it doesn't make sense to me to deal with Wikileaks as an isolated phenomenon. Does the Wall Street Journal have a bias? How about Fox News? Saying that Wikileaks is biased as if that's an aberration in US journalism seems to be taking things a bit out of context.

My personal opinion is that if investigative journalism in America wasn't so utterly pathetic, there would be no vacuum for Wikileaks to fill - but it is pathetic, and so Wikileaks has captured peoples' interest in much the same way that Watergate or the Pentagon papers did. If e.g. the Washington Post would expend more effort on investigative journalism than on reheated David Broder columns, maybe people wouldn't be hero-worshiping Wikileaks quite so much. I think if you look at Wikileaks in light of the disinformation spread by the media in the leadup to the Iraq war (including respectable outfits like the NYT), peoples' reaction to the phenomenon makes more sense. Simply put, people (of nearly all political stripes) don't trust that they are getting the truth from the media anymore. Wikileaks may have a "bias", but at least they're giving you the primary sources so you can judge for yourself - which is a hell of a lot more than most other news outfits do in the name of neutrality.
posted by dialetheia at 2:37 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


What hand in what cookie jar. State Dept employees raising concerns about Shell in Nigeria? State Dept Employees reporting on a scandal that ws showing up in the post. Prince Andrew being a royal snob? Trying to negotiate with China in advance of Coppenhagen? Reporting on relationships between Burlusconi and Putin. There are lots of scandalous things in the cablegate archive, but most of them are other governments doing bad things. Myamae trying to build a nuke. Eritria torturing dissidents. Corruption in Mozambique. Guanine officials smuggling drugs.

How is it that neither Burlusconi nor Prince Andrew have had any reprocusions from these reevaluations
posted by humanfont at 2:40 PM on December 23, 2010


So far most of the big scandals in the Wikileaks archives evaporate when you read the cables. The Nigeria-Shell cables show US diplomats trying to make Nigeria less dominated by corporate interests and less corrupt. The Dancing Boys scandal as noted was reported and the US refused to collude in the cover up. The US didn't invade/bomb Iran at the urging of the Saudis. The US is thinking about providing some training to a paramilitary force in baglDesh with a reputation for human rights abuses. Human rights training that is.

Holy flag waving rationalizations, Batman!

How did the USG punish Shell, besides giving them billions in contracts? How did the USG punish DynCorp, besides giving them about 1.7 billion in contracts? How did we punish Bangladesh for using an extrajudicial paramilitary force, besides training them to skirt humanitarian law more effectively?

Not to mention all of the cables that you skipped over: the USG moving to retaliate against the EU for not accepting US GMO food, the USG colluding with China to defeat climate legislation, the USG lying about it's knowledge of the constitutionality of the military coup in Honduras, the USG's secret accords with Israel to continue allowing the "natural" expansion of the Israeli settlements, the USG's petty freakout at the prospect of New Zealand officials screening Fahrenheit 9/11... and less than 2,000 cables out of 250,000 have been released.

The United States is exactly like the corrupt cop who looks the other way when one of its buddies is doing the dirty work, and throws the book at anyone else who gets on the wrong side. This behavior is contrary to the principles of justice and to the equal protection and administration of law, to elementary morality, and therefore I fully oppose it.

Even if it is usually to my short-term financial benefit as an American citizen.
posted by notion at 2:40 PM on December 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


To get all the way back to something that Sterling talked about and something that I see here regarding the supposed "defense of the status quo":

Democracy, to me, is not an absolute virtue. Democracy is like capitalism, a system that works in some broad ways, but that has to be very much contained in order to keep it functioning in the broad public interest.

Now, the easy thing to do is just disagree right there, to sling some utopian nonsense and walk away. But I think that most people actually agree, and the ones that don't probably just haven't thought it through — an easy example of where democracy should be constrained is the idea of rights; no one should ever get to vote on whether someone else's marriage is valid or whether people of different races deserve the franchise. But in a pure democracy, that'd be the case.

So, one of the oldest critiques of democracy is that it's inherently unstable and short-sighted. You can see this in the Republic, or any number of Greek writings on democracy and how it almost always presages a tyranny (people want a strongman, a strongman delivers). With regard to the two big post-democratic movements we saw in the 20th century, there's a fair amount of reasonable trepidation regarding the idea of social revolution.

The father of conservatism, Edmund Burke, talked about this a lot too, with the French Revolution as the immediate context. To paraphrase what I remember from Burke, Change is inevitable but the role of conservatives and institutions is to be critical of change, especially change for change's sake. Conservatism's a dirty word now, mostly because those who claim its mantle are really anti-egalitarian radicals. But the idea of institutions slowing down the pace of change in order to make it more thoughtful and less violent is one that appeals to a lot of people, and for pretty good reason — certainly, the Chinese Revolution and the Russian Revolution show that a lot of trouble can come very quickly if revolutions spin out of control, and that the end points aren't always better than moderated change.

This is something that struck me while reading Sterling's essay and thinking about the rate of technological change and the confluence of Assange's attacks — these aren't attacks on democracy or authoritarianism per se, but rather are attacks on the ability of institutions to control the information within them. Take, for example, the leak of the "climategate" documents from Wikileaks. The ability to be frank and communicate with colleagues in an open manner doesn't necessarily pair well with total transparency. It's extremely easy to misconstrue legitimate discussion of data as undermining the entire project. It's an attack on the ability of an institution to function as a whole rather than as a mass of individuals. Likewise, the diplomatic corps does actually require a fair amount of public tact to make sure that deals go through even if that means holding back negative opinions. Every adult knows this. The wikileaks were an attack on the functionality of that tact within diplomatic institutions.

I can understand that plenty of people are critical of the idea of institutions, both on the left and the right. In international politics, there's a big divide between "internationalists" who believe that the mutual gain of using political institutions allows better outcomes than acting purely in national self-interest, and the "realists," who don't believe in the validity of institutions larger than a national government and believe that the right choice is always to act in the immediate interests of the country. I'm caricaturing these positions a little, but still. I've mentioned before that I'm a bit of a UN nerd, so it should be clear that I fall on the side of supporting the internationalists.

And I do think that Wikileaks, and the philosophy behind it (and one that I've seen voiced here) is inherently anti-institutional. I can understand that, there are a lot of terrible things that institutions do, and the iron law of bureaucracy says that they'll entrench and work to solidify power and squash threats to the institutions. It's anarchic, which ultimately I just don't believe in as a political philosophy for involuntary groups.

This is especially true because I believe that many groups who are anti-egalitarian work within the democratic system in order to achieve anti-democratic outcomes. One of the things that Chantal Mouffe talks about is that in a pluralistic democracy, there will always be factions that seek to negate both the pluralism and the democracy, and that simple appeals to rationality and reason won't be successful in restraining them (contra Rawls). One of the most important things, then, for a functioning democratic state is to use institutions to provide spaces in which otherwise mortally-wounding factions can contest ideas without having the risks to a broader society.

And to bring it back again to the question of revolution, very few (outside of the naively romantic) really want a revolution. Revolutions are inherently unstable, and people, broadly, prefer stability. Almost all of our institutions exist as ways to mitigate that instability, allowing us to plan and to feel secure. Which is why populations will often choose bad stability over potentially good instability.

So I don't think it's wrong to look at wikileaks from that "conservative" perspective, where wikileaks is doing good when it attacks institutions that use secrecy to impede the public interest or to undermine human rights, but that the perception of an all-out attack on institutions, be they governmental, educational or capitalist, is troubling. I'm certainly happy that Wikileaks outed things like the contractors arranging child prostitutes in Afghanistan. That's pretty great to get out there, and something that should be prosecuted. And even a lot of the things that we already pretty much knew — that the US sought to use its influence to protect people from prosecutions — is good to get out because it's shameful. But that doesn't mean that there aren't legitimate criticisms, such as those filed by Amnesty International, about how the information was leaked and what safeguards were taken.

Being reflexively pro-transparency or anti-status quo is naive and unhelpful, and it's good to examine wikileaks with a critical lens. Not everyone doing it is a rah-rah American cheerleader, and saying things like that wikileaks is a liberal "line in the sand" is stupid, because it sabotages the ability to have a mature conversation as well as the ability to build coalitions and institutions that do function in the overall human good.
posted by klangklangston at 2:40 PM on December 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I found the cable I was looking for, which seems to be the one under discussion: LINK. It mostly gives a list of foreign assets and infrastructure, although a few which cross the northern and southern US borders are listed. What it is NOT is a big long list of "targets" within US borders.
posted by Marla Singer at 2:50 PM on December 23, 2010


"I'll say again: please go read their official statement for yourself, and if you can find anything to back up your claim that Amnesty International is critical of Wikileaks, then please post it here."

Fair enough, since I have plenty of other arrows in my quiver over the whole Go Team America thing — The French Industry Minister, the President of the Philippines, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have all been critical as well. Ahmadinejad sure will be surprised to know that he's now on Go Team America.

Enough for you to admit that your claim was bullshit? Or do you need more wrongness heaped upon you?
posted by klangklangston at 2:50 PM on December 23, 2010


It is a derail, but when you say Christians, then want to walk it back to "certain hardline Christians," just fucking cop to being sloppy. And given that even for that realm of "certain hardline Christians," the bible is an authoritative source definitionally.

I gave a specific example of how prosperity gospel could be refuted with quotes from the Bible, and then when I referred to my earlier argument without quoting it in full, you tried to mischaraterize my statement as if I were it applying to all Christians. Just knock it off already.

Arguing that the Pentagon is definitionally an authoritative source is idiotic


Hey, can we just agree that taking the Pentagon, or the US government in general, as an authoritative source on anything is idiotic? If we can, that's cool with me. No take-backs, though. You have to promise never to quote them again.

your smug horseshit

Hugs and kisses!
posted by Marla Singer at 3:05 PM on December 23, 2010


But the idea of institutions slowing down the pace of change in order to make it more thoughtful and less violent is one that appeals to a lot of people, and for pretty good reason — certainly, the Chinese Revolution and the Russian Revolution show that a lot of trouble can come very quickly if revolutions spin out of control, and that the end points aren't always better than moderated change.

I just can't take this seriously. What moderated change was involved when we decided to invade Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? What moderated change happened when we performed military coups in Iran and Chile and across vast portions of Central America?

How many tens, if not hundreds, of revolutions have we started across the world in order to maintain the status quo internationally? Just because we foment violence outside our own borders to maintain hegemony doesn't make us a better State. It just means we're a better State for our own citizens.
posted by notion at 3:09 PM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Unless there is evidence that Dyncorp sanctioned the dancing boys situation beyond rumor and speculation what you have is nothing to prosecute them with. The law doesn't let us just bar companies from getting contracts with the government because you want to. Also there are some machines and some requirements that have a pretty limited set of supliers. You want to develop an oil field as an example, then there are a handful of companies to do business with. Finally the overall corporate structure may mean that Shell Nigeria is legally separate from the parts doing defense contracting. Even if you manage to work your way through the corporate structure it is very hard to keep them out.
posted by humanfont at 3:14 PM on December 23, 2010


"Hey, can we just agree that taking the Pentagon, or the US government in general, as an authoritative source on anything is idiotic? If we can, that's cool with me. No take-backs, though. You have to promise never to quote them again."

Well, no, because that's incredibly stupid too. That'd mean agreeing not to take the US Census as an authoritative source for the number of people living in the US. The reasonable position is that different parts of the government have more and less credibility, and that the Pentagon doesn't suddenly become credible as soon as it agrees with your position, and that, finally, there are a lot of things that are stated by any given institution where we have no real ability to discern the truth of the matter at the time the statement is given.

And if you stop responding sarcastically, I'll stop treating you like you're too stupid to come up with these things on your own. It'll be a Christmas miracle.
posted by klangklangston at 3:19 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I get ya, whatever the government says the truth must be the opposite. So when the state dept says Nobody touched the dancing boys. you just know some crazy shit went down.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:25 PM on December 23, 2010


Fair enough, since I have plenty of other arrows in my quiver over the whole Go Team America thing — The French Industry Minister, the President of the Philippines, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have all been critical as well. Ahmadinejad sure will be surprised to know that he's now on Go Team America.

Enough for you to admit that your claim was bullshit?


First of all, here's where the Go Team America reference of mine came from: "The Pentagon should stand as a reliable source for the Go Team America crowd." By this I was referring to people on MetaFilter who are critical of Wikileaks, all of whom as I said are (so far as I know) American. I certainly wasn't referring to the wider community of international leaders and diplomats. Yeah, like Ahmadinejad is going to accept the Pentagon as an authoritative source!

So, you have established that some international leaders and diplomats who aren't American but whose interests might be negatively affected by Wikileaks are critical of them? I'm not surprised, it doesn't refute anything I've said, and it doesn't affect my support for Wikileaks.
posted by Marla Singer at 3:31 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


So if some jerk from Australia wants to expose our secrets to the world, I am opposed. I say stop people from doing that. And I could care less what people in Germany think.

Even where one of those secrets outlines how a - completely innocent - German national was kidnapped by agents of the US, forcibly removed to another country and detained there for months, and then how the German government is strongly pressured by the US not to take legitimate legal action against this very illegal act? In other words, the US can do what it likes by virtue of being the US, your country right or wrong, and only voters can object to it?

Or do you draw a line at any point and say ok, certain behaviour is so immoral, so illegal, that revealing it to the world is a legitimate thing to do. If an Australian had leaked what was happening at Abu Ghraib, would you have wanted him silenced, and if not, why the difference?
posted by reynir at 3:36 PM on December 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


"I just can't take this seriously. What moderated change was involved when we decided to invade Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? What moderated change happened when we performed military coups in Iran and Chile and across vast portions of Central America?

How many tens, if not hundreds, of revolutions have we started across the world in order to maintain the status quo internationally? Just because we foment violence outside our own borders to maintain hegemony doesn't make us a better State. It just means we're a better State for our own citizens.
"

That really doesn't have anything to do with the points I was making, and just seems like grandstanding on your part. I think you're confusing a lot of fairly descriptive stuff with normative statements.

But the difference between moderated change through institutions versus revolution can be seen by comparing the Indian post-colonial experience with, say, the Ivory Coast or Algeria. India had very strong institutions and has more or less incorporated the vestiges of British colonialism into Indian democracy, and those institutions provide some bulwark against things like ethnic discrimination. Conversely, the former French colonies usually had much less local institutional power, especially institutions into which the local power structure was adapted and integrated, and their post-colonial experiences involve either strongmen or civil war. Even closer geographically, Ghana's post-colonial experience has largely been better than its neighbors in part because of strong local institutions.

Or, to move to Mexico, one of the most effective tactics of the EZLN has been delegitimizing the government through creating parallel institutions through which citizens can receive social services. Unfortunately, the EZLN has been a lot less successful than a lot of lefties would like, though it's been much more successful than the traditional Maoist rebels also fighting in the same area.
posted by klangklangston at 3:38 PM on December 23, 2010


The law doesn't let us just bar companies from getting contracts with the government because you want to.
An estimated 180,000 private contractors working in Iraq are immune from local criminal prosecution for criminal conduct because of regulations originally imposed by the US government. Thousands more in Afghanistan have immunity because of a US-Afghanistan agreement. In addition, a patchwork of US federal laws leaves many contractors effectively immune from prosecution in the United States as well.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. David Price (D-NC) would partially address this situation by extending the reach of a federal law, called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), to cover all US contractors overseas. Currently, only Department of Defense (DOD) contractors and other contractors supporting US forces are explicitly covered by the law. Thousands of contractors employed by other US agencies may be immune from prosecution in US courts when they commit felonies outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

The issue of criminal offenses by US contractors garnered national attention last month when employees of the American security firm Blackwater allegedly shot and killed 11 Iraqi civilians. Under Iraqi law, initially imposed by US occupation authorities in 2004, all non-Iraqi contractors are immune from prosecution in Iraqi courts. Because the Blackwater employees were contracted by the State Department – not DOD – prosecutors must first establish that they are acting in support of DOD in order to bring a case under MEJA. Alternatively, if it were determined that their acts were grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, they could be prosecuted under the US War Crimes Act, but to date no one has been prosecuted under this act.

Price’s legislation (HR 2740) would clarify that any US contractor who commits a felony while operating in Iraq or Afghanistan is liable to federal criminal prosecution under MEJA, regardless of what agency issued the contract. The bill would also require the Federal Bureau of Investigation to establish on-the-scene teams in those countries to investigate alleged criminal misconduct and fatalities linked to US contractors, which would greatly enhance the ability of the Department of Justice to hold accountable those who violate the law. (source)
It's possible. But making contractors obey even the most basic of laws is something our government doesn't want to do for some reason. This behavior continues is because they can deny that such illegal activities occur, and lean on the handful of major media companies to keep any unfortunate truth out of the limelight long enough to make a difference.

So now you can see why it's important for the public, who are responsible for pushing for legislation through their representatives in government, are fully aware of what their government is doing. Full stop.
posted by notion at 3:43 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


> So if some jerk from Australia wants to expose our secrets to the world, I am opposed. I say stop people from doing that.

Well, there are secrets and secrets. It's good that things like Abu Ghraib and conditions at Guantanamo did not remain secret, for example. I actually thought the 'collateral murder' video was better made public than kept secret, but that Assange cocked it up by plastering his feelings all over it instead of having the patience to let the public debate the matter. The great (former) strength of WikiLeaks was that the organization did not make decisions about what should be leaked, it just limited itself to being a safe conduit for leakers - much as the New York Times chose to publish information that Daniel Ellsberg brought to it, as opposed to commissioning him to go in there and look for it.

What's fundamentally different with these state department cables is the fact that their classified status has apparently been treated by Wikileaks as prima facie evidence of wrongdoing. Instead of saying 'it's stuff that has been kept secret because it was bad,' a point of view that has usually been very obviously justified by the material in question as above, the argument justifying cablegate is 'it's bad because it's been kept secret.' This does not make a lick of sense, because there are many valid reasons for keeping something secret or for being discreet about it. And as you point out, a great deal of the content is somewhat embarrassing but not at all incriminating.

> As for lumping together all people critical of Wikileaks (not Assange, mind you, but Wikileaks) under the Go Team America banner: I'm simply not aware of anyone overly critical of Wikileaks who isn't American.

Well, a lot of people seem to think I'm being overly critical of WikiLeaks, and I'm not American, although I live in the USA. I'm Irish, and while I think the US could often benefit by taking a closer look at the way we do things in Europe (having dealt with many kinds of social and economic challenges over a much longer period of history than the US has been in existence for), I greatly admire the American model of constitutional government and think it has resulted in a better legal and political system overall. As in, despite the various policy and ethical shortcomings of multiple individuals who hold or have held office within that system.

Now, as regards Wikileaks, some of the cables contain various details about the negotiations behind the scenes of the northern Ireland peace process, and mention people inside paramilitary organizations who were involved with the Irish and/or British governments in various ways. Speaking as an Irish person, I have no desire to see that particular conflict burst back into life in an atmosphere of mutual recriminations, finger pointing and betrayal, or for people to start getting blown up in car bombs or having their kneecaps or the tops of their skulls shot off. Some matters were kept generally confidential and shared between the Irish and American governments because the Irish public's interest in a peaceful Northern Ireland was judged to outweigh their interest in complete transparency for the negotiation process, or in a total accounting of every last political compromise that was made. Hopefully that won't happen, but the revelations that have already come out have aroused some strong emotions. I don't see that Wikileaks is really advancing the cause of democracy here, especially given the fact that people in Ireland have repeatedly endorsed the peace process at the ballot box, knowing full well that it involved a number of ethical compromises made in secret, which would normally not be revealed until many years later.

It's not that I think Wikileaks or Assange or anyone else is trying to rekindle conflict in Northern Ireland. I'm sure everyone involved would be horrified at the sort of 'punishments' that Irish Republican and Unionist paramilitaries used to visit on people they considered informers or traitors, and that nobody would approve of cablegate information resulting in the settling of old scores even between individuals. But now it is a distinct possibility, because sad to say there is a great deal of precedent for such outcomes. That's why I don't support indiscriminate mass information dumps, even trickled out via respectable newspapers.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:44 PM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Unless there is evidence that Dyncorp sanctioned the dancing boys situation beyond rumor and speculation what you have is nothing to prosecute them with. The law doesn't let us just bar companies from getting contracts with the government because you want to.

This isn't Dyncorp's first time at the rodeo.

Also there are some machines and some requirements that have a pretty limited set of supliers.

Dyncorp trains police forces in Afghanistan. If "has a background in running child sex rings in a war zone" is a requirement, then sure, Dyncorp will be on your short list.
posted by ryoshu at 3:44 PM on December 23, 2010


That really doesn't have anything to do with the points I was making, and just seems like grandstanding on your part. I think you're confusing a lot of fairly descriptive stuff with normative statements.

You are trying to legitimize institutions that maintain stability. That is a crock of shit when the institutions only maintain stability internally, and subject any unfortunate bystanders with zero relative power to enormous amounts of injustice and instability.

When Indian citizens make changes in India for Indian citizens, that's their business. When Americans make changes in Iraq for Americans, that is anti-democratic colonialism. When they do it in secret, or lie to coverup their true motives, it even manages to subvert American democracy as well as Iraqi sovereignty.

Using your logic, it would be pretty easy to excuse Stalin for maintaining the institutions of government in the USSR. If you can explain how he was morally correct until he reached a certain death toll using your justification of institutions, I'm all ears.
posted by notion at 4:01 PM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Anigbrowl, what is the basis for your argument that Wikileaks lacks journalistic neutrality? Does the whole argument rest on the edited collateral damage video, or is there something I'm missing? If so, how is that editing different from the editing done by MSNBC or Fox or CNN?

I'm saying that that's where it suddenly went wrong, and departed from the established approach of minimal comment and agnostic presentation. Now Assange gives interviews like the one with John Humphries the other day where he talks about how 'poisonous' the state department cables are, when many of them are nothing of the sort. I'm not saying that none of this information should ever have been released because it might embarrass the US, but that any value Wikileaks had as a platform is shot.

The editing is not any different from that employed by MSNBC or Fox or CNN. That's what the problem is. Television news is shit because it is heavily edited, and editing something shapes the public perception of it in many ways. Editing and titling the video as they did started a whole separate discussion about 'whether Wikileaks was anti-American or not.' If they'd stuck to the bare minimum of reference material like 'Footage recorded on [date] by [helicopter #] at [location] it would not have been a problem. If it was so important for the public to know the information - which I happen to think it was in this case - then it's better to let the public figure out the significance for itself, instead of giving it some loaded title like 'Collateral Murder.' It's not a fucking movie.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:05 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look, the whole justification of Democracy is that the citizens of the polity are best able to decide how it should be run. If the people don't know what's going on and can't talk about what's going on, how can they make a rational judgement on what policies and leaders to vote for?

The government has a right to try and keep things secret. It has a right to demand secrecy from it's employees. But once the cat is out of the bag, the government has absolutely no right to tell me what I can read and talk about. If you take away that right, you are taking away democracy, it's that simple.
posted by empath at 4:08 PM on December 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


If the people don't know what's going on and can't talk about what's going on, how can they make a rational judgement on what policies and leaders to vote for?

In the classic Hobbesian conservative model, the people have no business making rational judgments of their leaders. All they need to know is that they are their rightful leaders, and that they are all under the same flag.
posted by acb at 4:28 PM on December 23, 2010


anigbrowl: All right, so you're not American, and your concerns are (at least in part) for the safety of Irish citizens. However, I have to wonder if living in America has inculcated you with the culture of fear that permeates this country. Americans have been so successfully manipulated by fear that they've all but given up their rights to assembly, privacy, free movement and (now) free speech, the very foundations of the Constitutional government you say you hold in high regard. Wikileaks has shone a light on a multitude of government abuses which the people have a right to know about and... you're afraid they might upset the status quo. Most of what you said just seems like a long-winded apology for the status quo, and I especially dislike your implication that "any value Wikileaks had as a platform is shot. The editing is not any different from that employed by MSNBC or Fox or CNN. That's what the problem is." This is just utter nonsense, absolute piffle. I have watched both the edited and unedited versions of Collateral Murder, and your implcation that the edited footage is unfairly skewed, and worse that it is on a par with Fox News (can you be serious?) proves to me that you must be hopelessly biased.

Wikileaks urges people to always go see the source material for themselves whenever possible, and in the interest of promoting that (an idea which I wholeheartedly support) I'll provide a link to Collateral Murder, and urge everyone to watch both the edited and unedited videos for themselves.
posted by Marla Singer at 4:36 PM on December 23, 2010


anigbrowl, I may be misunderstanding you, but it seems like you are arguing against yourself here. On one hand, you object to Wikileaks moving away from neutrality because that means fewer opinions will be heard and less information will be brought forward. But then you say that more information is not necessarily a good thing, it actually has some negative effects. And there's even some evidence that Assange moved away from the neutral model in favor of a partisan position because of those negative effects.

The metapolitical standpoint seems to want to extract itself from the messiness of partisan positions and concern itself with ensuring that all voices are heard. Superficially, this sounds very broadminded, nonpolitical and something we can all agree on, but for me, there's a problem, because very often this leads to something like "...and since we all agree that all voices should be heard, then it follows that neoliberal capitalism, the system which is best able to offer this opportunity to all, is what we should have!" So there's a bit of a sleight of hand here - at first glance, all positions are granted an opportunity to speak, but then this is used to ensure that certain things are taken off the table and can't be contested. You end up with perverse effects, like "You're being censored because you're voice is destabilizing to the state, which is wrong because the state gives everyone the chance to be heard."
posted by AlsoMike at 4:38 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not to be pedantic, but the US is constituted as a Republic rather than a Democracy. Good thing too, because it's very easy to get people to vote against their own interests - at least in the short term. I love that California publishes voter information pamphlets the size of a small book and sends out copies to everyone along with their ballot papers, but very few people seem interested in reading all that information. Maybe the fact that I can't actually vote in US elections makes it seem more interesting than it is. (Incidentally, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not talking about the Republican or Democratic political parties here.)

As for cats in bags and censorship of their exit, that doesn't seem to be actually happening. Nobody is impounding copies of the Guardian or bombing the offices of Le Monde or arresting NYT editorial staff or forcing newspapers to be sold with large holes cut out of the pages. Nor have I suggested any censorship ought to take place. I'm talking about why I think WikiLeaks/Assange's current approach is so deeply flawed, and why that's a pity because I was strongly supportive of the project until a few months ago.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:40 PM on December 23, 2010


Ha, well on the bright side, if the problem with Wikileaks is that they edit things, which somehow makes them just like any other news organization out there, at least that means they are therefore a legitimate journalistic organization and should therefore to be afforded the same protections as any other journalistic organization.

(Which, just to point out, is in direct opposition not only to US government figures who want to bring charges against Assange, but to the point of view of the article linked in the FPP and loved so much by so many in this thread: "Assange is no more a 'journalist' than he is a crypto mathematician." )
posted by Marla Singer at 5:04 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The great (former) strength of WikiLeaks was that the organization did not make decisions about what should be leaked, it just limited itself to being a safe conduit for leakers - much as the New York Times chose to publish information that Daniel Ellsberg brought to it, as opposed to commissioning him to go in there and look for it.

This. What is hurting Wikileaks credibility is that this is not about Wikileaks anymore, it is about Julian Assange. Once he decided to become the public face of Wikileaks, the whole organization was judged according to Assange's statements and actions. The more he veers into the realm of opinion, the less perceivably reliable is Wikileaks as a source.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:07 PM on December 23, 2010


"You are trying to legitimize institutions that maintain stability. That is a crock of shit when the institutions only maintain stability internally, and subject any unfortunate bystanders with zero relative power to enormous amounts of injustice and instability."

Well, not really, and it's odd you jump from demanding some sort of justification for Vietnam to asking me to defend Stalin.

Here's an analogy: The police do many terrible things. There are corrupt police officers, there are police officers that murder people. It is good when those things are brought to light. However, that does not mean that every police officer is bad, or that we'd be better without police, or that exposing every confidentiality held by the police would be good.

And more back to the point I was trying to make, which is that in a time with a lot of instability (for the analogy, crime), attacking all police in general because you are anti-police is both unpopular and against the common good. This does not mean that all attacks on the police are attacks because they are police; bad conduct deserves to be attacked even in the police.

Too often, and especially in the context of Wikileaks, the anti-status quo argument, the anti-institutional argument, feels too much like the indiscriminate anti-police argument.
posted by klangklangston at 5:13 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not to be pedantic, but the US is constituted as a Republic rather than a Democracy.

Those two things are not mutually exclusive. It means merely that the United States is not ruled by blood or religious classes, but as res publica - "a public affair." The constitution allows us to change the constitution and make it a direct democracy, if that were feasible, but we have chosen to stick with representative democracy, at least for now.

If all of the anti-democratic rhetoric was correct, there would at least be a few oligarchies, juntas, or monarchies with more freedoms than democratic nations. Of course that is never the case, because there is no incentive for a democracy to vote against their own interests until small groups of powerful people subvert the truth with propaganda. And even then, they are not successful for long.

As Jefferson said in his inauguration:
[It] it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government. . . a jealous care of the right of election by the people—a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.
(Aside: It's always amazing to watch pro-market people argue against democratic institutions. As if adding money to the self-interest equation makes things less corruptible.)
posted by notion at 5:19 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, not really, and it's odd you jump from demanding some sort of justification for Vietnam to asking me to defend Stalin.

What is the difference between killing Vietnamese to try to achieve more stability for your own government and killing dissidents for same ends?

Here's an analogy: The police do many terrible things. There are corrupt police officers, there are police officers that murder people. It is good when those things are brought to light. However, that does not mean that every police officer is bad, or that we'd be better without police, or that exposing every confidentiality held by the police would be good.

Yes, but it does mean you cannot trust the police with enough secrecy to avoid accountability. I do not understand what the difficulty is with this concept.

Too often, and especially in the context of Wikileaks, the anti-status quo argument, the anti-institutional argument, feels too much like the indiscriminate anti-police argument.

Anti-status quo doesn't mean you're against the institution of democracy. It's quite the opposite: we believe the status quo is not democracy because there is too much secrecy and shadow government, and we would like to return our government to a law-abiding democracy, because that is the only legitimate form of government in the world: "No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent."
posted by notion at 5:29 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


All right, so you're not American, and your concerns are (at least in part) for the safety of Irish citizens. However, I have to wonder if living in America has inculcated you with the culture of fear that permeates this country...

Ooops i was wrong BUT NOT REALLY
posted by generalist at 5:33 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ooops i was wrong BUT NOT REALLY

OK, I was wrong, and fwiw I'm really surprised to hear someone who is not an American espouse American exceptionalist views. Maybe I shouldn't be; American global military-industrial-corporatist hegemony benefits the status quo of all Western industrialized nations. Happy?
posted by Marla Singer at 6:07 PM on December 23, 2010


klangklangston:

And I do think that Wikileaks, and the philosophy behind it (and one that I've seen voiced here) is inherently anti-institutional.

I don't agree with you there, and I'm in favor of Wikileaks only because I think it's not anti-institutional. This is mostly clearly demonstrated in Assange's writings, where the description of his target is not put in the familiar terms you'd expect of an anti-institutional zealot - a hierarchical, centralized, dominating system which can be mapped as an org chart. Instead, his authoritarian conspiracy is a decentralized, distributed, acephalous network. Not only does Assange not endorse the standard hacker position that Sterling assigns to him - trying to replace the international order with a group of subversive wikipedians, etc. - if anything, it's the exact opposite. For Assange, the elites are the subversive wikipedians, as it were, engaged in an anarchic, carnivalesque rebellion to undermine the legitimate governing institutions. This is what it means to be against the status quo, definitely not the worn out countercultural notions of orderly, boring homogeneity vs. pseudo-liberated antinomian explosions - the situation is reversed now. With this background, we can understand his term "civil obedience", and his conversion of Wikileaks from a "neutral", decentralized, crowdsourced model to a good old-fashioned, centralized, hierarchical organization headed by himself and letting go of members who disagree.

Admittedly, things may be quite a bit more ambiguous than I'm making them out to be, maybe I'm finding what I want to see in there. But in my reading of events, Wikileaks has undergone this transition and far from being a reflexive pro-Wikileaks booster, I was much more ambivalent before that happened.
posted by AlsoMike at 6:35 PM on December 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


"Yes, but it does mean you cannot trust the police with enough secrecy to avoid accountability. I do not understand what the difficulty is with this concept."

I guess the difficulty is that no one is arguing for it, yet you keep arguing against it. Likewise, you keep trying to drop appeals to emotion keep trying to force me into some gotcha game that's just not interesting or relevant. So perhaps when you're done tickling your balls with that nonsense, you can realize that the argument I'm making isn't over whether the government should be given enough secrecy to avoid accountability (though in some cases, it always will, just like there's no practical way to make sure that every murderer is brought to justice), but rather what the limits of that openness should be, and expressing reservations regarding ideologues being good judges of those limits.

I mean, what, you think that absolutely no harm will come to anyone undeserving because of the cable leaks? Or from any number of other Wikileaks? We already saw harm come to fighting climate change in part because of Wikileaks. If you accept that some harm will come, then, by the same bullshit token of Stalin and Vietnam, you're justifying that harm in the interest of democracy and your ideology — just like the neo-cons who took us to war in Iraq.
posted by klangklangston at 6:45 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't agree with you there, and I'm in favor of Wikileaks only because I think it's not anti-institutional. This is mostly clearly demonstrated in Assange's writings, where the description of his target is not put in the familiar terms you'd expect of an anti-institutional zealot - a hierarchical, centralized, dominating system which can be mapped as an org chart. Instead, his authoritarian conspiracy is a decentralized, distributed, acephalous network. Not only does Assange not endorse the standard hacker position that Sterling assigns to him - trying to replace the international order with a group of subversive wikipedians, etc. - if anything, it's the exact opposite. For Assange, the elites are the subversive wikipedians, as it were, engaged in an anarchic, carnivalesque rebellion to undermine the legitimate governing institutions.

This might be the most insightful thing I've ever read on metafilter.
posted by empath at 6:52 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Instead, [Assange's] authoritarian conspiracy is a decentralized, distributed, acephalous network.

we believe the status quo is not democracy because there is too much secrecy and shadow government, and we would like to return our government to a law-abiding democracy

Can't second these two comments enough. I think this is one of the most important disconnects in this ongoing discussion: people who don't support Wikileaks seem to believe that established democratic institutions are the intended target, while people who do support them seem to believe that it is the undemocratic "shadowy" loose networks (e.g. as described in Shadow Elite by Janine Wedel) that are being targeted.

From my reading, it seems that Assange's statements and essays mostly support the latter position, but by no means have I read everything he's ever said or written on the subject. I could definitely see an argument that one could be the unintended consequence of the other, but I see zero evidence that Assange just wants to destroy or weaken the American government (as has been claimed repeatedly). From what he's written, it seems to me that he's aiming at the informal, behind-the-scenes connections between industry and government that allow democracy to be subverted. His argument is that the more secretive people have to be to collude against democratic interests, the less effective they will be at achieving their aims. As Assange tells it, this is the core of the entire endeavor.

As for the neutrality argument, well, I guess I just wish people could get half as worked up about the everyday, de rigeur distortions of the "establishment" media as they do about Wikileaks' editorializing in this one specific case. I feel that Fox and MSNBC (&etc) have far, far greater impacts on our discourse, and that their collective abject failure is actually one of the reasons that Wikileaks has been so successful at capturing the public interest. At least Wikileaks releases the primary sources so that people can judge for themselves, and at least they're not so obsessed with maintaining access that they're willing to spin things to please those in power. I agree that they're not perfect, but as far as journalism goes (leaving aside the secrecy arguments), it still feels like an improvement to me.
posted by dialetheia at 7:30 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


"And I do think that Wikileaks, and the philosophy behind it (and one that I've seen voiced here) is inherently anti-institutional."

Except it's not. People aren't reading or listening to Assange own words on the subject. Why? Is he a new Osama Bin Laden(!) with very clear stated goals that are studiously ignored? Like Bin Laden (except without the actual terrorism) Assange's words are absolutely avoided because they might be comprehensible, because bullshit arguments about 'Anti-Institutionalism' will then no longer be supportable any other way than imagining them.

Since the first Wikileaks thread I've noticed this: some people love to imagine what Wikileaks is all about.

(As for the Osama Bin Laden angle, whatever, have a field day with that. Use your imagination.)
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 7:31 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


and expressing reservations regarding ideologues being good judges of those limits.

Total nonsense. You trust secret ideologues that are in the State Department instead of facts exposed by Julian Assange.
posted by notion at 8:20 PM on December 23, 2010


To clarify: ideologues acting in secret instead of facts exposed by Assange.
posted by notion at 8:26 PM on December 23, 2010


Except it's not. People aren't reading or listening to Assange own words on the subject. Why?

Its because his words and actions don't match. Everything he's doing, no matter what he's doing, is making governance more difficult.

And in terms of restoring "real" democracy--people have known what Assange is putting out there for years. What harms our diplomacy and military operations is exact specific names and military techniques and exact places we don't want terrorists striking getting out there. The fact is people know fully that they are voting for the national security state created by Truman. Hell, they celebrate it in movies, tv and books. And that selection and those votes are their legitimate right. This whole idea that the fact that the large mass of American voters don't know what they are picking in terms of the national security state is a fiction. The fact that someone disagrees with you does not make them deluded. This is why you guys never convince them--your starting point is they don't really know what they are choosing. That's insulting. Now I happen to disagree with them on many policy grounds and want a smaller national security state. But I don't disrespect the basic position of the vast majority of the American electorate, which is that we need defense secrets. 72% of US voters see no right to defense information for citizens. I think over classification is a problem. But just infodumping is neither journalism or the solution.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:23 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Assange's words are absolutely avoided because they might be comprehensible, because bullshit arguments about 'Anti-Institutionalism' will then no longer be supportable any other way than imagining them.

Frankly, I think what he has written on the subject is a meandering mass of crap that makes no coherent sense. Why is making it harder for states to use secrecy, as he puts it turning the state on itself, a good thing? I don't want the state to turn on itself. Its inherently undemocratic--it says I don't agree with your policy choices so I'm going to fuck up the machinery you use to implement those choices. He has the temerity to tell our elected president to resign and his duly-appointed secretary of state to resign because he doesn't like them? The American people voted this administration in. It is there choice--he's trying, deliberately or accidentally to make it harder for the democratically elected leaders to do their job--all because he thinks he knows better.

I read his damn stuff. Its an incoherent mess, not a blueprint for helping anyone.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:32 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


But just infodumping is neither journalism or the solution.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
posted by ryoshu at 9:50 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Its because his words and actions don't match. Everything he's doing, no matter what he's doing, is making governance more difficult.
Why should anyone care?
Its inherently undemocratic
But you obviously don't care about democracy anywhere else in the world. I don't think the average Nigerian voter appreciates the fact that Shell runs their country and brags about it to American diplomats. Or that the Swedish opposition party promised American diplomats not to withdraw troops from Afghanistan while campaigning on not doing it.

You don't give a shit about democracy, don't pretend otherwise.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 PM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


'Ha, well on the bright side, if the problem with Wikileaks is that they edit things, which somehow makes them just like any other....'
posted by clavdivs at 11:15 PM on December 23, 2010


If one assumes that corporations are people, that they are harmfully affected by loss of profit and stock value, and that fear comes from the self-preservation instinct to avoid harm, it follows that Wikileaks is a terrorist organisation. But so is Greenpeace.
posted by acb at 2:08 AM on December 24, 2010


But you obviously don't care about democracy anywhere else in the world. I don't think the average Nigerian voter appreciates the fact that Shell runs their country and brags about it to American diplomats. Or that the Swedish opposition party promised American diplomats not to withdraw troops from Afghanistan while campaigning on not doing it.


Shell, Halliburton and a few others have been the subject of a wide ranging and ongoing criminal probe in Nigeria for some time now. Perhaps you missed the bit where Dick Cheney was threatened with prosecution until Haliburtton paid up. It isn't the job of the Diplomat writing the cable to do something with the info. We don't have any idea how this cable was used to direct policy. The US worked to restore Nigerian democracy following the coup in 1985 and continues to support it today.
posted by humanfont at 3:17 AM on December 24, 2010


Julian Assange: the early years.

(Warning: contains cringeworthy Australian stereotypes.)
posted by acb at 3:37 AM on December 24, 2010


Shell, Halliburton and a few others have been the subject of a wide ranging and ongoing criminal probe in Nigeria for some time now.
I'm not aware of any cases against Shell in Nigeria, and the case with halliburton was settled a couple days ago. I'm not sure what that has to do with the fact that Shell execs were bragging about infiltrating the Nigerian government.
posted by delmoi at 3:52 AM on December 24, 2010


(I also don't see what that has to do with the pressures put on western, European governments to change their laws and interference in their judicial systems. The fact that Sweden is a secret member of NATO and that the fact was kept from parliament is something that Swedish voters ought to know, don't you think?)
posted by delmoi at 3:53 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Amnesty international did in-fact criticize the fact that names were not redacted in the Afgan war log leak, Marla Singer. We know however that wikileaks simply didn't have the clout or personnel to redact the names for that leak. After the Afgan leak, journalists were all over helping wikileaks, which meant the names were properly redacted in the Iraq war diary. It follows that klangklangston's statements were completely false in the sense he intended them to be read. Amnesty also gave Assange award, btw.

There is a dirty little secret apparent in the U.S.'s handling of Collateral Murder, Afagan log leaks, Iraq diary leak, and Cablegate : The U.S. simply doesn't care one iota about it's Afghani and Iraqi informants and supporters. It cases only about embarrassment & inconveniences of the powerful. In particular, I'd imagine the defense department's official position that no Afganis were harmed by the Afgan war log leak is largely guesswork, surely very skilled guesswork, but I doubt they care enough to actually check.

I find myself reflecting upon this fundamental difference every time I see some impassioned criticism of Assange or wikileaks. Amnesty criticized wikileaks immediately for not redacting names, well wikileaks listened and redacted names subsequently. Yet, we hear about this little internal spat amongst human rights organizations only now that the powerful are being inconvenienced.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:56 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not terribly impressed with this article by Bruce Sterling, well he's kinda just yelling "Get Off My Lawn".

I've afraid this thread also just doesn't cut it as the next great wikileaks thread either, btw. We need a proper cablegate thread where we restrict ourselves to talking about all the news stories coming out, well they have become way more interesting than Assange's personal life, or all the arm chair quarterbacks like Bruce Sterling.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:01 AM on December 24, 2010


I'm not terribly impressed with this article by Bruce Sterling, well he's kinda just yelling "Get Off My Lawn".

I thought that was Jaron Lanier (who apparently was the Jimi Hendrix of virtual reality or something in the 1990s when "cyberculture" was a word, but has since turned into a grumpy neo-luddite in the Kirkpatrick Sale mould).

Sterling, who after all did write The Hacker Crackdown knows quite a few people like Assange, and probably quite a few people who know Assange from his days as "Mendax". He's not just making stuff up.
posted by acb at 6:20 AM on December 24, 2010


Shell management grilled in bribery investigation e
posted by anigbrowl at 6:35 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the release of US secret docs, I'm supposed to care what the German voters think? No. I live here, I vote here.

Well, see, the thing is, those German voters (and all other non-US citizens) don't live in the US, and they can't vote in the US, and yet your government's policies still affect them in many profound ways.

Yes, you should care what the rest of the world thinks, for fuck's sake. Heaven forbid your foreign policy show some consideration for the international community.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:06 AM on December 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


The Economist on the Sterling article (via the Twitter feed of Greg Mitchell at The Nation blog
posted by HLD at 7:32 AM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm far more happy with the Economist's critique of Sterling's critique of wikileaks that HLD just posted, especially this little gem :

[Assange] thinks that the legitimate exercise of state power requires what liberal political theorists call "public justification". What is so startling about the reception to WikiLeaks' latest release of documents is that it has revealed that boring old liberal theories of political legitimacy strike a lot of people as too dangerous to even contemplate.

And then he aptly nails the whole issue in his closing :

I think old Immanuel Kant was perhaps a bit too sunny when he said this:

``A maxim which I cannot divulge without defeating my own purpose must be kept secret if it is to succeed; and, if I cannot publicly avow it without inevitably exciting universal opposition to my project, the necessary and universal opposition which can be forseen a priori is due only to the injustice with which the maxim threatens everyone.''

I doubt even self-evidently unjust policies (or strategems or maxims or wars) ever excite anything near "universal oppostion". But Mr Kant is right, as is Mr Assange, that ongoing injustice tends to require secrecy. He is right, as is Mr Assange, that injustice made public is thereby at least somewhat threatened. And he is therefore right, as is Mr Assange, that policies (or strategems or maxims or wars) that survive the test of thoroughgoing publicity are least likely unjust. Liberalism was once a radical, revolutionary philosophy, but it has become hard to believe it. What is most intriguing about the WikiLeaks saga is not the pathology of hacker culture as envisioned by Mr Sterling's fecund imagination, but the possibility that Julian Assange and his confederates have made dull liberal principles seem once again sexily subversive by exposing power's reactionary panic when a few people with a practical bent actually bother to take them seriously.

posted by jeffburdges at 8:24 AM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


and universal opposition which can be forseen a priori is due only to the injustice with which the maxim threatens everyone.''


"Jack Ruby-style"
posted by clavdivs at 9:08 AM on December 24, 2010


Its because his words and actions don't match. Everything he's doing, no matter what he's doing, is making governance more difficult.

You know, while we're at it, we should probably remove all those pesky bits of the constitution that call for things like multiple branches of government and separation of powers. Oh, and term limits, too. And while we're at it, the free press has probably outlived it's usefulness. They make governance a real pain in the ass...

Governments unchecked grow too powerful; democracy is, at its core, a collection of methods to limit the government and keep it in line with what the populace wants. And sometimes, not even that. If you think back to the civil rights era, black equality was massively unpopular, and yet some assholes threw monkey-wrenches into the system, gummed up the works, and, yes, made governance more difficult. Democracy isn't always about trying to pass ballot measures or form a popular consensus on a proposition before taking any definitive action; sometimes it means taking subversive action on behalf of larger values. Resistance and civil disobedience are active and (gasp) effective parts of a thriving democracy.

And while we have no world democracy, I think people see the footprint left by the US's business and military interests, and start asking themselves:
'All men, created one-and-the-same?
Would anyone believing that be playing this game?
Or are they happy funding wars to the left, right and center,
So long as the news reports don't impact their dinner?
Coz I see taxes being levied on all the world's poorest
As corporations storm through, stealing all their resources;
Drug trials that would never ever fly in the States
So that Pfizer back home can charge ludicrous rates;
Bombs being dropped on the family home
To facilitate an oil pipe from Baghdad to Rome.
For the rest of the world the price of Empire is steep,
But America's not listening, at the helm they're asleep:
Sometimes it takes a great big noise
To wake up the giants with their deadly toys
Because the people of Afghanistan can't vote in Ohio
Or email their Senator about the problems they know.
Until these people get some representation
You're gonna have to learn to live with a little chaos on occasion.
But it's probably better to leak diplomatic cables
Than to bomb the Seer's Tower, just turning the tables.
Eye for an eye and we all go blind,
Dump information in the open and we all get wise:
Maybe somebody knew about the court-fixing for Gitmo
But did anyone tell it to the voters in Toledo?
We've witnessed the break-down of the free press
Sending American democracy into existential distress
The military controls what you see on the shows
And Fox News keeps it spinning like a turntable does:
Yeah, you spin me right round baby right round
like a record player right right round round...
You and me, were we really born equal?
And what can we do to make it work in the sequel?'
posted by kaibutsu at 9:22 AM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think we should all call Assange "the silver couch-surfer" from now on (the rest of the Economist article is excellent as well). When the next leaks drop, I want to see the FPP headline: "The silver couch-surfer strikes again!"
posted by ssg at 9:22 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


[The Economist critique] is a very pretty argument, but it sidesteps one rather crucial question: if Bradley Manning wasleaking documents because his conscience was outraged by an unjust war, why did he join the military in 2006? By which time the Abu Ghraib events had come to light, several people had been imprisoned for their involvement, WMD were widely agreed to be absent, and Iraq had fallen into a bloody civil war. According to chat logs, Manning began leaking material in late November 2009.

Now, explain to me how you could possibly join the US army at the peak of the insurgency/civil war in Iraq and not be aware of the massive ethical cloud hanging over the entire venture? Did this guy never look at a history book, a newspaper, or even a television?

He's horrified by information in the state department cables revealing that much US aid to Pakistan funds the purchase of f-16 fighter aircraft, to asssist the US war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been buying f-16s since the 1980s. Pakistan had taken delivery of 40 f-16s before Bradley Manning was even born. The saga of Pakistan, warplanes, and money has being going on quite publicly for years. So Manning first becomes aware f this while browsing through State department cables and he assumes that because this comes as a major surprise to him, it's an epic scandal! In reality, he could have learned the same things from...The New York Times.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:36 AM on December 24, 2010


Did this guy never look at a history book, a newspaper, or even a television?

Is it really so mysterious? It's a fairly common phenomenon for people to be all glow-eyed and uninformed when they join the military, only to change their minds once they see how the sausage is made.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:54 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


anigbrowl: there's a reason all of the real news isn't on the front page while it's happening, but only after the fact and never on the front page. It's plausible deniability. And it's a fucking pathetic excuse for immoral behavior.
posted by notion at 12:20 PM on December 24, 2010


Except the US is just one participant in the global diplomatic order. We didn't make the rules, we don't even play that harshly. China's opening strip mines in Afghanistan, we're opening polling station. Russian aggression against Georgia and ongoing conflict in Chechnya. Swiss bankers who hold the accounts of third world despot and multinationals. Hugo Chave giving support to Columbian Rebels. Sandinistas invading Costa Rica and blaming Google. I dia and China re-colonizing Africa.
posted by humanfont at 1:13 PM on December 24, 2010


If Putin jumped off a bridge, would you?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:37 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If Putin held your your kids over a cliff's edge would you hold a gun to his mothers head?
posted by humanfont at 3:17 PM on December 24, 2010


What is most intriguing about the WikiLeaks saga is not the pathology of hacker culture as envisioned by Mr Sterling's fecund imagination, but the possibility that Julian Assange and his confederates have made dull liberal principles seem once again sexily subversive by exposing power's reactionary panic when a few people with a practical bent actually bother to take them seriously.

Bruce's enduring curse is that he fell in love with hacker culture, wrote a best-selling book about it & then almost immediately fell out of love with us. The reasons for it are somewhat obscure & personal but the result is it colors everything he's written ever since. So now he spends the rest of his career disowning & disavowing that which earned him his greatest fame.
posted by scalefree at 3:21 PM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


If Putin held your your kids over a cliff's edge would you hold a gun to his mothers head?

Putin's mom is dead, and I don't have kids.

So, no.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:47 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


but just imagine.
posted by clavdivs at 7:01 PM on December 24, 2010


1998, location redacted. Putin dangles XXXXXXXX over the cliff to and so I escalate, my goons bring his mom up and toss her to the ground. I pull out a Desert Eagle .50 caliber that I picked up during a drug raid a few years back. I'm like bring the girl back over the railing now Vladimer. Nyet he says. Then he goes on this soliliquy about how I'm bluffing and that I don't had the balls to pull the trigger, my president gets blow jobs from fat chicks, yada yada yada. In anticipation of this repost, I have left the chamber empty in the gun, so I can squeeze the trigger one time just for drama. So I pull the trigger, expecting a null click, but instead the thing goes off. Ma Putin is dead, my guys are like shit you just capped his mom. Putin's like what the fuck is wrong with you. You fucking shot my mom. I'm like, dude you were holding little xxxx over the edge where did you think that was going to go. He's like I wasn't going to drop her, I'm not a fucking monster. So i say well how the fuck was i suoposed to know that. My goons are like, dude why are you such an asshole boss. I'm like look sometimes shit happens, I said I was sorry. He storms off and next thing I know he's running Russia, meanwhile I'm given a desk assignment and surrounded by assholes who think its real funny to call me shooter, and ask me if I've shot anyone's mom yet today. FML
posted by humanfont at 8:22 PM on December 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


but it sidesteps one rather crucial question: if Bradley Manning wasleaking documents because his conscience was outraged by an unjust war, why did he join the military in 2006? By which time the Abu Ghraib events had come to light, several people had been imprisoned for their involvement, WMD were widely agreed to be absent, and Iraq had fallen into a bloody civil war. According to chat logs, Manning began leaking material in late November 2009.
What was he, 18? 19? Maybe he believed they hype, which he was only disabused of when reading all the cables. I mean we all say we "all kind of knew" but that isn't really true and it's less likely to be true to someone who's 18. It's not like it's talked about that way on the news.

I mean, come on if every single person believed what you believe about how America operates, then either it would have to change or it would have no need to keep this stuff secret.
posted by delmoi at 10:16 PM on December 24, 2010


Imagine if you will, the leak of all time. 'NSAs open data bank project 1950-2010'. Everyone gets a there own redacted file cabinets. golly ma look at that.

My goons are like, dude why are you such an asshole

Perhaps the low- level muscle shields and the wired van geeks but the spotter and the right hand would have surmised the empty chamber. I would wager Putin knew this but calling the bluff is not losing face., he flips people around, flies and drives the latest fashion symbol. He got Russia and that means knowing to squint then laugh. vodka would seem appropriate along with Black Sabbath.
carry on
posted by clavdivs at 10:59 PM on December 24, 2010


I mean we all say we "all kind of knew" but that isn't really true and it's less likely to be true to someone who's 18. It's not like it's talked about that way on the news.

Ah, bullshit.

Everyone gets at their own redacted file cabinets.

Oh goody, but wait why isn't there a file with my name on it?! That's not fair! DON'T YOU PEOPLE KNOW WHO I AM?
posted by anigbrowl at 11:46 PM on December 24, 2010


OK I read that flat file on Assange's posts to the cypherpunk mailing list.

I do not see any way that Assange gets out of a prison term. At first glance this looks to me like a deja vu of the Jim Bell saga, and an epic-scale screw-up by Assange. A pity.
posted by bukvich at 6:36 AM on December 25, 2010


Michael Petrelis just posted a roundup of gay-related content in the leaked cables, if anyone's interested.
posted by mediareport at 8:21 AM on December 25, 2010


What WikiLeaks revealed to the world in 2010
posted by homunculus at 8:38 AM on December 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny you would bring up James Dalton Bell. As is usually the case with politically charged articles, wikipedia is very wrong on the facts. According to Jessica Stern, Bell was playing with nerve gas precursors and also dabbling with some sort of conductive aerosol for sabotaging electronics, both of which freaked out law enforcement when these things were found during a warrant search that didn't include these items. Bell was hanging out with Christian Patriot / common law white supremacist types and there were a string of scary incidents in that region involving this milleau in that time: huge illegal arms caches, vehicle stop shootings of cops, very professional bank robberies, etc.

So maybe you have a point: repainting Bell as a libertarian/crytoanarchist instead of a right-wing terrorist is sheep dipping, just as repainting Assange as a crusading journalist rather than a cypherpunk whose provocation politics got out of hand when he finally got a big enough leak to game.

That may be way overstating the case, but there is a legitimate controversy over whether one or both of those characterizations of Bell and Assange are accurate. By legitimate, I mean that the assertions can be made in good faith, are base on verifiable facts, and may or may not be entirely accurate. It's a very strange situation where these controversies are mostly fueled by the lack of thorough and trustworthy information, mostly because of the extremely high volume of disinformation out on the web. With all this information at our fingertips, we seem to know less and be less certain of it than ever.

tl;dr of Stirling: this will end badly. I think he is right about that and I also think he's got some insight into the situation. I note the Economist essay by W.W. is simply snarking/sniping at strawman assumptions about where Bruce is coming from, rather than addressing the underlying problem of infantile nerd-rage by cypherpunks not being particularly astute or effective in achieving desired results.

I strongly suspect the root problem with Assange's analysis (which can fairly be called a monolithic conspiracy theory) is the failure to realize that: 1) all secrets do not conceal crimes, 2) political establishments are composed of different elites engaged in power struggle with each other, and 3) most importantly, scandals are not about the content, but about the power struggles.

It's worth expanding slightly on #3 because this is something that anyone who has devoted serious time and effort to political research, investigative journalism and/or disclosure actions learns: coverups are more common than scandals because the circumstances where the power elite will turn on one of their own members are fairly rare. These rare circumstances where scandals emerge into the public view are exceptions, not the rule.

Watergate was not at the root about the illegal actions of the Nixon administration, it was about the fact that Nixon opened up a power struggle where he came out on the losing end. Contrast this with Iran/Contra, which was neatly covered up in the midst of a congressional investigation. Leaving those crimes and criminals unpunished confirmed the faction that ran the country under Bush Jr and cashed in on 9/11.

The political frustration in the US at this time is due to the establishment's unwillingness to have the open power struggle that scandal would bring about. They've made their political peace with each other, at least to the extend that all the factions in the government have reached a consensus that's it's better to coverup than clean house.

Assange sought to create a provocation where a power struggle would break out. He was wrong. He didn't understand the situation. So yes, his provocation did get a rise out of the most corrupt and delusional underlings (all being examples of the guilty fleeing when no man pursueth), but did not reach to the real divisions where some sort of game of musical chairs at the top could be played to the music of the Reform Tango.

As a provocation, it was a success. Assange provoked the power structure. Unfortunately, he appears to have provoked it into a new cycle of reactionary repression.

Assange and Manning are not tragic heros undone by character as fate. They are self-righteous zealots who will historically just be part of the problem.

Sort answer: they are doing it wrong.
posted by warbaby at 8:55 AM on December 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Er, short answer

Where's my 5-minute edit window? It is Christmas, after all.
posted by warbaby at 9:02 AM on December 25, 2010


I mean we all say we "all kind of knew" but that isn't really true and it's less likely to be true to someone who's 18. It's not like it's talked about that way on the news.

Ah, bullshit.
That was just an isolated incident perpetrated by bad apples. Don't you watch the news?
tl;dr of Stirling: this will end badly. I think he is right about that and I also think he's got some insight into the situation. I note the Economist essay by W.W. is simply snarking/sniping at strawman assumptions about where Bruce is coming from, rather than addressing the underlying problem of infantile nerd-rage by cypherpunks not being particularly astute or effective in achieving desired results.
That's the underlying problem? Julian Assange was Le Monde's man of the year; he was Time Mag's #3. Wikileaks has revealed all kinds of things but what's important here? Not the actual effect on the world but the fact that Assange apparently reminds some people of annoying nerds they know and really it's much more important that annoying people learn their place then whether or not "brown people" get blown up or whatever.

The rest of your post basically amounts to moronic stoner poli-sci bullshit. We don't actually know what the end result of all of this will be.
posted by delmoi at 9:08 AM on December 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


With all this information at our fingertips, we seem to know less and be less certain of it than ever.
This is like saying the printing press made us dumber.
the underlying problem of infantile nerd-rage by cypherpunks not being particularly astute or effective in achieving desired results.
The results are already achieved. The USG is having to lockdown its secret networks and restrict the number of people that have access to them, thereby reducing their effectiveness at undemocratic backroom deals that are made without consulting the people they are supposed to represent.
I strongly suspect the root problem with Assange's analysis (which can fairly be called a monolithic conspiracy theory)
They aren't called theories after they have been thoroughly documented. And Assange's model is nothing close to monolithic:
Where details are known as to the inner workings of authoritarian regimes, we see conspiratorial interactions among the political elite, not merely for preferment or favor within the regime, but as the primary planning methodology behind maintaining or strengthening authoritarian power.

Authoritarian regimes create forces which oppose them by pushing against a people’s will to truth, love and self-realization. Plans which assist authoritarian rule, once discovered, induce further resistance. Hence such schemes are concealed by successful authoritarian powers until resistance is futile or outweighed by the efficiencies of naked power. This collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population, is enough to define their behavior as conspiratorial.
-Assange in 2006
This behavior has been documented since the beginning of time. The definition of tyranny is someone acting on your behalf without consulting you. There is no difference between a king sending his troops to war for pride, a dictator taking your land without compensation, or a diplomat making business deals in secret.
The Press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people. -Justice Hugo L. Black
is the failure to realize that: 1) all secrets do not conceal crimes
Secrecy is the only required ingredient for successful crimes. That's why we don't trust any public official with it.
2) political establishments are composed of different elites engaged in power struggle with each other, and 3) most importantly, scandals are not about the content, but about the power struggles.
Oh, please. That's like saying bank robbery isn't about the money, but the thrill of robbing the bank. They aren't betting a dollar in some ridiculous egalitarian pissing contest. They are closing business deals for powerful people in exchange for lobbying dollars, kickbacks, and a nice cushy job once they are out of the public sector.
Assange sought to create a provocation where a power struggle would break out.
No, Assange seeks to make it more difficult for corrupt government officials to conspire.
Assange provoked the power structure. Unfortunately, he appears to have provoked it into a new cycle of reactionary repression.
That's how change occurs. You make the power elite enforce their own rules publicly, and hope the public responds with political action. Slavery didn't end until the civil rights movement made their injustice undeniable and public. British imperialism didn't end in India until they forced their injustice into the spotlight.
Assange and Manning are not tragic heros undone by character as fate. They are self-righteous zealots who will historically just be part of the problem.
They are two men who are being persecuted for allowing US citizens to know what the US government is doing.
Short answer: they are doing it wrong.
Justice delayed is justice denied. If you've got a better plan to get more democratic results more quickly, let's hear it.
posted by notion at 10:11 AM on December 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


What was he, 18? 19?

When I was 18, i was a sheltered pro-life, pro-war, Reagan-loving, anti-drug, Gingritch-supporting, Rush Limbaugh-listening conservative. Within two or three years, I was pretty much the exact opposite of that along every single axis. People change when they're exposed to new ideas and information. Especially at that age.
posted by empath at 10:15 AM on December 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, the underlying problem why Wikilieaks disclosures are getting smothered is that Assange put together a network that is predicated on being a third party game changer standing outside the power structure. And that's not the way it works.

If Wikileaks is becoming a famous failure, it the important part the famous or the failure?

It's clear you disagree, but not at all clear why you should or why I should change my mind and agree with you.
posted by warbaby at 10:51 AM on December 25, 2010


warbaby: So maybe you have a point: repainting Bell as a libertarian/crytoanarchist instead of a right-wing terrorist is sheep dipping, just as repainting Assange as a crusading journalist rather than a cypherpunk whose provocation politics got out of hand when he finally got a big enough leak to game.

That is interesting but it is way over the head of my point. The sense in which I see them similar is cypherpunk posters who pissed off the U.S. government. I think a lot of things the government does are idiotic, but I do not do stuff I know will piss off one or more of their agents. Bell and Assange played chicken with the Feds, which is foolish.
posted by bukvich at 12:17 PM on December 25, 2010


Yes, the underlying problem why Wikilieaks disclosures are getting smothered is that Assange put together a network that is predicated on being a third party game changer standing outside the power structure. And that's not the way it works.
Not the way what works?
posted by delmoi at 12:24 PM on December 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


However, I have to wonder if living in America has inculcated you with the culture of fear that permeates this country. Americans have been so successfully manipulated by fear that they've all but given up their rights to assembly, privacy, free movement and (now) free speech, the very foundations of the Constitutional government you say you hold in high regard. Wikileaks has shone a light on a multitude of government abuses which the people have a right to know about and... you're afraid they might upset the status quo.

This is the classic logical fallacy of attacking the messenger. It isn't even going after the premises of the argument--its attacking the person making the statements. I think our discourse will be more effective if we don't speculate on "whether" people have fallen under a climate of fear. It is less than helpful at best and character assasination at worst. I'm certain upon reflection you would agree.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:48 PM on December 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, the underlying problem why Wikilieaks disclosures are getting smothered is that Assange put together a network that is predicated on being a third party game changer standing outside the power structure. And that's not the way it works.
Not the way what works?


Nobody's smothering the disclosures. They are all out there. The thing is that they tell us almost nothing of major import we didn't know, and Assange's own behavior is making him the story. Even if the ridiculous "the CIA bitch set me up" story was true, his behavior since being arrested is harming wikileaks.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:58 PM on December 25, 2010


Ironmouth wrote: Nobody's smothering the disclosures. They are all out there. The thing is that they tell us almost nothing of major import we didn't know ...

Then why are you so indignant about them?

For my part I didn't know the ways in which your government attempted to pervert the course of justice after having kidnapped and tortured innocent civilians. I didn't know that there is effectively no division between US diplomats and US spies; that US diplomats are required to but ferret out and relay sordid information like fingerprints and credit card details. I didn't know that most of the Middle East has been begging the US to do something about a nuclear-armed Iran. I think the world is a better place now that these facts are in the open.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:58 PM on December 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


The thing is that they tell us almost nothing of major import we didn't know

Saying it a hundred times doesn't make it true.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:08 PM on December 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is and you do not want to know the difference. But do your own thinking, take an American history class. You have cables from one side, the American, do you have similar cables from countries in response to the issues of the cables? Is this not a one sided affair for like a month now.

I think the world is a better place now that these facts are in the open.

This is why I mentioned that wild and crazy 'NSA open project'. Can you imagine what Big Sam could dump and where and when and how. But that would bring furies and diplomatic recalls and commerce would be disrupted. These are pennies in the wind when the opponent has lead Chevy’s and bombers. Without any new revelations, in a week, this project will either stall and fail or get ramped up. either way, the knives need to be put away. You must understand, ‘the machine’ in this country did not blink but squinted.
posted by clavdivs at 4:32 PM on December 25, 2010


I didn't know that there is effectively no division between US diplomats and US spies;

There is and you do...

i am fuqing ploughed
posted by clavdivs at 4:33 PM on December 25, 2010


i am fuqing ploughed

Never woulda guessed.
posted by scalefree at 5:10 PM on December 25, 2010


The thing is that they tell us almost nothing of major import we didn't know

Saying it a hundred times doesn't make it true.


Look at the titanic things that have happened just in the last decade. The last year. Name me a single thing all of this little crap is bigger than? Seriously, the US UN diplomatic staff is asked to provide how tall the N.Korean diplomats are? This is the huge revelation? We are to be amazed by these facts? Some diplomats are spies? This is news to you?

One thing I find is that the more important people trumpet these stories, the less they followed the news in the first place. Upthread, someone said the striking news was that we were directly using drone strikes in Yemen. The first reports came out in 2004 and I've know about them since 2005 at the latest. None of these things are revelations.

Why don't you provide me with an example of these world shaking revelations we didn't know about?
posted by Ironmouth at 5:31 PM on December 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody's smothering the disclosures. They are all out there. The thing is that they tell us almost nothing of major import we didn't know ...

Then why are you so indignant about them?


Becasue the minor details we don't care about are operationally important to the Taliban and al Qaeda.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:42 PM on December 25, 2010


The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables.
posted by ryoshu at 5:47 PM on December 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Take one instance where we were fully aware that Nigeria's government was infiltrated by oil industry players who reported all of the government's moves to headquarters so the government could not effectively govern. That sentiment at it's core is anti-democratic. The State Department should have immediately punished the oil company and made it public.

Really. Under the law, how is the State Department supposed to "punish" a company? What law can the State Department use to punish a corporation? This isn't make shit up time. You have to have the authority to do stuff, to do it. This is basic law.

And when Halliburton did bribe the Nigerian government? Well, they were investigated by the SEC and the Nigerian government and settled with both.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:54 PM on December 25, 2010


The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables.

This, a titanic story? Puh-leeze. We fucking invaded Iraq. Al Qaeda attacked us. We invaded Afghanistan. Bush wiretapped US citizens' phonecalls out of the country. A huge hurricane hit New Orleans. We just passed the most-comprehensive health care reform bill ever. A black guy got elected President.

So you are amazed that some foreign leaders try to use the DEA to frame their enemies? And how does this change our view of the world as a whole? Seriously, how world-shattering is this? Not at all.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:09 PM on December 25, 2010


I didn't know that there is effectively no division between US diplomats and US spies; that US diplomats are required to but ferret out and relay sordid information like fingerprints and credit card details.

First, of course there is a division. But some are spies and others are not. And hate to break it to you, but Australian diplomats spy too! And diplomats have operated as spies since 3000 BC.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:15 PM on December 25, 2010


So you are amazed that some foreign leaders try to use the DEA to frame their enemies?

Amazed? No. More well informed about the scope creep of the DEA? Yes.

And how does this change our view of the world as a whole?

It shows a different angle on the global War on Drugs. I don't know if it changes "our view of the world," but it certainly informs.

Seriously, how world-shattering is this? Not at all.

Does everything need to be world shattering to be news? Not at all.
posted by ryoshu at 6:19 PM on December 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


For example, one minute of googling presented this:
AUSTRALIA'S ambassador to Japan has been implicated in the mishandling of an Australian-Chinese man used as an informal spy for Australia more than 25 years ago.

Wang Jianping, a former chauffeur for Chinese political leaders, was recruited by Murray McLean, then a diplomat in China, according to a report on the ABC's The 7.30 Report.


http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/diplomat-named-in-spy-bungle/2005/11/14/1131951101623.html

So, I guess even Australian diplomats spy. So, where is this wonderful country where the diplomats don't spy? Please tell me.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:21 PM on December 25, 2010


The leaks have to move the needle in the polls and in the halls of congress. It is early days yet. The next milestone for Wikileaks is some kind of measurable political fallout. For example real hearings looking hard at the conduct of the State Department. Perhaps some meaningful legislation to curb the practices that people find objectionable.

This is a view inside the sausage factory of our State Department. Will Americans react as they did when Sinclair Lewis published his famous expose on the actual sausage factories? Or will this just be more fodder for Democracy Now, Michael Moore, Green and Libertarian party gatherings and others at the edges of politics?

Does the idea of of Wikileaks spread within dissident groups. For example a Russian opposition billionaire has announced support for Wikileaks to help expose corruption in Russia. Ultimately if the disclosure of some cables spurs a bunch more leakers in places with more to hide, then perhaps it is worth it.
posted by humanfont at 7:15 PM on December 25, 2010


Ultimately if the disclosure of some cables spurs a bunch more leakers in places with more to hide, then perhaps it is worth it.

Some of us find it 'worth it' regardless of whether or not we're keeping up with the neighbors.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:22 PM on December 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry if I was unclear above. By "smothered" I meant the political reaction to the leaks was smothered inside the establishment.

One of the objects of a leak/provocation is to kick off a political struggle inside the establishment which will add force to policy changes desired by the leakers. Assange is pretty clear about wanting to cause political change. No change is evident so far and I predict that what change does occur will be reactionary and repressive.

There are several reasons why establishment controversy isn't happening with Wikileaks:

1) as Ironmouth says, no disclosures have been powerful enough to provoke a political fight between factions in the establishment and

2) the information disclosed relates to foreign policy which is not and has not been the subject of serious political dispute inside the establishment.

The controversy over foreign policy and starting preemptive wars, etc., ad nauseum, exists outside the establishment, but inside the establishment the lack of controversy has been a constant for the last nine years.

***

I will take issue with the following exchange:

Then why are you so indignant about them?

Becasue the minor details we don't care about are operationally important to the Taliban and al Qaeda.


I think the evidence is lacking for this. IMHO, the Taliban and AQ get sufficient intel on the ground and through their friends in several nations' intelligence services. Because of those intelligence connections, there is little tactical or strategic surprise in the cables. The public may be surprised, but I don't think intelligence players (of any variety) are clutching their foreheads and shouting, "Why didn't we suspect that?!?"

***

I must say, I did like Bruce's comparison of Manning to Lewinsky as two hapless people who found themselves in far over their heads. Clinton's blowjobgate is a good example of pretty mundane scandal content being cranked up to a historically significant political brawl. That didn't get smothered at all.
posted by warbaby at 7:23 PM on December 25, 2010


There's been no scandal, because the corruption revealed by the leaks is the kind of corruption in which both parties have indulged for generations, and so there is no political advantage to be gained by exploiting it, short of a revolution.
posted by empath at 7:30 PM on December 25, 2010


'In 1990, it was reported that the embassy of the People's Republic of China in Canberra, Australia, had been bugged by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.[citation needed]

The Soviet embassy in Ottawa was bugged by the Canadian government and MI5 during its construction.[citation needed]

The United States Embassy in Moscow was bugged during its construction in the 1970s by Soviet agents posing as laborers. When discovered in the early 1980s, it was found that even the concrete columns were so riddled with bugs that the building eventually had to be torn down and replaced with a new one, built with U.S. materials and labor.[12] For a time, until the new building was completed, embassy workers had to communicate in conference rooms in writing, using children's "Mystic Writing Tablets".[citation needed]

In 2004, a bug was found in a meeting room at the United Nations offices in Geneva.
[citation needed]'

yep, I'm seeing a pattern here.
posted by clavdivs at 9:08 PM on December 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


For example real hearings looking hard at the conduct of the State Department. Perhaps some meaningful legislation to curb the practices that people find objectionable.

Uh, don't know if you've been following the polls, but outside of the 18-24 set, Assange polls like a fucking lead balloon. North of 70% approve of state secrets. Hearings on objectional state department activity? Sorry, but the Reddit crew isn't exactly driving the agenda. The concept is laughable. Not gonna happen. Dems aint gonna do it. And the Republicans? They despise Assange.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:45 PM on December 25, 2010


I don't know about you, but it makes me melancholy.
posted by warbaby at 9:53 PM on December 25, 2010


Not only that, but Congress has zero power to regulate foreign affairs. In that realm, the President is like a king of old. The congress lacks power under the Constitution to regulate it. Doesn't anyone read the Constitution anymore?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:56 PM on December 25, 2010


Not only that, but Congress has zero power to regulate foreign affairs. In that realm, the President is like a king of old. The congress lacks power under the Constitution to regulate it. Doesn't anyone read the Constitution anymore?

Power to declare war -- Congress
Power to approve and consent on treaties (supermajority) -- US Senate
Power to set tariffs -- Congress

Yeah I read the constitution. The congress has plenty of authority to involve itself in foreign affairs. Remember the Iran Contra scandal where Oliver North attempted to circumvent congress' prohibitions of funding the Contras? Remember when Jesse Helms wouldnt pay our UN dues.
posted by humanfont at 10:29 PM on December 25, 2010


Really. Under the law, how is the State Department supposed to "punish" a company? What law can the State Department use to punish a corporation? This isn't make shit up time. You have to have the authority to do stuff, to do it. This is basic law.
Foreign corrupt practices act? I thought you were a lawyer.

You seem to make this kind of argument a lot; whenever anyone accuses the government of wrongdoing you just say they don't have the legal authority to do anything else. Or whatever, as if the only possible way for the government to do anything is win a lawsuit. Simply telling corporations that that kind of behavior wouldn't be tolerated by the government would probably curtail it quite a bit.

Also, this quote is just bizarre:
Not only that, but Congress has zero power to regulate foreign affairs. In that realm, the President is like a king of old. The congress lacks power under the Constitution to regulate it. Doesn't anyone read the Constitution anymore?
Which is obviously why congress needs to ratify treaties, not the president. Or why congress needs to declare war, or even assemble armies in the first place.
There's been no scandal, because the corruption revealed by the leaks is the kind of corruption in which both parties have indulged for generations, and so there is no political advantage to be gained by exploiting it, short of a revolution.
Well, the US isn't the only country in the world. This is going to have a pretty big fallout in Europe, in places like Sweden (which is apparently a secret member of NATO) or countries where the US intervened in the legal process.
Uh, don't know if you've been following the polls, but outside of the 18-24 set, Assange polls like a fucking lead balloon.
Right... because obviously America is the only country that matters, American voters are the only ones who matter, and so on. This encapsulates your ideology pretty clearly:
I'm supposed to care what the German voters think? No. I live here, I vote here.
Also, the reason people don't engage with you "logically" is that your "logic" is completely incoherent. Logic is based on formal axioms, of which you have supplied zero. Since you haven't done that, nothing you have said has been "logical" by any measure whatsoever.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 PM on December 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Uh, don't know if you've been following the polls, but outside of the 18-24 set, Assange polls like a fucking lead balloon.

Right... because obviously America is the only country that matters, American voters are the only ones who matter, and so on. This encapsulates your ideology pretty clearly:


That was in response to the idea that the Congress was going to hold hearings about the 'bad behavior' of the State Department. A laughable concept.

Right... because obviously America is the only country that matters, American voters are the only ones who matter, and so on.

Again, the German voters are not going to make Congress "hold hearings" about anything.

But let's get this straight. If these were German secrets being broadcast to the world, you bet your ass German voters would be fully involved, and would be the ones who would be going after Assange. Get it? American secrets, then only American voters are the one's who are going to be motivated to change any of the policies Assange and you oppose.

Also, the reason people don't engage with you "logically" is that your "logic" is completely incoherent. Logic is based on formal axioms, of which you have supplied zero. Since you haven't done that, nothing you have said has been "logical" by any measure whatsoever.

Nice try. I pointed out a clear example of attacking the messenger. Do you disagree? If so explain. And not a single statement I have said doesn't include these "axioms?" What statements don't have these and what "axioms" are you talking about? We aren't talking symbolic logic here we are talking about.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:03 PM on December 25, 2010


I pointed out a clear example of attacking the messenger.

That's not a logical axiom, first of all. Although complaints of Ad hominem are common among people arguing on the internet, simply pointing out that someone else has done it doesn't make your arguments logical.

We aren't talking symbolic logic here we are talking about.

That's the only kind. If a statement can't be expressed in symbolic logic, it's not logical. That's the entire point of logic. To determine whether arguments are true given a set of axioms (also called premises).

Anyway, no one in this thread has been trying to make any kind of logical arguments, mostly because there isn't any real agreed upon axioms of morality or ethics. The best you can do is say something like "According to Dontological ethics and given rules X, Y, and Z this is wrong" or "If we go by Rule Utilitarianism then bla bla bla"

People tend to find those kinds of arguments tedious and annoying. And anyway, philosophers have been thinking about this stuff for centuries and not reached any conclusions. However most philosophers in the past few hundred years have been pacifists (Bertrand Russel would be a good example) so I find it hard to believe that you would find many who would be opposed to Wikileaks and big supporters of government secrecy. but it would be easy to think up logical axioms for an ethical system where what wikileaks has done is bad. I think you would like Hobbes.
posted by delmoi at 12:30 AM on December 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Speaking of wikileaks' ability to fund itself: Assange signs $1.5 million book deals
posted by delmoi at 3:48 AM on December 26, 2010


That was in response to the idea that the Congress was going to hold hearings about the 'bad behavior' of the State Department. A laughable concept.

Congress has held such hearings in the past. Wikileaks has to make some kind of measurable political impact. I agree at this point they havn't made that impact and the polls are decidedly against them. The test for them is can they make a real impact. This is a campaign of attrition. Every few days we are getting some revalation on the front pages of newspaper. The war in Iraq also started out at 70% approval rating. Republicans want nothing more than to hobble Obama and take him down. If the polls move, then they will start holding hearings. The Republicans almost derailed the START treaty to avoid giving the President a "victory."

In summary I've posited a test of Wikileaks impact, not stated that it is likely or probable. Second polls can change and those will drive the political calculous. Nothing I've said is outside of congresses authority or powers. I've generally agreed withyour analysis, but your recent statements are giving me pause. You are crossing from thoughtful critique to Beese-Obama pathological opposition.
posted by humanfont at 7:26 AM on December 26, 2010


Doesn't anyone read the Constitution anymore?

Oooh, Oooh, I do! I do! Could you point out the passage in the Constitution where the Federal government has the right to privacy? Thanks!
posted by ryoshu at 7:45 AM on December 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


In real life, I've not met anyone who isn't supportive of Assange or 'on the fence', but all my friends & family in the U.S. are either real fiscal conservatives, or progressives. Progressives are happy about all the immoral & illegal behavior being exposed by the leaks. Fiscal conservatives are obviously happy about all the graft being exposed in U.S. foreign aid.

I suppose anyone who's views more closely match the democrats and republicans isn't nearly so supportive, but more American's will come arounds to wikileaks position as more & more leaks expose criminal activity to which they are deeply opposed. For example, I'd imagine the leaks about the Pope protecting pedophile priests in Ireland gave wikileaks quite a boost among normal republicans and democrats.

In any case, we'll see this drip feed of leaks continue for a long time, as they've only worked through a handful thus far. Conversely, we've largely tapped out all interesting conversations about theoretical support, ala Assange's own philosophy, or theoretical objections, ala Fox News & Ironmouth. We'll therefore see people's opinions being based more & more upon the actual information released by wikileaks, just like any other news organization.

As I understand it, Assange philosophy wins simply be keeping the word 'leak' in the public consciousness, as it'll encourage more leakers all over the world. We know of course that leakers will usually get their leaks into the press sooner by either using a younger leaks site or communicating directly with a journalist, since wikileaks has a horrendous backlog, but Assange philosophy itself still wins as leaks become far more common.

p.s. Assange is mind blowingly popular outside the U.S. of course, even amongst people who're usually very supportive of U.S. foreign policy, well especially amongst that crowd. Afaik, all anti-wikileaks statements coming from outside the U.S. originate with politicians who've build their career on playing goody two shoes with the U.S.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:36 AM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]



privacy is protected by Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

hmmm under the later...

'Australia
The covenant is not enforceable in Australia, however, AHRC legislation [64] allows the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to examine enacted legislation [65] (to suggest remedial enactments[66]), its administration[67] (to suggest avoidance of practices [68]) and general compliance [69] with the covenant which is schedule to the AHRC legislation[70].'

WTF Austraila.


Could you point out the passage in the Constitution where the Federal government has the right to privacy


I'm sure this is a trick question but your answer lies in the powers granted to the federal government.
posted by clavdivs at 8:49 AM on December 26, 2010


Assange fell into hornet's nest of revolutionary feminism

In short. He thinks the two ladies in question are just jealous.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:32 AM on December 26, 2010


deluded little prick thinks he's Dr. Profumo.
posted by clavdivs at 9:35 AM on December 26, 2010


we'll see this drip feed of leaks continue for a long time, as they've only worked through a handful thus far

Yep. We've only seen the barest handful of cables from the quarter million that were leaked. Aren't we still under 1000 that have been made public?
posted by mediareport at 3:14 PM on December 26, 2010


Why don't you provide me with an example of these world shaking revelations we didn't know about?


You seem to be ignoring refutations of your 'point' about the content of the leaks. To be sure, there are still some 248,000 cables that have not been released; in the case of the cables involving Israel, this has been because the newspapers involved didn't want to be responsible for (re)exploding the middle east.

Secondly, revelations don't need to be 'world-shattering' in order to have a significant impact on public consciousness. The Pentagon papers are a perfect example of this.

Recall that the Kent State shootings - which were a reaction to the bombing of Cambodia - occurred May 4th, 1970. Shortly afterwards, massive protests exploded across the country, involving some 100,000 people. And yet, one might say that the protests polled 'like a fucking lead balloon' - 58% of respondents to a Gallup poll blamed the Kent State students for the shootings. Overall, opinion of the wars around Vietnam stayed about the same.

Fast forward a year to the release of the Pentagon Papers in June 1971. These demonstrated that the government had been systematically lying about its involvement in Cambodia, and set fed a massive public backlash against the government - in spite of the fact that most of the content was already known to people who had been paying attention. The main revelation was that the opposition was spot on, and that government officials had been purposefully lying about the scope and purpose for the continuation of the war. "We" already knew about (for example) Cambodia; the Pentagon papers fleshed out a lot of detail, and demonstrated that the government had been systematically lying about their position.

In this sense, it may not matter how much of the content of the leaks is actually new information; what matters is the degree to which the internal communications contradicts official public stances.

While the content hasn't caught fire within the US, the leaks are certainly having an effect abroad. The Guardian today is reporting a drop of 16% since May in response to polling questions about whether the UK should have joined the coalition in 2003 (from 59% to 43%). (Collateral Murder was released in April, you may recall. Insert disclaimer about correlation and causation here.) The stance that only US voters matter is completely myopic; the year is not 1917. Cooperation of foreign organizations is essential to US interests, business and military. We're seeing the fallout of years of hypocrisy being brought to light - I've been following Kenya for personal reasons, and the leaks are having a huge effect there, with the Kenyan government (who are assholes, btw) trying to censure the US ambassador. I'm also holding out some hope that the coverage of the Afghanistan war will shift to reflect some of the bigger concerns than 'i can haz Osama?'

So while there hasn't been a firestorm set off within the US, a lot has been happening in the rest of the world which, believe it or not, matters. The leaks will also re-frame the dialog on a number of issues, providing facts on the war on terror that were previously ignored or denied by the US government. IMHO, the lack of impact of the leaks in the US has a lot to do with the disintegration of the free press over the last 10-20 years; people simply aren't well enough informed to understand what's going on. And while "we" may have known about things like extraordinary rendition or the break down of habeas corpus in the name of the war on terror, relatively few Americans know about these things or understand their implications. Every time these stories have a reason to get back into the mainstream consciousness, I count it as a win.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:20 PM on December 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Could you point out the passage in the Constitution where the Federal government has the right to privacy

3rd amendment -- troops canno be quartered in your home
4th amendment -- protection against unreasonable search and seizure
5th amendment -- may not be forced to testify against yourself
9th amendment -- all power not enumerated are reserved for state and the people
The courts have interpreters these amendments to grant and over all right to be secure in ones person and left alone absent a compelling state interest.
posted by humanfont at 4:56 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those are all individual rights to privacy against the government. None of them are about a right of privacy for the government.
posted by scalefree at 5:37 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So i actually have some inside info that I can leak. A friend was talking to someone directly involved with the start negotiations and apparently they were terrified that the senate republicans were going to torpedo the treaty using the wikileaks scandal by demanding hearings into state department security before moving forward with the treaty ratification.

Somehow it also involved an interview with the new York times that was supposed to be about start that ended up being about wikileaks and went badly, but the article ended up getting delayed (and as far as I can tell still has not run).

But, yeah, long story short is that wikileaks is a political football that neither party has quite figured out how to run with yet, but everyone is afraid that someone else will.
posted by empath at 6:44 PM on December 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Those are all individual rights to privacy against the government. None of them are about a right of privacy for the government.

The supremes and various scholars and Presidents argue that this is implied in the designation of the President as Commander in Chief. See Executive Order 10501 which Ike put in place that outlined our modern classification system.
posted by humanfont at 7:05 PM on December 26, 2010


The supremes and various scholars and Presidents argue that this is implied in the designation of the President as Commander in Chief. See Executive Order 10501 which Ike put in place that outlined our modern classification system.

A sophomoric argument was met with a sophomoric argument. The original complaint was, "Doesn't anyone read the Constitution anymore?," specifically in terms of, "Congress has zero power to regulate foreign affairs". If we're gonna get all Constitutional up in this bitch, let's do it.
posted by ryoshu at 7:53 PM on December 26, 2010


Right in keeping with new House rules future FPPs should be required to cite their constitutional basis.
posted by humanfont at 8:23 PM on December 26, 2010


we the people of the united states in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, declare that we have no idea how these people got their cats wedged into their scanners, or why
posted by pyramid termite at 8:49 PM on December 26, 2010


Oooh, Oooh, I do! I do! Could you point out the passage in the Constitution where the Federal government has the right to privacy? Thanks!posted by ryoshu

Section 4 - Republican government

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

bitch huh.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Your Welcome!
posted by clavdivs at 8:55 PM on December 26, 2010


Yes, under prior forms of government, we had constant problems with the heads of state having the shite beaten out of them by their spouses - one after another after another, and always over the most trivial disagreements arising from tariff structures or some similar thing. Makes it terribly hard for your prime minister to be taken seriously when they show up in the papers every third day with a black eye, courtesy of the missus. So in our new constitution, we had to include a specific clause protecting the executive from domestic violence, and it seems to have worked decently well... It's been two whole months now since he's 'fallen down the stairs,' and the turtlenecks have been long-since retired. Quite a positive move, a great day for government, hm heh hm,,,, yes.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:09 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


quite.
posted by clavdivs at 9:17 AM on December 27, 2010


Some big cablegate stories from the last three days via wlcentral.org :

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai faces possible Zimbabwe treason charge.

U.S. dismisses Russian efforts to show due process in tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's trial, as 'lipstick on a political pig'.

Cables reveal U.S. reasons for concealing an Israeli bombing of a secret Syrian nuclear facility.

Cables portray the global reach of the U.S. DEA.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:54 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Morgan Tsvangorai facing the death penalty. That's depressing.
posted by humanfont at 1:34 PM on December 27, 2010


You don't give a shit about democracy, don't pretend otherwise.

I think this conversation would go a lot better if you stop telling me what I think. You earlier told me I didn't care that children were being killed.

Its called a straw man. I know there is a case for Assange to be made. I don't think you tellling me what I think about things via your magic mind-reading machine is really helping you.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:11 PM on December 27, 2010


You seem to be ignoring refutations of your 'point' about the content of the leaks. To be sure, there are still some 248,000 cables that have not been released; in the case of the cables involving Israel, this has been because the newspapers involved didn't want to be responsible for (re)exploding the middle east.

Secondly, revelations don't need to be 'world-shattering' in order to have a significant impact on public consciousness. The Pentagon papers are a perfect example of this.


I'm denying the stories are big enough to justify the release of the cables, that's all. You think those stories are big? hardly. Most have already been reported in one form or another by dozens of news outlets. That's why they aren't worth it.


Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai faces possible Zimbabwe treason charge.


You did read the story, right?

Johannes Tomana, the attorney general, said he would appoint a commission of five lawyers to examine whether recent disclosures in leaked American embassy cables amount to a breach of the constitution. High treason in Zimbabwe can result in the death penalty. Tomana told the state-owned Herald newspaper: "With immediate effect, I am going to instruct a team of practising lawyers to look into the issues that arise from the WikiLeaks.

"The WikiLeaks appear to show a treasonous collusion between local Zimbabweans and the aggressive international world, particularly the United States."


That's right, had Assange not released the cables, Tsvangirai would not be facing potential treason charges. This is exactly what I am talking about. This is exactly why the release of these cables is wrong. Because our State Department discussions with dissidents and other need to be kept secret, so that tyrants don't find an excuse to execute their rivals.

So, what's the likelihood that other dissidents are going to want to talk with America now?

This is 100% what I am talking about. How is anyone helped by these leaks about our discussions with Zimbabwean dissidents? Someone explain why this is good again?

See why we need secrecy?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:25 PM on December 27, 2010


Ironmouth you forget we Assange detractors dog give a shit about democracy. The downfall of Tsangarai is cause for celebration. Send in the marines so we can put a proper government and restore Rhodesia.
posted by humanfont at 3:16 PM on December 27, 2010


Ironmouth you forget we Assange detractors dog give a shit about democracy. The downfall of Tsangarai is cause for celebration. Send in the marines so we can put a proper government and restore Rhodesia.

And there is somehow something wrong with us for caring that our democratic choices on how much government secrecy we want are undermined by Assange. Because I'm supposed to be concerned with every other democracy too.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:23 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are wrong of course. lol We're seeing shit tons about Zimbabwe from wikileaks, mostly hurting Mugabe, not Tsvangirai. If you read the guardian article, you'll note that Zanu-PF would loose more from any real investigation of the wikileaks cables. In other words, these accusations are meant to discourage the MDC from pursuing much more viable charges against Zanu-PF officials, including Mugabe's wife. Btw, the case might even expose the true effects of the sanctions, which likely only hurt about 200 people and 40 firms linked to Zanu-PF. Tsvangirai isn't some powerless 'dissident', like say Manning, who'll get locked up if he reveals the wrong stuff.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:46 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Being accused of treason in a brutal dictatorship pretty much means you are going to be executed. I don't think Manning is facing the same kind of end right now.
posted by empath at 3:53 PM on December 27, 2010


Ironmouth: That's right, had Assange not released the cables, Tsvangirai would not be facing potential treason charges.

I hadn't seen that story. That does indeed suck.

I have a question about how many cables the Guardian has had access to.

This Editors Note the Guardian published implied (but didn't explicitly say) they had advance access to the whole database of 250,000 cables. So when they started asking for suggestions of things to look for that made me wonder if they had run out of big stories.

But when the story broke that Norwegian newspaper Aftposten had got a copy of the cache of 250,000 cables, this was supposedly a big deal because the (as one paper reported it) "Aftenposten became the only media organisation in the world to gain direct access to all the documents. It allows them to dodge WikiLeaks' current strategy of drip-feeding the cables to preferred partners The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and El Pais."

For what its worth, Aftenposten have said they're not going to publish the whole lot and they'll just publish redacted ones as and when they feel they have stories. So basically, what the other papers have been doing, but without any direct agreement with Wikileaks.

But I'm trying to figure out whether the Guardian (and the other 4 news orgs originally working with Wikileaks) have seen the whole lot yet, or if they've only been fed subsets of the data. Because that has a bearing on how many pairs of eyes have been scanning that database so far, and how many more interesting stories there might be hidden in that mass of data.
posted by memebake at 3:58 PM on December 27, 2010


I do have to also say that whatever paper ran the original Zimbabwae story is hugely at fault for doing so. What were they thinking? Assange is an idiot, but these papers should know better.

But there is a good reason for having diplomatic security. And this is a perfect example why.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:04 PM on December 27, 2010


You are wrong of course. lol We're seeing shit tons about Zimbabwe from wikileaks, mostly hurting Mugabe, not Tsvangirai. If you read the guardian article, you'll note that Zanu-PF would loose more from any real investigation of the wikileaks cables.

I doubt Mugabe has more to lose than the opposition here. Mugabe's in power, and can do what he wants. This just gives him a shield amongst the farthest left in the West.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:09 PM on December 27, 2010


Tsvangirai isn't some powerless 'dissident', like say Manning, who'll get locked up if he reveals the wrong stuff.

Manning's no dissident. He's a pissed off kid. To put him in the class of King and Mandela insults those people--Manning was just pissed about life and acted out in violation of an oath. Haven't read any of his writings about his dissent at all.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:16 PM on December 27, 2010


'Universal Declaration of Human Rights'
Article 12.

'No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.'

Privacy and Human Rights 2003: Threats to Privacy [good read}

I have more hair then a monkey, turtlenecks disrupt my style.
posted by clavdivs at 4:26 PM on December 27, 2010


One other thing--the Zimbabwe example totally fits one of the major criticisms of wikileaks advanced by the articles above--that it harms democracies while helping authoritarian regimes. The MDC isn't going to be able to "use" any revelations--they are a party with no traction in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe holds all the cards, and where the domestic constituency means everything. The MDC has very little ability to leverage anything in the cables in front of a internal constituency, Mugabe, all of it.

This was a fuckup. It hurt dissidents and helped powerful bad guys. Blatantly.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:28 PM on December 27, 2010


Manning's no dissident. He's a pissed off kid. To put him in the class of King and Mandela insults those people--Manning was just pissed about life and acted out in violation of an oath. Haven't read any of his writings about his dissent at all.
(02:20:57 AM) Manning: well, it was forwarded to WL
(02:21:18 AM) Manning: and god knows what happens now
(02:22:27 AM) Manning: hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms
(02:23:06 AM) Manning: if not… than we’re doomed
(02:23:18 AM) Manning: as a species
(02:24:13 AM) Manning: i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens
(02:24:58 AM) Manning: the reaction to the video gave me immense hope… CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed… Twitter exploded…
(02:25:18 AM) Manning: people who saw, knew there was something wrong
(02:26:10 AM) Manning: Washington Post sat on the video… David Finkel acquired a copy while embedded out here
(02:26:36 AM) Manning: [also reason as to why there's probably no investigation]
(02:28:10 AM) Manning: i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public
(02:28:10 AM) Lamo : I’m not here right now
(02:28:50 AM) Manning: if i knew then, what i knew now… kind of thing…
(02:29:31 AM) Manning: or maybe im just young, naive, and stupid…
(02:30:09 AM) Lamo: which do you think it is?
(02:30:29 AM) Manning: im hoping for the former
(02:30:53 AM) Manning: it cant be the latter
(02:31:06 AM) Manning: because if it is… were fucking screwed
(02:31:12 AM) Manning: (as a society)
(02:31:49 AM) Manning: and i dont want to believe that we’re screwed
(02:32:53 AM) Manning: food time… ttys

______________________________

(02:26:01 PM) Manning: i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore… i only a plethora of states acting in self interest… with varying ethics and moral standards of course, but self-interest nonetheless
(02:26:18 PM) Manning: s/only/only see/
(02:26:47 PM) Lamo: the tm meant i was being facetious
(02:26:59 PM) Manning: gotchya
(02:27:47 PM) Manning: i mean, we’re better in some respects… we’re much more subtle… use a lot more words and legal techniques to legitimize everything
(02:28:00 PM) Manning: its better than disappearing in the middle of the night
(02:28:19 PM) Manning: but just because something is more subtle, doesn’t make it right
(02:29:04 PM) Manning: i guess im too idealistic
(02:31:02 PM) Manning: i think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything
(02:35:46 PM) Manning: was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”… the iraqi federal police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so i was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the “bad guys” were, and how significant this was for the FPs… it turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki… i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn’t want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees…
(02:35:46 PM) Lamo : I’m not here right now
(02:36:27 PM) Manning: everything started slipping after that… i saw things differently
(02:37:37 PM) Manning: i had always questioned the things worked, and investigated to find the truth… but that was a point where i was a *part* of something… i was actively involved in something that i was completely against…
posted by empath at 4:33 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


(02:22:47 PM) Manning: i mean what if i were someone more malicious
(02:23:25 PM) Manning: i could’ve sold to russia or china, and made bank?
(02:23:36 PM) Lamo: why didn’t you?
(02:23:58 PM) Manning: because it’s public data
(02:24:15 PM) Lamo: i mean, the cables
(02:24:46 PM) Manning: it belongs in the public domain
(02:25:15 PM) Manning: information should be free
(02:25:39 PM) Manning: it belongs in the public domain
(02:26:18 PM) Manning: because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge
(02:26:55 PM) Manning: if its out in the open… it should be a public good
(02:27:04 PM) Manning: *do the
(02:27:23 PM) Manning: rather than some slimy intel collector
(02:29:18 PM) Manning: im crazy like that
Just so, you know, people don't need to speculate on his motivations, since I don't see any reason to doubt what he said at all.
posted by empath at 4:37 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few recent developments not mentioned here yet:

UK Government faces legal challenge over training of Bangladeshi 'death squad'
Lawyers are to seek a judicial review of the legality of training assistance provided to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), arguing that it places the UK in breach of its obligations under international law ... The legal challenge is being mounted by Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, which represents the family of Baha Mousa, the Iraqi hotel receptionist tortured to death by British troops in 2003.
WikiLeaks Founder Signs Book Deal
“I don’t want to write this book, but I have to,” Mr. Assange told the newspaper, explaining that his legal costs in fighting extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations of sexual misconduct, have reached more than $300,000. “I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat,” he said.
I was wondering 'when is he going to have time to write that?', but then the next extradition hearing is not till February 6th, so I guess he's writing it already. Its interesting that Mastercard, Visa, Paypal and BoA won't deal with him, but Random House and Canongate are quite happy to. I suppose that says something about different values in the banking and publishing industries.

Also, I'll get the obvious ironic gag out the way: It would be ironic if his manuscript got leaked, thereby depriving him of defence funds.

(imho, I think he might as well do this, he needs the cash and if any old sportsperson who has a good couple of seasons gets a book deal, a hacker who's just become one of the most discussed people on the planet should definitely have a book deal)
posted by memebake at 4:47 PM on December 27, 2010


I think, regardless of whether or not you think Manning made a mistake in giving the leaks to Assange, you have to recognize that he has courage. To see something terrible happening and to Actually Fucking Do Something About It. Maybe not the right thing, maybe not the smart thing, but he did something, which is more than most of us do when confronted with the banal, every day evil of institutions.

All of us go to work every day, just putting one foot in front of the other, feeding the war machine and pretending not to notice the innocents we grind underfoot. Manning saw them and decided that he wasn't going to pretend not to see, and moreover, that he wasn't going to let everyone else keep pretending not to see.

I talked to my grandfather about wikileaks, who was part of Project Phoenix in Vietnam, something I'd talked to him about before, and he said that he did his best not to personally do anything that he wouldn't want to see printed on the front page of the New York Times, but he did his best to only look at what was in front of him.

He saw assassinations being ordered, murders, innocent people being killed, stuff he knew was wrong, and didn't say anything, because what can one person do? My grandfather has to live with the guilt of not saying anything, because there was nobody like Manning around who stood up against the ever-hungry machinery of death and simply said "No."

I wish there were a thousand Bradley Mannings. Just shine light everywhere and let the cockroaches scurry out. If it makes it impossible for us to maintain an empire, then so be it. Let it fall.
posted by empath at 5:25 PM on December 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


So, what's the likelihood that other dissidents are going to want to talk with America now?

Hahahaha. No, really. That was a good one.

Depending on who those dissidents are, we either shoot them while they are performing mass, or fully arm the dictator to finish off the genocide of their ethnic group, or simply ignore them if they happen to be in the way of our business interests. If they happen to be in a nation that is not in line with the "international community", or as it's known anywhere else, "The State Department", we may give them a small-ish platform if it won't upset one of our other allies too much.

Go ask a Kurd in Turkey, or a Muslim who wants to vote in Egypt for someone besides Mubarak, or a Palestinian, or an Iraqi, or an Afghani how much we support dissident rights. Hell, ask a Chinese dissident. After they started turning them into pancakes in Tiananmen Square, and American investment skyrocketed, we became strangely impotent when it came to denouncing their human rights record.

But this time, in Zimbabwe, it is different! Really, really different. Because this time it was someone else (the Zimbabwean government, not WikiLeaks) destroying popular movements instead of the USG.
posted by notion at 5:42 PM on December 27, 2010


People have already posted it but I'll plug that Economist blog response to Sterling's essay again.
... and what emerges from Mr Sterling's noodling is mainly how very sorry the kind-hearted Mr Sterling feels for everyone ... Mr Sterling feels sorry for the government lawyers tasked with transorming Bradley Manning's alleged leak into an act of "espionage" ... Mr Sterling feels sorry for the "people in power" Julian Assange has made to "look stupid", and he feels even sorrier "for the rest of us".
jeffburdges also posted some good bits from the article, above.
posted by memebake at 5:45 PM on December 27, 2010


> All of us go to work every day, just putting one foot in front of the other, feeding the war machine and pretending not to notice the innocents we grind underfoot.

Nothing personal here, as I understand the point you're trying to make about society as a whole, but I feel like such blanker characterizations impede rather than advance discussion.

My own perspective is informed by various things like growing up in a country with a conflict involving sustained terrorist violence (Ireland); being an immigrant both to the US and earlier to a country on the other side of that conflict (the UK); experiencing a terrorist bombing first hand though luckily without injury (randomly, as a member of the public); being married to someone from North Vietnam with family members who have experienced death from US bombing/ several years in communist re-education camps/ journeys and immigration to the US as refugees; studying law for a long time as an amateur and now more formally; and other factors.

I don't mean that my views should carry more weight than any other persons', but rather that many people's perspectives (at least here on MetaFilter) are at least as diverse and informed, and that those who hold different viewpoints from one's own do not necessarily do so from a position of ignorance, indifference, or apathy. Matters of morality, ethics and motivation are often a good deal more complex than people are willing to admit.

Maybe this should be on MetaTalk...but I don't want to start/perpetuate more drama
posted by anigbrowl at 6:28 PM on December 27, 2010


Why Wikileaks will be the death of big business and big government.
posted by homunculus at 7:18 PM on December 27, 2010


Just shine light everywhere and let the cockroaches scurry out.

Many studies have shown that Cockroaches, which appeared about 295-454 million years ago, are among the toughest of all creatures. They have not almost change in appearance since they first appeared on Earth. Would you believe that a headless cockroach can survive a few weeks especially if it had eaten before it was beheaded?

As one of the toughest insect in the planet, it can survive for months without and in addition, it can survive without air for 45 minutes. Tagged as “inheritors of the Earth”, Cockroaches also have higher radiation resistance than vertebrates with the lethal dose 15 times that for human.


You might want to bring atomic weapons to your roach raid.
posted by clavdivs at 8:20 PM on December 27, 2010


As I said, the Zimbabwe cables have generally revealed Mugabe's evil. In fact, they project our western perspective precisely because they're written from our perspective. I'm seriously doubtful that any resulting charges against Tsvangirai will make it even as far at the politically motivated sexual charges against Assange, but hey let's wait & see.

I never put Bradley Manning into the class of King and Mandela. I just said he's a dissident, which whoever leaked the documents obviously is. I put Assange into that class. If Manning leaked the documents, then well he's a follower of Assange. There were plenty of 'just followers' of King, Gandhi, etc. who ended up with concussions & what not. I'd put Manning into that class. We usually remember their sacrifice by remembering the whole movement, but yeah Manning might become a special case.

Btw, it'll get even more fun when we get to diplomatic cables speculating about whether Mugabe engineered the car crash that killed Tsvangirai's wife.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:00 PM on December 27, 2010


We should not ignore the political significance of how these cables actually provide an unadulterated picture of the views of America's political class. For sure, there are plenty of political gaffes contained within, but the fact that the world's only modern glimpse into the workings of a political class is fundamentally American, well that's a chess move worthy of the cold war CIA. Is the long term propaganda benefit worth the short term pain? Who knows, but it's remains interesting.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:07 PM on December 27, 2010


(02:31:06 AM) Manning: because if it is… were fucking screwed
(02:31:12 AM) Manning: (as a society)
(02:56:32 AM) XXXXXXXX: right…I hear you.



well that's a chess move worthy of the cold war CIA. Is the long term propaganda benefit worth the short term pain? Who knows, but it's remains interesting.


Not really but worth a sniff & tickle. ‘Showing your hand‘. First move and the opponent sees it. In theory, the move you clumsily posit has 4 different operational acronyms with 12 sub-operational pronouns and the ‘Department of Verbiage and Portable Holes’ does to fit into the ratfucking you have in mind…I think. The cables leak, if construed as an opening move into some larger “scheme” would be cast as bright thinking in the immediate operational ” blowback”. Trickle the leaks and the adverse affects are contained. What then. What good to run an OP that has nothing but well, anger over U.S. conduct. I would posit the person coming up with such a plan would have been posted somewhere safe and out of the way. The better method hatched from the thaumaturgical circlet of tickish schemes would be the counter-intelligence conflation, leak some - then leak what you have in chronological and contextual manner…well you dumb it up a bit but that is the lipstick of modern espionage. But then you give your hand away to the operational motive and that would get the all the nation-states warlock directory with the real internetstreetsmarts hopping mad, motherfucking furious I would wager. You see, it is the same plot as the “Russia House” more or less. The ‘Leaks’ were better in the novel as is the ending but alas, not for poor GOETHE. Now this little cartoon does not exclude more bombshell leaks to come, wow buddy, it has been a ride yeah? But the counter-blowback will staggering.


FANKS for you inquiry!
I.V. Leager
-office of surlyties and postplanning.
zipcode city XXXXX, innerzonal affairs, soviet russia.
posted by clavdivs at 11:58 PM on December 27, 2010


Go ask a Kurd in Turkey, or a Muslim who wants to vote in Egypt for someone besides Mubarak, or a Palestinian, or an Iraqi, or an Afghani how much we support dissident rights. Hell, ask a Chinese dissident. After they started turning them into pancakes in Tiananmen Square, and American investment skyrocketed, we became strangely impotent when it came to denouncing their human rights record.

That's a load of bullshit. You are not only apparently misinformed you havnt even been reading the cables on these regions and countries. You say go and ask xyz, you should too before you post such nonsense.
posted by humanfont at 12:57 AM on December 28, 2010


homunculus: Why Wikileaks will be the death of big business and big government.

Fairly good article, perhaps they over-exaggerate a bit. This sentence in the middle of the article is more realistic:
Wikileaks is, in effect, a huge tax on internal coordination.
Which I would change to:
[The easily-copyable Wikileaks formula] is, in effect, a [potentially] huge tax on internal coordination.
But a tax on something isn't enough to predict the 'death' of something.
posted by memebake at 3:40 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


FireDogLake and Glenn Greenwald: Adrian Lamo, Kevin Poulsen and Mark Rasch
posted by jeffburdges at 3:57 AM on December 28, 2010


Agreed membake. In fact, there is considerable business literature establishing that corporate mergers financed by stock deals are on average harmful to customers, employees, and stock holders. It's only the upper management that benefits substantially from mergers. I'd imagine they'll happily continue paying any organizational 'tax' so long as their salaries grow. So any reform must instead occur via competition from smaller organizations that become competitive because of this 'tax' on behemoths.

Btw, mergers financed by cash are not harmful to stock holders, roughly equivalent to the company simply investing in the S&P 500. In other words, companies pay fair market value when buying other companies in cash, but overpay when acquiring through stock transactions.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:29 AM on December 28, 2010


Manning was apparently motivated by political aspirations--but why not only leak on those issues that he was motivated by? And why dump all of the documents? Its the dumping, not the leaking that I have issue with. Maybe he thought Assange was going to be smart about it, maybe not--but Manning was irresponsible. He could have drawn attention to the problem without downloading all of them.

And being against all secrecy has its price. We're seeing that in Zimbabwe now.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:35 AM on December 28, 2010


As I said, the Zimbabwe cables have generally revealed Mugabe's evil. In fact, they project our western perspective precisely because they're written from our perspective. I'm seriously doubtful that any resulting charges against Tsvangirai will make it even as far at the politically motivated sexual charges against Assange, but hey let's wait & see.

We've known Mugabe is evil for a long time. It isn't a huge shock. So why leak these cables. They add nothing new of value to the situation. If the price of knowing that the US is talking to Tsvangirai is that he gets charged, I don't want to pay that price. And what is the basis for your doubt? I seriously doubt you're an expert on Mugabe. Every minute Tsvangirai is fighting this off is a moment he's not helping the Zimbabwean people.

This is plain and simple the type of bad blowback I've been talking about. To assume nobody is going to use this information for bad ends is just foolish.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:42 AM on December 28, 2010


And why dump all of the documents? Its the dumping, not the leaking that I have issue with.

Because it's not the particular bits of corruption but the extent of it that has the impact, and he just didn't have the ability to go through hundreds of thousands of cables.
posted by empath at 5:50 AM on December 28, 2010


he just didn't have the ability to go through hundreds of thousands of cables.

That's where you get people in trouble. What "corruption" is demonstrated by showing we are talking to the opposition in Zimbabwe?

That's why dumping is wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 AM on December 28, 2010


So any reform must instead occur via competition from smaller organizations that become competitive because of this 'tax' on behemoths.

Aren't they also affected? Aren't their secret plans also going to be leaked?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:48 AM on December 28, 2010


Aren't they also affected? Aren't their secret plans also going to be leaked?

Small organizations, especially network-like ones, will have stronger personal ties that inhibit leaking.
posted by scalefree at 9:04 AM on December 28, 2010


That's a load of bullshit. You are not only apparently misinformed you havnt even been reading the cables on these regions and countries. You say go and ask xyz, you should too before you post such nonsense.

1) Go ask a Kurd in Turkey:
U.S. arms sales actually undermine many U.S. foreign policy goals by providing physical and political support to the Turkish military at the expense of democratically elected leaders and civil society. The Turkish military’s 15-year war against the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey has involved severe violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force. The war has served as an excuse to repress political leaders, journalists, and human rights activists seeking greater rights for Kurds and a peaceful end to the war. Additionally, in the name of protecting a strictly secular society, the Turkish military uses its inordinate power to suppress religious expression and mild political Islamic activism. (source
2) or a Muslim who wants to vote in Egypt for someone besides Mubarak:
In theory, Egypt has an elected president. But over the past half-century, the country has had only three rulers. There were differences in their style and vision, but all have presided over an authoritarian and repressive political system. For the past 29 years, Egyptian society has existed under a draconian "state of emergency," a tool that has allowed the president to suspend basic constitutional protections and that has been used to detain, torture and sometimes kill those who dare to dissent. (source, Egypt has received over 40 billion dollars in military aid right through the worst of it.)
3) or a Palestinian, or an Iraqi, or an Afghani: hopefully these need no explanation.

4) Hell, ask a Chinese dissident. After they started turning them into pancakes in Tiananmen Square, and American investment skyrocketed
Almost immediately after announcing executive branch sanctions on China in June, Bush began to quietly carve out exceptions or to take conciliatory steps toward China in areas not covered by sanctions. The generous waiver provisions included in the sanctions legislation passed by Congress allowed Bush to continue this pattern. In the end, therefore, the practical effect of congressional action was minimal. Within a year after the Tiananmen Square crackdown, Bush had succeeded in removing or greatly weakening most of the sanctions earlier imposed either through his own executive orders or through congressional mandate.

The first such steps were announced on July 7, 1989, when Bush waived provisions of his recent executive order that would have forbidden the sale of four Boeing 757-200 commercial jets to China. The aircraft contained navigation systems that appeared on the munitions control list that Bush used as a basis for his ban on military sales to China. On the same day, the administration decided to allow Honeywell to maintain navigation equipment contained in planes already sold to China. Representative Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), a leading advocate of sanctions, responded to these actions with the charge that "there are powerful forces in this country that are ready to do business with China irrespective of what Chinese human rights are. These people have many spokesmen within the administration."

Although the president's announced sanctions included a ban on high level diplomatic contacts with the Chinese government, Bush secretly dispatched National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Deputy Undersecretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger to China in July 1989. Secretary of State James Baker met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen in New York during September when the latter visited the United Nations. In December 1989, Scowcroft and Eagleberger were sent again to China on an official visit that, in this case, was publicly revealed by the White House (the Scowcroft/Eagleberger trips are discussed in greater detail in the next section). In November 1990, Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen was invited to the Washington, D.C. to meet with Baker as a reward to the Chinese government for its support of the U.S.-led coalition in the Persian Gulf War. High level contacts with the Chinese government began again on a regular basis from late 1990 onward, with top U.S. officials visiting China on three occasions during the period from December 1990 through June 1991.

In August 1989, the administration permitted Hughes Aircraft to exchange data with China regarding the launch of U.S.-made satellites. The next month, U.S. officials resumed lower level talks regarding China's interest in joining GATT.

In December 1989, the Bush Administration announced the sale of one million tons of subsidized wheat to China. Later in the month, Bush issued a waiver allowing the $300 million sale of three satellites to China and lifted the congressional ban on loans by the U.S. Export-Import Bank to finance trade with China. In both cases, Bush invoked the "national interest" waiver clause in justifying his actions.

News reports revealed that the Export-Import Bank had continued to study loan projects related to China during the June to December period, while the ban on lending was in effect, and that Bank officials had made offers on $108 million in lending. Projects totaling $30 million were in the final stages of approval when the ban was lifted. The Export-Import Bank issued two new loans, the first since the crackdown, in February 1990.

The World Bank's suspension of new lending to China also amounted to less than met the eye. Over the decade before the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the World Bank had approved $85 billion in lending to China. About one half of these old loans had yet to be disbursed at the time of the massacre. During the period that the ban on new lending was in effect, dispersal of these old loans continued and planning for future lending continued.

On January 10, 1990, Bush lifted U.S. objections to renewed lending to China by the World Bank, stating that the U.S. would consider its vote regarding new loans on a case-by-case basis. The first loan proposal receiving the favorable backing of the U.S. came in February 1990, regarding a $30 million earthquake relief project. Later, in December 1990, the World Bank issued its first non-humanitarian loan to China since the crackdown without U.S. objection. In July 1990, Bush stated that he would not oppose Japan's decision to renew Japanese foreign aid to China, although he urged the Japanese to reduce the scale of planned assistance.

In the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Bush Administration's policies toward China took the form of public criticism and private conciliation. The public face of Bush's policy was designed to satisfy public and congressional demands for stern measures against China. Ideologically isolated and facing strong bipartisan support for a tough response to the crackdown, Bush accepted the inevitable by publicly preempting congressional action with his own announced sanctions and largely held his fire as tougher sanctions legislation worked through the Congress. (source from an academic paper)
The State Department does report the reality, and usually will recommend a solution aimed at stability instead of reform, while noting human rights abuses and their potential for disaster. But even when the human rights abuses are undeniably evil, the USG and the corporations that run it will undermine dissident rights in the interest of profit every fucking time.

You should look into reality before labeling it nonsense.
posted by notion at 9:15 AM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


1) Go ask a Kurd in Turkey:

Here's a Kurd from Iraq.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D79gSZ5Wzg

Where we can actually do something about the situation. In Turkey we've worked with the EU to try to further Turkey's aims to integrate with Europe; but restrict their access pending improvements in human rights and settlement of conflict with the Kurds.


2) or a Muslim who wants to vote in Egypt for someone besides Mubarak:

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/rm/2010/153125.htm
Michael Posner (Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Department of State) articulating things the US would like to see in the upcoming presidential election. Also criticizes recent elections.

http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/opinion/change-americas-egypt-policy
Over the last six months, the Obama administration has issued statements on Egypt with a markedly stronger and more critical tone, particularly in regards to the Emergency Law extension and the murder of Khaled Said. These statements, along with the recent White House meeting, are signs of a slow, gradual shift towards a tougher US policy on Egypt.
4) Hell, ask a Chinese dissident. After they started turning them into pancakes in Tiananmen Square, and American investment skyrocketed

Lifting a hundred million people into a middle class standard of living has done more for democracy than sactions. Though we also maintain sanctions on the sale of military hardware. In fact you'll find cables in the WL archive where we have to convince the Germans to continue to enforce these military sanctions.

Your statements are nothing more than bile and nonsense that ignore the larger picture of the constructive role played by the United States towards conflict resolution, improved human rights and increased government accountability and democracy.
posted by humanfont at 9:55 AM on December 28, 2010


Here's a Kurd from Iraq.

It's lucky for him he lives on the luckier side of our political goals. The Kurdish situation clearly illustrates what's more important to the USG: geopolitical power, not democratic freedoms. That's why we support Kurds on one side of an imaginary line and not the other.

. . .These statements, along with the recent White House meeting, are signs of a slow, gradual shift towards a tougher US policy on Egypt.

After 30 years of torture, dictatorial imperialism, and assassinations, talking about "moving towards a tougher stance" gets kudos while we continue to give them 2 billion per year in arms? God knows it worked out swimmingly for Iraq, Chile, Iran... I can't wait to see how Pakistan turns out.

. . .Lifting a hundred million people into a middle class standard of living has done more for democracy than sactions.

A coincidental side effect. Nixon urged Bush to continue working with China not to help the Chinese people, but to balance power between Russia, China, and Japan to maintain stability in East Asia. That's the same guy who supported killing a few million people in Southeast Asia to contain communism, and overthrowing democratic governments across the world for the same ends.

Your statements are nothing more than bile and nonsense that ignore the larger picture of the constructive role played by the United States towards conflict resolution, improved human rights and increased government accountability and democracy.

You cannot find me a single instance, post WWII, where we supported democratic action when it was contrary to our national interests. That's why we are watching Africans die by the millions in unbelievable violence without much comment or interest while spending trillions fighting dictators and fundamentalists we armed back in the 80s, who are coincidentally sitting on billions of barrels of national interest.

I'm not saying the United States is much worse when compared to other governments for its treatment of its own citizens, but I am saying that it is absolutely the worst government when it comes to treatment of foreigners on their own sovereign land.
posted by notion at 10:36 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


In fact you'll find cables in the WL archive where we have to convince the Germans to continue to enforce these military sanctions.

Germany has been terrible on most sanctions issues, especially with regard to Iran.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:21 AM on December 28, 2010


I think this conversation would go a lot better if you stop telling me what I think. You earlier told me I didn't care that children were being killed.

Its called a straw man. I know there is a case for Assange to be made. I don't think you tellling me what I think about things via your magic mind-reading machine is really helping you.
What? You said it quite clearly:
I'm supposed to care what the German voters think? No. I live here, I vote here.
It doesn't matter to you what voters in other countries think, because you don't care about democracy. It's not my fault you don't understand your own statements.

Also, Zimbabwe was already fucked. Mugabe would have thought up some excuse to get rid of Tsvangirai sooner or later. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and nobody anywhere really cares either way (except for those directly affected, obviously). Certainly not the Iraq war cheerleaders and gitmo-huggers rending their garments over wikileaks.
posted by delmoi at 11:39 AM on December 28, 2010


Zimbabwe was already fucked. Mugabe would have thought up some excuse to get rid of Tsvangirai sooner or later. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and nobody anywhere really cares either way (except for those directly affected, obviously).

Glad you're all aboard for democracy in Zimbabwe. Because that's what Mugabe is fighting, small-d democrats, which we are not supposed to support if it means pointing out that Assange's actions might have negative consequences for good people. But, by all means, a few eggs must be broken. Too bad for their lives, as long as we can cheer Assange.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:27 PM on December 28, 2010


You cannot find me a single instance, post WWII, where we supported democratic action when it was contrary to our national interests.

The last Palestinian parliamentary elections
Spanish transision to democracy under Juan Carlos
Failing to intervene in the Iranian revolution if 1979 a revolution many blame on the Carter admins refusal to take a hard line.
South Africa and Apartheid
Forcing Marcos to hold elections in the Philipines and forcing him to accept that he lost the election.
Democacy in South Korea and Taiwan.
Refusal to endorse the coup against Hugo Chavez, allowing him to come back into power.

Shall I go on. Not every intervention needs US troops either. Many times the US provides humanitarian assistance and not every problem is resolved by launching a trade war or cutting off aid.
posted by humanfont at 12:32 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, Zimbabwe was already fucked. Mugabe would have thought up some excuse to get rid of Tsvangirai sooner or later. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and nobody anywhere really cares either way

You actually have an omelete at the end though not a bunch of yolk on the floor. How quickly your moral values are discarded when they no longer suit your narrative. You want to deny the danger to people in Afghanistan, you cite the US DoD as scripture. You hear news that contradicts your overall narrative; and now we're reducing human beings to Omeletes. Punks like you won the room in 1972 as Pinochet came in. Gotta keep our eyes on the bigger struggle here, gotta stop those commies.
posted by humanfont at 12:52 PM on December 28, 2010


Shall I go on. Not every intervention needs US troops either. Many times the US provides humanitarian assistance and not every problem is resolved by launching a trade war or cutting off aid.

Not supporting Samoza in Nicaragua, resulting in the Sandinistas taking power. Enough said. Seriously. Read history and the newspaper!
posted by Ironmouth at 1:00 PM on December 28, 2010


I'd suggest people read this cable sent by Ambassador Dell, which openly blames Mugabe for Zimbabwe's economic problems. And then read what other cables exposed about his involvement with 'blood diamonds'. All these revelations will help solidify sanctions against Zanu-PF linked individuals and businesses.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:33 PM on December 28, 2010


Glad you're all aboard for democracy in Zimbabwe. Because that's what Mugabe is fighting, small-d democrats, which we are not supposed to support if it means pointing out that Assange's actions might have negative consequences for good people. But, by all means, a few eggs must be broken. Too bad for their lives, as long as we can cheer Assange.
Just to clarify: are you opposed the war in Afghanistan, drone strikes in Pakistan, etc?
posted by delmoi at 1:42 PM on December 28, 2010


The last Palestinian parliamentary elections
After Hamas won the election, the United States immediately cut funding and has been working with the Israeli government to undermine the elected Palestinian government. Not quite the example you're looking for.
Spanish transision to democracy under Juan Carlos
Happened to align with American interests.
Failing to intervene in the Iranian revolution if 1979 a revolution many blame on the Carter admins refusal to take a hard line.
It was not militarily or politically possible for the US sponsored dictator to hold on to power in 1979 after he was installed by our government in 1953. We helped him repress democratic movements for 29 years, and just like in Egypt, we trained his SAVAK forces how to torture and kill to maintain power.

When it became clear that we couldn't hold on, we immediately started supporting Saddam Hussein and removed him from the State Sponsors of Terror list in 1982 so we could sell him weapons to wage war against our new enemies in Iran. Approximately one million people died in that conflict, which we played on both sides.
South Africa and Apartheid
You don't get credit for being the last western nation to materially oppose apartheid, instead of just paying it lip service while you continue to trade with them. Reagan even vetoed the embargo against apartheid in 85 or 86, and thankfully it was overridden with a two thirds vote. It's like supporting the abolition of slavery in 1866 and patting yourself on the back for your victory. As Desmond Tutu said after Reagan's pathetic address:

"Your President is the pits as far as blacks are concerned" and "I am quite angry. I think the West, for my part, can go to hell" and ''I found the speech nauseating.''
Forcing Marcos to hold elections in the Philipines and forcing him to accept that he lost the election.
One of the most critical moments of the CIA station in Manila was the immediate post-Marcos years when they tried to dissociate US links with the Marcoses and politically influence the contours of the post-Marcos era. Financial, technical and political support for the pro-US "agents of influence" assured the dominance of pro-US local elites and institutions as a counterweight to the progressive anti-imperialist, anti-Marcos forces that threatened to define and restructure the architecture of the post-Marcos neo-colonial regime.

USAID was directed to grant the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) with a generous financing so it could formulate a position paper on an economic program anchored on "the partnership between labor and capital." USAID even temporarily set up an agrarian reform office, working closely at TUCP offices. Political analysts of the CIA and USAID wanted to design an agrarian reform program that would not disrupt the agro-export sector and one which could be synchronized with the counterinsurgency program and defuse peasant unrest. The CIA and US military advisers also wanted a deeper role in the design and command of counterinsurgency. These funds were supplemented by the so-called "democracy promotion" initiatives of the NED which poured in heavy funding for TUCP, Namfrel, the Women's Movement for the Nurturing of Democracy (KABATID) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI). The NED gave a total of $9 million from 1984-1990 to these institutions and organizations.

Following the ouster of Marcos, the US set about to transform the "new" Armed Forces of the Philippines into an effective counterinsurgency force that would integrate military, political, economic and social initiatives, including broad "civic action" campaigns, psychological operations, military aid and training. It was a massive comeback of the low-intensity conflict years of the Magsaysay-Lansdale era! Between 1987-1990, Washington reportedly authorized stepped-up clandestine CIA operations against the Left in the Philippines, including a $10 million allocation to the AFP for enhanced intelligence-gathering operations. There was also an increase in the number of CIA personnel, from 115 to 127, mostly attached as "diplomats" to the US embassy in Manila. (Oltman and Bernstein, 1992)

In general, US military and economic aid are used quite effectively and they remain key elements of US policy in the Philippines. The CIA station handles political aid and political matters. This means, according to the CIA's Intelligence Memorandum on the 1965 Philippine presidential elections for instance, assuring that the victorious national candidates who are acceptable to the US should be "western-oriented and pledge to continue close and equitable relations with the US and the West on matters of mutual interest." (Bonner, 1987) The CIA station also conducts widespread covert operations, among them: stage-managed national elections to assure preferred US outcome; payoffs to government officials under the guise of grants; financing for favored business and civic groups and pro-US propaganda campaigns among the population; the supply of intelligence information on activists and dissidents to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and so on. (Robinson, 1996)

-Roland G. Simbulan, Convenor/Coordinator, Manila Studies Program
University of the Philippines
Democacy in South Korea
Side effect of our war on communism. See also: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Chile. Another lucky participant in our geopolitical games.
and Taiwan.
"The president spoke so clearly and forcefully in support of our one-China policy and based on the three communiques and our responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act that I don't know that he had to repeat the message." -Colin Powell
Refusal to endorse the coup against Hugo Chavez, allowing him to come back into power.
You mean, refusal to connect the CIA with the coup attempt to save face after realizing the coup failed.
However, it was not made clear why the talks broached the subject of a coup, four months before the event. Mr Fleischer said the subject had been brought up at meetings with Venezuelan opposition leaders because US diplomats in Caracas had "for the past several months" been picking up coup rumours. "In the conversations they had they explicitly told opposition leaders the United States would not support a coup," he added.

However, a defence department official quoted by the New York Times yesterday said: "We were not discouraging people."

"We were sending informal, subtle signals that we don't like this guy. We didn't say, 'No, don't you dare' and we weren't advocates saying, 'Here's some arms; we'll help you overthrow this guy.'" (source)
The day after the coup, the State Department made this statement:
We wish to express our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and look forward to working with all democratic forces in Venezuela to ensure the full exercise of democratic rights. . .

Yesterday's events in Venezuela resulted in a transitional government until new elections can be held. Though details are still unclear, undemocratic actions committed or encouraged by the Chavez administration provoked yesterday's crisis in Venezuela. . . The results of these provocations are: Chavez resigned the presidency. Before resigning, he dismissed the Vice President and the Cabinet. A transition civilian government has promised early elections.

We have every expectation that this situation will be resolved peacefully and democratically by the Venezuelan people.
Shall I go on. Not every intervention needs US troops either. Many times the US provides humanitarian assistance and not every problem is resolved by launching a trade war or cutting off aid.
My friend, you didn't go anywhere in the first place. You should start over, and start reading.
posted by notion at 7:44 PM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


WikiLeaks: How U.S. tried to stop Spain's torture probe
posted by ryoshu at 9:19 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


You should start over, and start reading.
posted by notion

Are you suggesting that Thomas Jefferson secretly supported a young Bolivar, then John Quincy Adams gave him the nod to, ya know, keep things under control. Because you may have something historically by pulling the long blackboard in your “Guardian” style sources which scare me like chalk in Survey course.
I digress, using your diplomatic stratagems, I am on to something. Jefferson knew Adams, his son could have wanted to help break up the Spanish empire. Do you think Junius Booth was involved. Because that would look bad to the Spanish people that the United States fostered revolution in South America by “using” Bolivar as a pawn.

'Bolívar's dream had been to engender an American Revolution-style federation among all the newly independent republics, with a government set up solely to recognize and uphold the rights of the individual [citation needed]...to select a successor (although theoretically, this presidency was held in check by an intricate system of balances). [citation needed]'

would you classify Simon Bolivar as a Dictator...was he? context?
(Bolivar is hero of mine, darn, iam biased)

{hand gesticulation}
Carry on.
Im going to look that up tomorrow and see the u.s. postion regarding Bolivar.



posted by clavdivs at 10:43 PM on December 28, 2010


"If any one "huckster president" was alluded to in Bolívar's words, it was probably James Monroe,20 whose famous Monroe Doctrine made little impression on the Liberator, to judge from the lack of direct references to it in his papers. Bolívar did recognize that Latin America could count on the help of the United States in case of any threat to its independence from the continental European powers, 21 but he was no less convinced, and quite correctly, that at that time, the attitude of Great Britain carried far more weight, and accordingly he was always eager to win British favor for his cause. Nor did Bolívar feel that a formal alliance with the United States would be to Latin America's advantage. On the contrary, when he laid plans for the first international conference of American republics––which met in Panama in 1826 under his political sponsorship––he did not even wish the United States to be represented."

'huckster president', gotta love this man
posted by clavdivs at 10:53 PM on December 28, 2010


cite
posted by clavdivs at 10:54 PM on December 28, 2010


A two thirds vote in congress for sanctions becomes a failure to really support ending apartheid. A minimal statement recognizing the apparent resignation of Chavez turns into full throated support for a coup. The plotters of which would go on to blame the US for not giving them overt support. Democracy in Tiawan and support with arms sales and a nuclear sheild is some how less important than a declared support for one China eventually
through some peaceful reunification. You seem keen to brush of any actual evidence with rumor and propaganda. Just as you dismiss date rape as not really rape when one of your allies does it, and reduce Tsangarai to a broken egg.
posted by humanfont at 5:50 AM on December 29, 2010


Just as you dismiss date rape as not really rape when one of your allies does it

Is this really necessary?
posted by chaff at 10:47 AM on December 29, 2010


A two thirds vote in congress for sanctions becomes a failure to really support ending apartheid.

As was the case with Bush's policy with China, the important bit is not the intent and lip service. The important bit is the action. Che Guevara railed against apartheid in a speech at the UN in 1964. The UN passed resolutions against South Africa throughout the 60s and 70s. But just as the resolutions against Israel disappear into the memory hole, so to do the decades long moral failings of the United States.

A minimal statement recognizing the apparent resignation of Chavez turns into full throated support for a coup. The plotters of which would go on to blame the US for not giving them overt support.

We'll have to wait for the secret actions of our government to be revealed to us to find out how much material and political support was provided for the coup. It's a big problem for democracies when they aren't allowed to know what their government is doing on their behalf.

Democracy in Tiawan and support with arms sales and a nuclear sheild is some how less important than a declared support for one China eventually through some peaceful reunification.

We would hand over the Taiwanese like we handed over the East Timorese if it aligned with our geopolitical interests. They are a bargaining chip for stability in the region:
After congratulating Chen Shui-bian on his re-election in March 2004, the Administration, in testimony on April 21, 2004, further clarified U.S. policy toward Taiwan and warned of “limitations” in U.S. support for constitutional changes in Taiwan. At that hearing on the TRA, Representative James Leach, Chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, stated that Taiwan has the unique situation in which it can have de facto selfdetermination only if it does not attempt to be recognized with de jure sovereignty. He urged Taiwan’s people to recognize that they have greater security in “political ambiguity.” He called for continuity, saying that “together with our historic ‘one China’ policy,” the TRA has contributed to ensuring peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. ( source )
You seem keen to brush of any actual evidence with rumor and propaganda.

You haven't been providing any citations at all. What actual evidence are you speaking of?

Just as you dismiss date rape as not really rape when one of your allies does it, and reduce Tsangarai to a broken egg.

I never reduced Tsangarai to a broken egg. But the State Department and USG will turn out even their own when it's politically useful. They will carpet bomb one million Tsangarais if they are on the wrong side of some geopolitical equation. So, hang Tsangarai on Assange if you like, and pretend the USG hasn't paid good money to torture people to death who are exactly like him in South America. Pretend the accusations of date rape are proven facts. Assange would have to murder millions, displace tens of millions, and repress the will of perhaps a hundred million innocent people to match the misery that the US empire has inflicted over the past fifty years.

Even if I accept the argument that Assange is responsible for Tsangarai, which I still do not, on the list of people to answer for crimes against dissidents he is pretty low on the list. And amazingly, if you are an American, you are taking action that has zero moral value. You have no control over Assange, and neither do I. But we both should have control over our own government, don't you think?
posted by notion at 11:54 AM on December 29, 2010


Gah. The intent of the lip service.
posted by notion at 11:58 AM on December 29, 2010


Che Guevara railed against apartheid in a speech at the UN in 1964.

Well Che had words and an iconic t-shirt in addition to his death squads, supporting his evangelical idealistic foreign policy and a Cuban torture prison. He was even buddies with Laurent Kabila. Just like W. Of course W did have to eventually win an election after presenting for a while. Oh and W did some work on aids in Africa.
posted by humanfont at 1:54 PM on December 29, 2010


how much aid did the United States give in aid to africa, say since 1967, I heard it was 9 trillion$ by todays value, is this true?
posted by clavdivs at 2:47 PM on December 29, 2010


The US did give a lot of aid to African countries, especially during the cold war when Africa served as something of a game board on which the US and USSR played. A great deal of this aid went directly into the pockets of the ruling elite; so long as a nominally pro-capitalist person was in charge, there wasn't too much attention paid to whether funds were actually going where they were 'supposed to.'

Similarly, the US gave a lot of aid to Iran during the 70's.... And we all know how that turned out.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:58 PM on December 29, 2010


And China has huge investments in Tibet. Something tells me that it's not to establish an independent state as the vast majority of Tibetans would like.

The point is that the behavior of the United States is not any different than any other state as far as its foreign policy is concerned. It has a better image as far as its own population perceives it, but none of the oppressed people across the world are under the same illusions as the American public.
posted by notion at 4:20 PM on December 29, 2010


I used my askme this week but I believe that was aid sent through The U.N.- well a lot of it. It could be U.N. aid, I was just asking.

but none of the oppressed people across the world are under the same illusions as the American public.

Hmmmim. Notion, your steadfast and consistent view of American history as one big gun battle, like any other country is annoying me. Sometimes the bullshit in polity and global crises drives just, oh, fighty. An idea, the sooner men realize that women should run government, the better.

"But if he analyzes and exposes the illusions of love, it would be a mistake to believe that he seeks to dissuade men from indulging in them. Such illusions enrich our lives."

-Andre Maurois, ‘Illusions‘ , pg. 32.
posted by clavdivs at 7:59 PM on December 30, 2010


Similarly, the US gave a lot of aid to Iran during the 70's.... And we all know how that turned out.
posted by kaibutsu

Ya, I know, gosh. I had that horrid little target Mickey Mouse Xerox that some kids pinned up for 444 days. The middle finger was ok in public, as long as it was paper. The thing I learned, was to quell that shit because my neighbors mother was from Iran. Ya, neighbors sitting on the porch some nights, when ugly notes arrived, those kind that have calculated adjectives. Thank you for the primer of wobbling panic-flags.
posted by clavdivs at 8:13 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Assange claims to have names of Arab leaders with CIA ties

But he'll only release them if he's kidnapped or killed.
posted by humanfont at 4:58 PM on December 31, 2010


Tim Osman, for one.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:32 PM on December 31, 2010


For those not versed in the arcana, Tim Osman is the alias claimed to be used by Osama bin Laden when he allegedly was a CIA asset. The more you know!
posted by scalefree at 9:36 AM on January 1, 2011


Anonymous has started DDoSing ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe government websites in response to Grace Mugabe's lawsuit against The Standard, etc. (see also)
posted by jeffburdges at 9:59 AM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


... Maybe not the right thing, maybe not the smart thing, but he did something...
this is why i donned my air max's and exploded your family because at least i did it
posted by generalist at 12:03 PM on January 1, 2011


For Wikileaks thread followers, theres another busy thread up, this one focusing on the contents of the leaks:

http://www.metafilter.com/99113/WikiLeaks-Its-a-wiki-that-leaks
posted by memebake at 12:32 PM on January 1, 2011


State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on January 3, 2011


Reply to James Richardson's piece about Wikileaks & Tsvangirai.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:12 PM on January 3, 2011


Aftenposten has coverage in english, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:53 PM on January 4, 2011


Debunking The 'Wikileaks Puts Lives In Danger In Zimbabwe' Myth
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:38 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vanity Fair, The Man Who Spilled the Secrets:
In Rusbridger’s office, Assange’s position was rife with ironies. An unwavering advocate of full, unfettered disclosure of primary-source material, Assange was now seeking to keep highly sensitive information from reaching a broader audience. He had become the victim of his own methods: someone at WikiLeaks, where there was no shortage of disgruntled volunteers, had leaked the last big segment of the documents, and they ended up at The Guardian in such a way that the paper was released from its previous agreement with Assange—that The Guardian would publish its stories only when Assange gave his permission. Enraged that he had lost control, Assange unleashed his threat, arguing that he owned the information and had a financial interest in how and when it was released.
Sorry Proff. I can't support that.
posted by scalefree at 5:49 PM on January 6, 2011


Oh please. If they release all the info, they're info-dumping. If they don't, they're being selective.

Lose/Lose.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:34 PM on January 6, 2011


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