Leaker Calls on Leaker to Leak the WikiLeaks Story

With Amazon denying that pressure from Sen. Joe Lieberman was the deciding factor in its decision to expel WikiLeaks from its server, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has put out a call for an Amazon leaker to come forward and tell the inside story:

This would be a good time for Amazon insiders who know and perhaps can document the political pressures that were brought to bear -- and the details of the hasty kowtowing by their bosses -- to leak that information. They can send it to Wikileaks (now on servers outside the US), to mainstream journalists or bloggers, or perhaps to a site like antiwar.com, which has now appropriately ended its book-purchasing association with Amazon and called a boycott.

One more thought: While I can't say I'm alarmed or angry about the site's latest document dump, I'd be mad about the anti-WikiLeaks jihad even if I thought cablegate was the most irresponsible move in the history of journalism. The question of whether it was wise for WikiLeaks to publish those communiqués is separate from, and secondary to, the emerging argument over the scope of the First Amendment. There's nothing wrong with debating Julian Assange's editorial decisions, any more than there's anything wrong with debating the editorial decisions of The New York Times or Hustler. But with public officials calling for a publication to be declared a terrorist organization or otherwise suppressed, the free speech issue has to be paramount. I thought Submission was a mediocre film, but I didn't react to the murder of Theo van Gogh with a movie review.

[Via Andy Greenberg.]

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  • ||

    "Nice little website ya got here- be a shame if anythin' wuz ta happen to it."

  • Ragin Cajun||

    I imagine some people at Amazon are saying, "Man, this is Christmas season. We don't need this shit right now."

  • Kolohe||

    Exactly. And it's not like it was a long standing relationship - Amazon had been hosting for about two or three days before they decided to not host them anymore.

  • Fluffy||

    In Amazon's defense, if you're running a hosting business and one of your clients is running an unpopular website that is attracting a lot of hacker activity and attacks on your servers, if you're allowed to boot them at will I can't blame you if you do.

  • cynical||

    And who's to say that wasn't their motivation anyway? The Russia mafia is a little more proactive than Joe Lieberman, for all his faults.

  • ||

    It seems to me that those most outraged by Wikileaks have (mild to severe) authoritarian tendencies, and of course view this as a defiance of authority; while those of us who hate authority view it with approval as a jab at authority. When you boil it down, editorial policy has nothing to do with it; that's just a way to argue against it without being honest about your authoritarianism.

    On a lighter note, I just got excellent tickets to Penn & Teller's show next Friday here in Seattle at The Paramount. I thought I would have to wait until a fortuitous trip to Vegas to catch them, so this is pretty awesome.

  • ||

    I liked their show in Las Vegas. Watch out for a trick in which Penn invites someone from the audience with an experience shooting video. I bet the guy from the audience was actually Teller. He talked all the time, while Teller was not anywhere around.

  • ||

    My problem is that politically (and perhaps ironically), the more boring the leaks, the more likely a backlash is, and the less likely that people defend the leaker.

    The backlash is monumentally stupid. Unfortunately, because politicians and many people are idiots, poor editorial judgment made the backlash more likely.

    What was actually revealed in this latest document dump is not worth the backlash. It's a net loss for liberty, and a net gain for authority.

    Precedent is important. Because the Pentagon Papers were important, it helped the courts set a precedent that increased press freedom in this country. It would be horrible if the banality of these papers made it more likely that a liberty restricting precedent be set. (Just like how the New York Times's obession with Valarie Plame's leaker was ultimately bad for press freedom as a precdent, but their partisan blindness confused them.)

    Cheering on tactically stupid decisions that result in a net loss of liberty simply because it's "your side" doing it is as dumb as any Red Team/Blue Team partisanship, Epi.

  • ||

    It's amazing how no matter what Wikileaks does, no matter what arguments are put forth, you are still always and without fail (and with much energy and zeal) on the side of keeping the information concealed, under the excuse that it was "not interesting" or "banal". You call them "tactical decisions" and "precedent". But the underlying continuity in all your arguments is that Wikileaks shouldn't be leaking stuff.

    What would you be happy with them leaking, John? Anything? Or is that just too much of an affront to authority?

  • ||

    I merely agree with Megan here.

    Wikileaks should be leaking stuff. I have no problem with the other document dumps they've done, up to and including the one that they entitled "Collateral Murder, just as I have no problem with the Pentagon Papers, or Watergate, or anything like that.

    Did the "Collateral Murder" document dump cause this level of backlash? No, it did not. Many people strongly disagreed about the interpretation, but it really didn't lead to any substantive changes or precedent.

    Sure, there's some possibility that the only real difference in this situation is that it's the Dept. of State and the Obama Administration mostly being attacked, and it's all just partisanship that explains the different reaction.

    There's some truth to that, but I don't think it's the full explanation.

  • 0x90||

    John, the reason why Collateral Murder had less traction was that it fit very easily into the left-right mold. No matter your side, you had a clear line on what to think about this organization. This time, however, that is not the case. The actual content of the leak is of nearly zero importance; what is of interest is the politically-disinterested nature of that content, and by extension, of the people responsible for making it available.

    That is to say, as Wikileaks can no longer be cast as a friend of the left, and an enemy of the right, there is no option remaining but for it to be seen as an enemy of both, by both.

    The content is irrelevant. Assange is irrelevant. The nature of the leak, and the sudden realization that such leaks cannot be stopped in the future, are the real issues.

  • ||

    Remember, Assange wants the US government to become more secretive. He wants the backlash. Assuming that he's not a neocon plant, he's apparently a heighten-the-contradictions kind of guy.

    Given that he apparently wants to provoke a backlash, I think it's entirely fair to question his editorial judgment and publishing strategy. There's no reason for someone who wants government to remain more open to agree with the tactics of someone who wants government to be more closed, even if they both fall under some vague "anti-government" heading.

    When you leak things that show the government doing things that it really shouldn't, it makes people defend leaking and it sets positive precedents. When you leak thinks that show the government basically saying in private what it does in public, except for things that "everybody knows are true but we can't say for risk of offending people," it makes people argue that government diplomacy needs secrecy to do its job.

    Any leak carries with it the risk of a backlash. It's not worth provoking a backlash when the material isn't that interesting, and especially not when the material is actually more likely to cause a backlash among even normally sympathetic commentators.

    Unless, of course, your goal is simply to make the government as secretive as possible both inside and out in the hopes of making it ineffecient, because you believe that the government is sufficiently a lost cause that any worse activities caused by being closed will be outweighed by making it more inefficient. Like Assange.

  • 0x90||

    Governments may indeed react by wishing and trying to become more secretive, but they will gradually come to understand that this is a pipe dream. As I wrote above, forget about Assange. What we are observing is the natural reaction of political systems as they begin to realize that the most imortant feature of a worldwide network such as the internet is that it enables the existence of a bona fide Fourth Estate.

  • cynical||

    "Remember, Assange wants the US government to become more secretive. He wants the backlash."

    I don't think his writings back your interpretation. The main mistake is assuming when he talks about government conspiracy, that he's saying that government is a conspiracy, rather than that there is a conspiracy within the government. You're assuming he's an anarchist, rather than a liberal that believes in "good government".

    What he wants (as I understand the excerpts I read) is for the bad guys in the U.S. government to start hiding information from the good guys in the U.S. government for fear of some of those good guys blowing the whistle. As the bad guys try to protect themselves by keeping more and more people out of the loop, their ability to do bad stuff is compromised.

  • tjetjetje||

    Banal? Hardly! The documents show the U.S. breaking international conventions on spying at the UN? How are you going to try and hold North Korea and Iran to international law when you refuse to follow it. The documents show the U.S. leaning on the Spanish and German governments to stop them from fighting for their citizen's rights to not be kidnapped and tortured in Afghanistan (Germany) and Guantanamo Bay (Spain)

    These are just two examples and they show how the powerful try and cover up their crimes and their hypocrisy at every step of the way.

    Hardly Banal; wikileaks is clearly doing an important service. It's a shame you think it's banal.

  • ||

    I'd love to see them live. I've only been to Vegas once (on business), and they never seem to do shows in Florida. Dangit.

  • Observer||

    Snitching on your pot-smoking parents? Totally uncool.
    Snitching on your employer? Dude, you're a hero!

  • ||

    You're so.fucking bitter. I love it. How shitty is your life?

  • 0x90||

    Comprehension failure. The questions are: snitching about what, to whom, and to what end?

  • ||

    Snitching on your pot-smoking parents? Totally cool.
    Snitching on your federal employer? Dude, you're a criminal!

  • Observer||

    Silly rabbits. Snitching in this context refers to Ellsberg's entreaty to an Amazon employee (he calls him an "insider") to snitch on his employer (he calls it "leaking") to report a non-crime, a business decision. Ellsberg (and the rest of you, apparently) are conspiracy theorists in search of a conspiracy, a cover-up. Now don't you feel stupid? Of course you do.

  • 0x90||

    As I wrote, comprehension failure. RTFA:

    "This would be a good time for Amazon insiders who know and perhaps can document the political pressures that were brought to bear..."

    I'd be curious to find out why you feel the need to distort Ellsberg's statment to say something other than what it does. Just as he instinctively assumes a conspiracy to be afoot, you, as clearly shown by your above statement, assume the opposite.

    And I find that to be kind of funny.

  • cynical||

    So, what have we learned today? Observer cannot distinguish between "illegal" and "wrong".

  • Jeff P.||

    The funny part is with all these conflicting leaks we can unironically call this a "pissing match."

  • Derp||

    I get it!

  • ||

    I love the antiwar, but I have to disagree with them on this. Tailgunner Joe II put a gun to Amazon's head. Put the blame exactly and only where it belongs - totalitarian bureaucrats like Lieberman who embodies the notion of the banality of evil.

  • Um||

    Tailgunner Joe II put a gun to Amazon's head

    He doesn't have that power or authority.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Ya think Jeff Bezos would just love to be paraded in front of a Congressional committee hearing?

  • ||

    Cheering on tactically stupid decisions that result in a net loss of liberty simply because it's "your side" doing it is as dumb as any Red Team/Blue Team partisanship, Epi.

    Did the Great Pragmatist, John McCain, tell you this?

  • ||

    It is the same reason that I'll support the lesser of evils rather than make protest votes, yes.

    And the same reason that I don't ignore "rounding errors," throw my hands up and say I don't care about some legislative change that makes the TSA slightly less worse, because that's logically equivalent to not caring about the TSA's latest outrage-- the new scans and patdowns, like almost every loss of liberty, is a marginal "rounding error" compared to the previous one, a tiny extra step.

    And the same reason that I'm not impressed by Ron Paul's vote against CAFTA which had one one net effect- higher tariffs on socks, nor impressed with the House Republicans voting against the not perfect, but better than the status quo Bowles-Simpson report.

  • DADIODADDY||

    Daniel Ellsberg is still alive???

  • Um||

    Yes! Read the comments on his blog. His fans totally support "freedom of speech" but apparently blanch at property rights.

  • Rep. Pete King (R, NY)||

    Not if I have my way.

  • Richard Nixon||

    I hope you have better luck than I did.

  • John F.||

    Judging from the comments on this and other WikiLeaks-related posts, I would assert that the fundamental divide appears to be between those who believe that any secrecy by the state is destructive/harmful/anathema and therefore any revelation of those secrets is a good thing and those who believe (like myself) that some level of secrecy is inevitable and perhaps necessary but will still like as much transparency and oversight as possible while still relying on the ability of leakers to reveal secret information of government misdeeds or duplicity. For those in the latter group, there is a real critique to be made of Julian Assange and the current tactics of WikiLeaks. The overblown rhetoric by politicians and political commentators is absurd and moronic. But contra Greenwald, Schafer, et al, there is an argument to be made against Assange by people other than warmongering slaves to power.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: John F,

    But contra Greenwald, Schafer, et al, there is an argument to be made against Assange by people other than warmongering slaves to power.

    For instance?

  • John F.||

    Assange's tactics could easily result in the government centralizing and compartmentalizing more information, making a more hostile, concerted effort to identify and punish leakers to dissuade future leakers, to classify information at a higher level than it might previously have assigned, and to conduct diplomatic activity in a more clandestine manner. For those who want more transparency, accountability, and oversight in government, Assange's quixotic mission for "total transparency" is moving the government in the wrong direction.

  • The Gobbler||

    That does make sense.

  • ||

    Your arguments are rationale and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.
    However, when you look at the stuff, it appears to me that it shows that gubermints first imperative is to classify. Its just the ass covering way that gubermint operates - stamp, stamp, stamp everything secret. The best way to win an argument is not to have it cause nobody knows what is in fact happening.
    The fact that Obama and Bush are essentially identical shows that the bureacratic imperative cannot be controlled by the bureacracy itself.

  • John F.||

    Well, I agree with Pat Moynihan that the government engages in too much secrecy and classifies too much information. And I agree that steps should be taken to make government more open and more transparent. I just do not believe that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the best way to do that.

  • 0x90||

    And on what basis do you contend that a government will be able do these things effectively? They may make as many rules as they like, but how will those rules actually prevent leaks?

    Manning, for example, finds himself in hot water as the result of his own unadvisable actions -- he would not be, had he kept his mouth shut. His story will serve as a powerful lesson for others who feel the need to shed light on the internal workings of the organizations in which they work.

    In reality, governments which crack down on leakers will be providing the world with a valuable service: it will come to be understood that working for truth represents a poor method of gaining fame of any kind. That is, one of the main effects of heightened government security is a necessary increase in the credibility of any given leak.

    Governments and organizations would be smarter to warmly embrace the concept, encourage it loudly, and then proceed to spin the results as consisting of nothing but lies, supplied by disgruntled workers. It would often be possible to debunk such claims, but that would not matter, to the degree that the public perception was correctly conditioned to reflexively reject the information on its first appearance.

  • John F.||

    Your argument is like saying because the government cannot stop drug use, there is no need to be concerned about efforts to ramp up the war on drugs.

    I do not believe the government can stop all leaks and would not want them to. But the government can create conditions that make leaking more difficult or make people less likely to leak. And information more pertinent than Gadddafi's Ukranian nurse might not be revealed because of those conditions.

  • 0x90||

    Well, no, it's not like that at all. No matter though, because it appears that we don't actually have much of a disagreement on the likely effects of heightened security. We may differ on whether those effects represent a positive or negative, but that's a pretty subjective determination. Que sera sera -- I'm only predicting what I see as the potential eventualities.

  • cynical||

    It would be even more likely to do that if they were leaking some truly heinous shit, but that wouldn't be much of an argument not to do it.

    Besides, the alternative is that government officials start to worry that they might get caught and possibly even suffer some consequences for being a crook or thug (I dunno, suspension with pay or censure or something), and thus try to tone it down a bit.

  • Harder Than Chinese Google||

    So Comcast as a carrier has to abide by net neutrality rules (you know they're coming) but a web host can be as biased as they want. But Comcast will also be told by the government that they must block certain sites.

    The double-standard here is the political class who is all high and mighty about net neutrality except in the cases when neutrality is bad, mmkay.

  • ||

    Assange wants the US government to become more secretive. He wants the backlash.

    And we "know" this, how?

  • Mo||

    Because some guy on the internet said he did.

  • nicole||

    I believe this refers to an earlier post on "The Hacker Politics of Julian Assange," which was actually pretty interesting and made me a bit impressed with Assange's little philosophy, or what have you. Evidently he wants to cause the government to freak out and become so secretive it can't function anymore. Not sure that would work, but I'm down.

  • ||

    When everything is TOP SECRET nothing is TOP SECRET.

  • doomboy||

    If they find out you've seen this, your life will be worth less than a truckload of dead rats in a tampon factory.

  • Michael||

    We're all skeet surfers now.

  • Michael||

    This was a reply to P Brooks, but I think I like it better on its own.

  • ||

    Skeet surfin USA!

    Everybody has a shotgun
    and a surfboard too.

  • ||

    ...any more than there's anything wrong with debating the editorial decisions of The New York Times or Hustler.

    One caters to whores and fellators.

    The other is a sex trade mag.

  • ||

    Zing!

    Threadjack.

    Gov tracking credit card transactions without warrants in real time.

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/12/realtime/

  • ||

    Check out the powerpoint presentation.

  • ||

  • Valhawk||

    This is just more proof that the current Justice Department is inherently corrupt.

    I think it's time for a clean sweep. Fire Holder and every single person employed by Justice Department(and take steps to ensure that no former employee may ever be rehired by the Justice Department), drop all of their contractors and do not use them again, throw out all their current procedures and have a new set drafted in public with an eye to respecting American's constitutional rights.

    Maybe if we do this Justice will actually function within reason, and not as a huge breach of every constitutional right of American Citizens.

  • cynical||

    That it makes it sound like like it's filled with industry analysis and shit, rather than porn.

  • ||

    That it makes it sound like like it's filled with industry analysis and shit, rather than porn.

    Are you talking about the NYT or Hustler?

  • ||

  • cynical||

    Someone convinced him to change his hair from creepy weirdo Bond villain to hacker antihero. Good for them.

  • cynical||

    Assange: "The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be "free" because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it."

    My initial response is to scoff at the whiny lefty, and yet he makes a good point. What exactly does revealing wrongdoing actually achieve in the U.S.? Incumbency is high despite abysmal Congressional approval ratings, officials can commit crimes with video evidence and go unpunished, Congressmen can blatantly break the law and get nothing but a stern talking to, and the Constitution is practically a dead letter.

    Until we grow the balls to start taking justice into our own hands and deal with the consequences of the ensuing chaos, we can expect more of the same. At the same time, it calls into question the point of U.S.-focused leaks at all. Surely they should place more emphasis on saving China.

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