The WikiLeaks Saga (Part 2)

Assange in the UK on his way to jail.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t give so much attention to one story. But, this story strikes me as a significant milestone in our evolving views on freedom of speech, transparency in government and business, and hacking culture. As this story continues to evolve it gets all the more interesting and significant.

So to recap: In recent weeks, the popular whistle blowing site WikiLeaks has posted hundreds of thousands of confidential government documents for the world to view. the US government and its allies have condemned the action and are considering ways to shut down Wikileaks and prosecute its founder Julian Assange. Assange has been in hiding for several years living a nomadic life around Europe fearing retaliation from companies and governments that have been exposed on his site. Several US companies with which Wikileaks has done business, including Amazon, PayPal, EveryDNS, Mastercard and Visa cut off service to WikiLeaks, some believe they were asked to do so by the U.S. Government. There have been Distributed Denial of Service attacks against the WikiLeaks Web site initiated from unknown sources. Wikileaks has been forced to relocate its servers in order to stay in business. Recently, charges of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion were brought against Assange in Sweden by two young Swedish ladies who had a relationship with Assange last Summer.

This week, Assange turned himself in to British law enforcement and now faces extradition to Sweden. Assange has threatened that many more private and damaging U.S. documents will be published on his site, if the U.S. presses charges against him. Many Assange supporters are protesting the actions against WikiLeaks and Assange. One group identifying itself as “Anonymous” has launched Distributed Denial of Service Attacks against the businesses and governments that have acted against WikiLeaks. The founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, John Perry Barlow, has called it “the first infowar.” He told his twitter followers that “The field of battle is WikiLeaks” and “You are the Troops.” The group “Anonymous” recently posted a change in its strategy. Rather than running DDOS attacks the group plans to study the leaked documents and broadcast important issues that they reveal in order to throw more fuel on the fire. Wikileaks now runs on hundreds of “mirror sites” and would be difficult if not impossible to shut down should anyone try. Meanwhile, attacks persist from other Assange groupies. Two hackers have been arrested in Sweden, while protests heat up around the world.

Meanwhile, some ex-WikiLeaks staff have announced that they plan to launch a rival to WikiLeaks. The new site to be called OpenLeaks will maintain an open and transparent approach, which they feel Assange has corrupted in the original WikiLeaks design. They believe Assange has hijacked WikiLeaks to promote his own political agenda. Some insight into that agenda can be found in Assange’s 1996 “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” that opened with the lines: “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”

There is no telling where this battle of wills will lead. Stay tune for more next week.

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