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Welcome to the first serious info-war.
Does that sound like Alex Jones' craziness? I admit, it does to me. However, that statement is not the histrionics of a conspiracy-obsessed blogger. No, this seeming bit of hyperventilation comes to us via Electronic Freedom Frontier (EFF) president, John Perry Barlow, who stated that "the first serious infowar has been engaged", referring of course to the administrative, corporate and governmental response to the Wikileak'd cables.
The effect of this statement is staggering. EFF is not a fringe 9/11 truth-er movement, or a tea-bag rightist fantasy camp. No, EFF is a well-respected major player in the realms of electronic privacy advocacy and all other issues affecting the intersection between humanity and computing. They bring suit, complaints and file amici on everything from eBay TOS to DMCR to extra-governmental snooping in your bank records, to the RIAA's punitive allegations of file-sharing and copyright. Barlow's release, then, is akin to the ACLU telling all 374 million of us that Congress has declared a literal war on American citizens and their rights. (In fairness, Barlow has issued some awfully hyperbolic statements before, but this one on behalf of EFF, is professional, not personal).
Okay, we get your point; we should be paying attention.
What is this info-war? Specifically, it's the war being waged on Wikileaks, a non-profit entity, by some of the most powerful nations on the planet, some of the largest online businesses, right down to the smallest DNS providers. Here's the rundown:
November 28, Wikileaks begins to release cables from the U.S. functionaries, containing highly embarrassing name-calling by diplomats, and revealing other embarrassing "secrets", such as Pakistan is close to a failed state, Saudis admit their citizens bankroll terrorists, Merkel doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground, Sarkoszy is thin-skinned French wanker, the Russian mob and the Italian mafia are in cahoots, Putin and Buerlusconi are as crooked as the day is long. To which one can only say "No shit. We already knew this stuff". Anyone who reads the major papers of records such as PakTimes, NY Times, Pravda, BBC News, Le Monde, etc could have told you all of this...without blinking.
Yet, this information is deemed "damaging". And, that same day so-called "massive" denial of service attacks, effectively shutting down the site's Swedish servers. Private hackers and hacktivists have claimed credit for the attack, yet, there appears to be evidence of state-sponsored involvement in shutting down Wikileaks.
So, after suffering nearly 1/2 million attacks per minute on its own servers, Wikileaks then moves to Amazon. Predictably, Amazon pussies out, citing a non-existent violation of their TOS, and shuts down the site. Daniel Ellsberg, the hero who released the Pentagon Papers and thus set up some of the most profound First Amendment doctrine, has predictably struck back at this corporate censorship. His open letter to Amazon is powerful stuff.
So, Wikileaks is on the move again. This time to "wikileaks.org" in the U.S. and Wikileaks mirrors in France. Fast-forward to December 2, 2010, where Wikileaks announces that it has a massive dump of documents that will absolutely destroy the veil obscuring the shady dealings between the U.S. and multi-billion dollar giant Bank of America.
Still following? Good, because shit is about to...Well, you know.
Anyone paying attention to the role of corporate influence in the U.S. can figure out what happens next: The war begins in earnest on Wikileaks. It is only after this disclosure that Amazon removes the site citing an undisclosed term of service. What about Wikileaks.org? EverDNS, the Vermont-based server for Wikileaks.org in America pulls the site, also citing a trumped-up violation of TOS.
Fine, you say, there are still European servers, right? Places where free expression and whistle-blowing/gonzo journalism are still taken seriously? You'd be wrong. First, France pulls Wikileaks' main site on the basis of no established French law. Fine. Move on the mirror in Switzerland, wikileaks.ch. Only problem is, now the Swiss have pulled the site as well, again, citing to no violation of law; information just goes down the memory hole.
Meanwhile, Assange is the apparent victim of trumped-up "rape charges". Swedish authorities have, since the Afghan/Iraq war dump stated that he's wanted for rape. After declining to prosecute for nearly a year, they now are attempting to re-file the charges. But, was there rape? Ummmm, no. The basis for the sexual assault charges are now apparently "sex by surprise" in having "unprotected sex".
And, on the homefront, American corporations are still fighting the BoA release tooth-n-nail. For instance, PayPal today announced that it will no longer permit donations to Assange's operation. And, it appears as though Twitter and Facebook are about to silence Wikileaks as well.
Sounds like an Infowar to me...
While all of these governments/agencies/corporations are shutting down the site in advance of the lending documents' release, the U.S. Government has apparently decided that a spoke truth can be obliterated if you just don't talk about it; and that the words/actions of our nation didn't occur if only they don't mention it by name, or try to ham-fistedly deny access to the documents.
For instance, the Library of Congress, the largest repository of human knowledge in the world, has denied access to any site which could potentially discuss/release the cables. As the NY Times reports, the Government has jumped the shark in a more pernicious way, by ordering employees not to discuss the contents of the cables. I shit you not. Government employees, many of who's work went into formulating the policy and actions described in the cable, cannot discuss, even amongst themselves, what work/words/actions actually got released.
As though administratively-required amnesia has ever worked.
The most recent head-in-the-sand, Orwellian approach is threatening grad/law students not to discuss this information that is already in the public sector. As Above the Law wrote today, several law schools are assisting the government in chilling, unconstitutional prior restraint of free speech. The pre-emptively bullying reads as follows (from BU School of Law):
Today I received information about Wikileaks that I want to pass on to you. This is most relevant if you are going to apply for or have already applied for federal government positions. Two big factors in hiring for many federal government positions are determining if the applicants have good judgment and if they know how to deal with confidential/classified information. The documents released by Wikileaks remain classified; thus, reading them, passing them on, commenting on them may be seen as a violation of Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information. See Section 5.5 (Sanctions).For many federal government jobs, applicants must obtain security clearances. There are various levels of security checks, but all federal positions require background checks. As part of such checks, social media may be researched to see what you are up to, so DO NOT post links to the documents or make comments on any social media sites. Moreover, polygraphs are conducted for the highest levels of security clearance.I have not yet heard any fallout about specific individuals, but we wanted to give you this take on the situation.Maura Kelly
Assistant Dean for Career Development and Public Service
Ladies and gentlemen, this is an info-war. Rather than asnwering the fucking question, such as why the U.S. State Dept ordered spying on the UN; rather than discuss our uncomfortable ties to the Saudis; the failings of our policies in the Middle East; the torture that created hundreds, if not thousands, of new Jihadis, our government would rather silence the voices, pretend the words were never spoken, and then threaten and bully its citizens in any means at its disposal.
Chilling doesn't do this justice.
Chilling doesn't do this justice.
Perhaps our "leaders" would be better served by actually going back and reading the words of some of our Founders with respect to information, the press, and an engaged citizenry. In fact, a guy named Thomas Jefferson once said "Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe."
Good advice, what else did he have to say?
"The light which has been shed on mankind by the art of printing has eminently changed the condition of the world... And while printing is preserved, it can no more recede than the sun return on his course." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1823. ME 15:465
"Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it." --Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786.
"Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived; but as long as the presses can be protected, we may trust to them for light." --Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart. 1799.