Because Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, comes from the hacker underground, its actions often look taken from the POV of a desire to expose stuff just for the sake of exposing it.
This was always part of the mindset of the hacker fraternity.
And it really wasn’t of tantamount importance to consider fine ramifications. So any tonnage of quote from the US government on how security was about to be greatly harmed — true, disingenuous, sincere or evil — was never going to be an impediment to action.
Wikileaks is proof of adherence to the old slogan favored by hackers: Information wants to be free.
And Bradley Manning — because he was vain and kept poor company, the result of which was his being turned over — doesn’t seem much of a Daniel Ellsberg.
There is a perceptible element of wanting to be famous, a not uncommon trait. And so the young man apparently vacuumed up everything at his disposal. This everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink approach has certainly worked, creating a great sensation, even when most of the material is gossip — State Department employees and foreign leaders being just how you might expect.
Because of what we have come to — the US frequently considered a bad actor — the Dept. of Defense and the State Department, the entire foreign face of the US government, has a problem it cannot solve. Its exposure is thought by lots of people to be well deserved, come-uppance because it has been on the wrong side of so many issues in recent history and been proven unaccountable.
Thus, there is now no defense that can be mounted against the swarm of those willing to perpetrate a Wikileaks-type operation.
It stands to reason that going forward there will always be at least one person like Bradley Manning in the service of the US government or military. Or even a couple.
Not someone who will just blow the whistle or leak a couple things of critical interest.
But someone who will mindlessly divulge everything they can get their hands on. Good, bad or indifferent — even material they could not humanly have taken the time to read and understand.
It is not so remarkable that Bradley Manning copied a staggering volume of material.
What’s remarkable is the collision of technology, an idiotically official American process of universally networking everything and labeling it secret — whether antagonistic, stupefying, mundane, understandably human or legitimately so, and someone like Manning, one person of small means who spills the beans. And then that absolutely nothing changes until the next mega-release and the cycle continues.
The act of disclosure has turned into an exercise in a type of extremism, a reaction — often unthinking — to what we are now. That’s the way it is.
And it’s impossible to secure against. Now that Wikileaks is an outlet the problem cannot be remedied from such a standpoint.
Does it merit the play-acting of someone like Hillary Clinton, asserting that it tears at the fabric of responsible government one moment, making a joke referral to what’s said about her behind closed doors, the next? No.
What passes for responsible government now? Who in the glass house is going to throw the first stone?
Chalmers Johnson might have had something interesting to say on the matter and its relationship to the maintenance of a worldwide empire. But we can’t ask him because he died.
At the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy blog, Steve Aftergood — who has regularly been critical of Wikileaks — had this to say, yesterday:
The Wikileaks project seems to be, more than anything else, an assault on secrecy. If Wikileaks were most concerned about whistleblowing, it would focus on revealing corruption. If it were concerned with historical truth, it would emphasize the discovery of verifiably true facts. If it were anti-war, it would safeguard, not disrupt, the conduct of diplomatic communications. But instead, what Wikileaks has done is to publish a vast potpourri of records — dazzling, revelatory, true, questionable, embarrassing, or routine — whose only common feature is that they are classified or otherwise restricted.
This may be understood as a reaction to a real problem, namely the fact that by all accounts, the scope of government secrecy in the U.S. (not to mention other countries) has exceeded rational boundaries. Disabling secrecy in the name of transparency would be a sensible goal — if it were true that all secrecy is wrong. But if there is a legitimate role for secrecy in military operations, in intelligence gathering or in diplomatic negotiations, as seems self-evident, then a different approach is called for.
“It’s impossible to say whether the race to fix the classification system can be won through our kind of advocacy from the outside and by enlightened self-interest within government,” concludes Aftergood. “Before that happens, classification itself could be rendered moot and ineffective by leaks, abuse or internal collapse. Or, in a reflexive response to continuing leaks, officials might seek to expand the scope of secrecy rather than focusing it narrowly, while increasing penalties for unauthorized disclosures.”
To wit, it is not at clear yet that Wikileaks is a universal solvent. And Aftergood, over all, is singularly positioned to know.
“Assault on secrecy,” when you think about it for a moment, sounds suspiciously similar to things like “war on drugs” and “war on terror.”
Anyway, initial reports from the government indicate the opposite of a break in the official barricades.
A more pressing desire to get after the leakers, tighter controls on information, new restrictions on portable data storage — none of which can protect from Bradley Mannings.
Maybe it will sort out in some favorable manner. I doubt it, though. There will just be more releases of information, more frenzied measures to bring a halt to it, bigger punishments demanded and ever louder cries for violent solutions.
In the meantime, we’ll still be stuck in an old science-fiction novel.
As in many things, we succumb to drift into farce.
(Yes, click that link.)