Wikileaks is the target or widespread criticism for recently publishing its full collection of 251,000 uncensored classified U.S. government documents. The whistle-blowing website had previously released only a relatively small amount of the leaked documents with portions of the documents edited out in order to protect individuals. This week all of the documents were made public, with nothing edited out. The Fed strongly condemned Wikileaks for compromising national security, endangering sensitive global relations, and putting lives in danger. Several mainstream media corporations, including the New York Times, have broken ties with Wikileaks over what they call wikileaks’ unethical behavior. Wikileaks blames a German journalist for publishing the information needed to access the documents, while others suspect Wikileaks made the information easy to access in hopes of the documents being discovered and released.
The secrets that the documents contain, will no doubt make front page news over the next weeks, as pressure from governments to shut down Wikileaks and arrest Wikileaks founder Julian Assange intensifies.
Interestingly, the Wikileaks site was attacked and taken down for several hours shortly after the release of the documents.
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.
The U.S. Government, along with other governments around the world became enraged this week when WikiLeaks published 250,000 confidential diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department on the Wikileaks Web site. WikiLeaks is a Web site that allows whistle-blowers to publish confidential documents designed to incriminate their employer. In this case the documents posted exposed the private conversations between diplomats unveiling secret plans, previously unknown alliances, and covert operations. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton condemned the release of the diplomatic cables, and stated that the US is taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those that stole the information, and to make sure nothing like this happens again.
The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange is in hiding with a last-known location somewhere in the UK. Assange and his colleagues claim to be taking steps to protect themselves from death threats. Assange is also wanted in Sweden to face questioning over alleged sex crimes. It’s only natural to wonder if Assange wasn’t set up in an effort to discredit him. WikiLeaks.org came under heavy attack this week by denial-of-service attacks from multiple sources. In an effort to defend itself from the attacks WikiLeaks extended its number of servers provided by Amazon. Shortly thereafter, Amazon booted Wikileaks off its servers under pressure from the U.S. government. Later that day, the company EveryDNS expelled WikiLeaks from its service invalidating the Wikileaks.org domain. Wikileaks then obtained a new domain at wikileaks.ch utilizing servers in France. The French government is working to expel WikiLeaks from its country as well. Meanwhile PayPal has closed the WikiLeaks account set up to provide WikiLeaks with supporter donations.
Wikileaks maintains its philosophy that its service supports freedom of speech, and encourages more open and honest operations in government and business. With growing pressure against WikiLeaks from governments and businesses, it is unlikely that the company will be able to hold out much longer.