WikiLeaks

The Wiki War

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Amazon, you may recall, claims that the government isn't the reason it expelled WikiLeaks from its servers. PayPal, by contrast

PayPal has said that its decision to stop users from using its service to make donations to Wikileaks was made after advice from the US government.

A senior official at the online payments firm said the State Department had told it that the activities of the website were illegal in the US….

PayPal's clarification came from the firm's vice-president Osama Bedier.

He said the company had carried out its actions after receiving a letter from the State Department, adding that it was a "straightforward" decision.

I'd love to see that letter, and to learn what law the State Department believes the site has violated. [Updated below: Bedier now denies that his company was contacted directly by the government, and says that the State Department's "advice" consisted of a statement that was publicly avaliable.]

In other WikiLeaks news, here's the conservative columnist Marc Thiessen trying to be helpful:

Yeah, like that! But could you add Tom Cruise or someone hanging upside down from the ceiling?

Some say attacking WikiLeaks would be fruitless. Really?…Imagine the impact on WikiLeaks's ability to distribute additional classified information if its systems were suddenly and mysteriously infected by a worm that would fry the computer of anyone who downloaded the documents. WikiLeaks would probably have very few future visitors to its Web site.

Rob Beschizza reacts:

It all gives me this vision of Thiessen dreaming about single-handedly stopping Wikileaks by typing "OVERRIDE PASSWORD" into Julian Assange's laptop, then hitting the delete button after a stern British female voice declares "ACCESS GRANTED." Then there is a tense moment as a glowing neon blue progress bar slowly deletes Wikileaks, but will it finish before Julian returns from the virtual reality cyber conference with George Soros where they are laughing about having just gotten an oblivious Julian Sands thrown in jail?

Update: You can read the risible letter at TechCrunch. It points out that the WikiLeaks cables "were provided in violation of U.S. law," and then it claims: "As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing." So I guess State is offering a variation on an old Homer Simpson line: "It takes two to leak. One to leak and one to listen."

Note, though, that the letter was written to WikiLeaks, not to PayPal, and that Bedier now says the State Department did not contact the company asking it to cut off the site.

NEXT: And This Is the Thanks Obama Gets?

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  1. Yawn…

  2. I must admit that this post is given added weight by the inclusion of a screenshot from ID4: Independence Day.

    1. In fifty years screenings of this film on the fourth of july will be like watching It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas.

    2. To this day that has to be one of the dumbest plot devices of all time in any major motion picture.

      You’re asking me to believe that an alien civilization has a port to accept mac outputs, AND said alien operating system can understand linux or whatever he was using AND said alien OS doesn’t have Virus protection?

      Least believable use of technology EVER.

      1. One of the most absurd in a long time.

        It’s possible that they reverse engineered the alien spacecraft. It’s still highly unbelievable that they were able to write programs and communication stacks that communicate with the alien computer (unless you believe that the aliens use TCP/IP).

        Brent Spiner’s character suggests they’ve learned a lot, but that the all the technology only came online when the aliens showed up, suggesting the spaceship computer was offline.

        If they had reverse engineered the technology and developed hardware (the aliens probably don’t use wi-fi) and software to communicate with the alien computers, wouldn’t they send up their own device (an Air Force laptop or something)? I could see that super antenna connecting to a box that had all the requisite hw/sw, and then connecting that to the Mac, but that doesn’t make sense-I would use a hardened well tested computer that was developed with the hardened well tested antenna set up and not some guy’s Mac with questionable drivers…

        1. Bottom line: any alien species that has achieved interstellar flight will have computing systems that we wouldn’t likely even recognize as computers, much less have those computing systems be hackable by such a technologically backward species as us.

          I mean, that’s like expecting a stone age person to figure out what the hell a computer is, much less hack it using the rock tools at hand.

          1. A scene near the end of Zoolander comes to mind for some reason.

          2. Oh come on. The British, Soviet, and American empires still haven’t been able to conquer Afghanistan. And on this planet, it doesn’t get much more stone age.

        2. We got Apple from the illegal aliens. Inside job!

        3. (an Air Force laptop or something)?

          Psst, your stargate is showing.

      2. The aliens are a hive race. They may not have the capacity to compete with one another or even conceive of themselves as individuals separate from the hive. For them, putting a virus on any computer would be like putting a virus on their own computer.

        Without the threat of viruses, protection against viruses would never have been invented.

        We had one of their ships to study for 50 years. In that time, it would not have been impossible for us to build an interface to their computer. And, if you accept we could do that, making a virus for a completely unprotected system would be trivial.

        No, the real flaw in the plot is that the aliens want us to die. We already have the capacity to effectively, if not completely, wipe ourselves out. It would be laughably easy for any species with the ability to travel between star systems and with the weapons they demonstrated to destroy us completely without even entering the atmosphere.

        1. Maybe they just find it entertaining.

          1. The right aliens were in charge. What could possibly go wrong?

        2. If they were a hive mind, incapable of combat or conflict, how did they develop those crazy weapons?

          1. Their raison d’?tre is to move from planet to planet gobbling resources and occasionally slaughtering the inhabitants. You say weapons, they say pesticide.

      3. I like the decimal keypads on the mothership in the new V.

  3. PayPal’s clarification came from the firm’s vice-president Osama Bedier

    PayPal is clearly a terrorist organization.

    1. But, a French terrorist organization, and thus comically inept.

  4. Thiessen apparently doesn’t know anything about how the internet, worms or computers in general work. He really should stop before he embarasses himself worse.

    What would work is if you widely distribute a worm that checks the USER’s drive for Wikileaks content and if it detects it deletes it. At least it would work once until the fix came out.

    1. yeah, and on the four of five different operating systems that wikileaks readers are liable to be using.

  5. “conservative columnist Marc Thiessen”? Can’t we just say “fascist”?

    Weren’t conservatives supposed to believe in the sanctity of private property, limited government, due process of law, etc. etc.? Thiessen and his pals are demanding an authoritarian government that will make and execute all of its important decisions in secret and “fry” anyone who opens his mouth about it.

    1. Conservatives pretend to believe in such things, when it’s convenient. But it’s usually not long before their authoritarian nature pops out.

      1. Conservatives sound a lot like liberals.

        1. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

          1. To quote myself: “rounding error”.

  6. And this whole wiki thing forces me to reiterate one of my iron laws:

    Never underestimate a government’s ability to regulate or ban something by sheer force of will.

    The Federal Government, and several other major industrialized governments around the world have a very strong interest in seeing Wikileaks shut down. I believe that it can be done– hive mind of the internet be damned.

    1. That sounds similar to my father’s warning: “Never, under any circumstances, underestimate your government’s ability and willingness to fuck you.”

      1. My Dad: Life’s too short to drink shitty beer.

        1. That’s true unless you don’t have access to good beer at the time. Then life’s too short not to drink shitty beer.

          1. Nah, if you only have access to shitty beer, drink bourbon instead.

      2. Yours is the general case — his is the specific app for that general case.

    2. hive mind of the internet be damned.

      Teh Intartubes is the exact opposite of a hive mind.

      The New York Times is pretty close to a hive mind — the groupthink there is astonishing.

      1. Perhaps a better example of a hive-mind-like mentality would be the LDS church, with a beehive as their symbol, and articles like this one in their most current issue of Ensign magazine: “One Heart and One Mind”.

    3. We at least Al-Qaeda’s on your side, Wikileaks is far too valuable to be shut down. “Please give us another list of targets that the US puts the most effort into defending! We won’t blow them up, we just care about transparency! You people need to be held accountable – by letting us now the location of privately owned gas pipelines. Yeah.”

      1. at least Al-Qaeda’s on your side

        So do you think Al Qaeda is unable to figure this out on their own?

        1. Yes. The most valued and important infrastructure out of all the thousands of pipelines and factories in existence is not common knowledge.

          Granted Al Qaeda blows up anything and everything, from pipeliens to kindergartens, but a list of which specific sites are the most valuable is going to help them a great deal and made it a certainty that they will soon be attacked and that nobody here will condemn the people who’ve leaked this information for the sole purpose of helping those who will destroy them. Why?

          1. The most valued and important infrastructure out of all the thousands of pipelines and factories in existence is not common knowledge.

            I doubt the World Trade Centers qualified as the most valued and important buildings in existence; they were destroyed because they were highly visible targets of opportunity. Feel free to make the argument that the National Infrastructure Protection Plan will now serve as a punch list for future acts of terrorism. All I see is a hodgepodge of resources throughout the world in no particular order with no priorities assigned to them that do not belong to the United States anyway.

            1. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Read this.

              1. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about?

                The National Infrastructure Protection Plan that I discuss above is what you are talking about.

                Read This.

    4. Never underestimate a government’s ability to regulate or ban something by sheer force of will.

      Like marijuana, speeding, prostitution, guns, ….

      1. Don’t confuse what I’m saying with 100% effectiveness. There’s no arguing that the state can make a lot of lives miserable in relation to each of the four categories you listed.

  7. Nice little website ya got here, Paypal. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

    1. Nice little website ya got here, Paypal. Be a shame if some slow lorises found it.

  8. Reason is a farce. Three days after any Wikileaks press, we can expect an article from M. Moynihan explaining why the idea of Wikileaks is grand but the problem is its ‘leader.’ And then we get articles like this, which say nothing but the juxtaposition implies that Wikileaks might be OK.

    1. Shut the fuck up already and read the other 1 million posts on wikileaks.

      Oh no, Moynihan hurt your feelings when he didn’t believe the CIA claims. How terrible for you.

    2. Reason is a farce.

      Agreed. Lincoln had no idea what he was talking about.

      and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    3. Not all Reason staffers hold the same opinion. It’s called diversity. If you want your publication staff to speak with one voice, read the New York Times.

      1. Bullshit. All Reason contributors and the vast majority of commenters (except for wackos like me) have been deifying Wikileaks and the cretins behind it for years. Nobody explains why it helps the scared cause of “government transparency” to have a list of “targets most vulnerable to terrorists” published for the whole world to see. And these are often privately owned targets which truly proves that this whole “government transparency” thing is bullshit.

        There are two kinds of people who will download that list: man-boys who can’t join the Rebel Alliance and so will defeat the Big Bad Empire by downloading a text file that they won’t read beyond the first sentence as their hearts and dicks throb, and people who are genuinely harmful. We should not be lionizing the former and especially not the latter.

          1. Bra. Vo. Nice to see that’s the only non-answer you can provide. As usual.

            1. You never answered my responses yesterday.

              1. What responses? Ask me a question (throwing insults at me and linking me to pictures of yourself don’t constitute a question) and I’ll answer them.

                I really wish one person of the collective mind of Reason Magazine will answer my very simple question: why do you lionize people who are working to destroy freedom? Why is it moral to leak lists like the one I mentioned before?

                Yesterday I asked if it would be moral to leak the designs of a nuclear weapon. It was a ridiculous loaded question designed to make you admit you were wrong. Then I received the answer: yes. Well I do admire intellectual honesty but all I can say is if you believe that you are fucking bonkers.

                1. Because it’s fucking fun to watch.

                  Geez, ask a stupid question…

                  1. That doesn’t make sense. A list of pipelines and vaccine production centres that is critical to American safety and security is “fun to watch”? A list of informants that helped the coalition and are now being hunted down by the Taliban (by their own admission) is “fun to watch”? What the fuck are you talking about?

                2. I’ll ask a question. How much did you pay the people who removed your brain and replaced it with rat droppings?

                  1. I don’t think it can get much more pathetic that this. Well at least the collective evasion and continued insults not worthy of an insecure 12 year old boy prove you know you’re in the wrong. What bothers me is that some people are not wannabe Rebel Alliance members who fight the NWO by downloading files to their mother’s computer, what bothers me is that there are people who use this information to do real harm. I wish somebody would stop trying to make themselves believe that they don’t understand that.

                3. If the federal government is the only thing protecting freedom in the world, we’ve already lost.

    4. If I read Isildur correctly, this is my sin: While the nearly-a-dozen posts on the subject I’ve put up over the last week or so are all opposed to the war on WikiLeaks, this one opts for understated mockery rather than full-throated condemnation. Have I got that right?

      For those tuning in late, you can find a selection of Reason‘s WikiLeaks coverage here.

    5. It would take me the next several years to read every thread that Reason has posted about the Wikileaks.

      And I’m a fast reader.

      How can you say that there is a single consensus of opinion from all of these different articles?

      What an asinine opinion.

  9. “advice”
    Nice.

    MasterCard hears its master’s voice: http://wikileaks.ch/articles/2010/Test,32.html

    if its systems were suddenly and mysteriously infected by a worm

    If there were only some way WikiLeaks could distribute its material in a decentralized way, so people didn’t need to “download” it directly from their website. Someone should look into that…

    Maybe Thiessen can get someone to vector in on and enhance the pixels on wikileaks’ site to see if there are any clues about their vulnerabilities. Maybe there’s a reflection, or the eigenvalues are off: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vxq9yj2pVWk

    1. you mean like how they already do? Bittorrent, eg.

  10. So, I’ll ask again, what exactly is Wikileaks doing that the NYT and the Guardian aren’t? Why aren’t we seeing funding for those other terrorist cells shut down by the international power elite?

    1. So, I’ll ask again, what exactly is Wikileaks doing that the NYT and the Guardian aren’t?

      Without really knowing the answer, I can only guess is that they’re publishing stuff without the weight of a very well-established legal department.

      1. Don’t forget that the majority of governmental “news” in the Guardian and the Times comes from government press releases, and only occasionally feature any sort of critical thought about the content therein.

        IOW, the NYT and the Guardian have their uses for the powers that be. Wikileaks does not.

        1. If you’re a senior figure at the State Department and you want to get an editor from the Guardian or the Times on the phone, you can. With WikiLeaks, your chance of even finding out who to talk to, let alone influence what they write, is pretty much zero.

          Governments are looking at a journalist organization with incredible reach that they have absolutely no sway over, and they’re shitting themselves.

        2. If you’re a senior figure at the State Department and you want to get an editor from the Guardian or the Times on the phone, you can. With WikiLeaks, your chance of even finding out who to talk to, let alone influence what they write, is pretty much zero.

          Governments are looking at a journalist organization with incredible reach that they have absolutely no sway over, and they’re shitting themselves.

          1. I’m wondering if Wikileaks isn’t the journalism of the future. All the talk about the old media going bankrupt and needing a bailout. I’m think it’s because we don’t need them anymore. Not with the internet. Anyone can be a reporter now.

  11. “Amazon, you may recall, claims that the government isn’t the reason it expelled WikiLeaks from its servers”

    I believe them. Gubermint isn’t the reason. Its not even the guns of the gubermint. Its the bullets in the guns that will be shot at them…

  12. wikileaks is a joke, and assange is a grade A assclown attention whore. John Young of Cryptome calls a spade a spade:”Wikileaks has always been a commercial enterprise hiding behind a narcissistic “public interest” PR… “What has been released has been much less voluminous than the attention about them,” said Young. “The goal is to exaggerate the importance of Wikileaks”.

    1. We should prosecute them under the Foreign Assclowns and Spades Act. It’s time they answer for what they’ve done.

      Oh, and “commercial enterprise”? Scary shit right there. Might as well charge them with blatant disregard of the Commercial Enterprise Act while we’re at it.

      1. Call your congresscritter today and let him know you support the Foreign Assclowns and Spades Act.

    2. The crucial difference is that just about no one has heard of John Young or Cryptome.

      If it takes a Julian Assange type to make the world take notice of a wikileaks type project, it might be worth the cost of associating the project with a Julian Assange type.

      1. The crucial difference is that just about no one has heard of John Young or Cryptome.

        Not sure about that. Cryptome has received numerous threats from several federal agencies and has never (to my knowledge) removed a single thing off his site. He’s also had visits by men in suits with wires in their ears, and again, never backed down. I’ve been an on-and-off follower of Cryptome for many years.

        Although I do have to wonder why Youngis so critical about Wikileaks. Jealousy? I do agree that there is something attention-whore-ish about Assange, but even if so, there’s no crime in that. And unlike other attention-whores like, say, Michael Moore, there’s no reason to believe Assange has fabricated a single thing.

    3. If this is the case, then what’s the big deal? Ignore it.

    4. Didn’t Cryptome bail on Wikileaks due to personal differences? Hardly an unbiased voice.

      1. Bleh, I meant Young.

    5. “The goal is to exaggerate the importance of Wikileaks”.
      Hmm. Looks like their doing fine. Any idea where the stock’s traded tgs?

  13. “I’d love to see that letter, and to learn what law the State Department believes the site has violated.”

    Perhaps the State Dep’t has an opinion from the USDOJ that WikiLeaks is illegal because it is “not in strict compliance with state medical marijuana laws.” Just a thought.

    1. Thanks much. I’ve updated the post.

    2. PayPal citing *that* letter as a basis for terminating seems *really* weak. It doesn’t even make an attempt to make a legal case against *wikileaks*, let alone Paypal, or any third party not even directly involved with the documents.

      Is WikiLeaks’ janitor on the shit list too? Is Staples going to cancel their rewards cars?

      1. card

  14. It’s wonderful seeing all these conservatives saying Wikileaks should be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act – who was president and supported its passage at that time? Recent conservative whipping boy Woodrow ‘Woody’ Wilson of course – they hate them until an act he helped pushed through suits them then it’s all dandy –

    Woody the man yo…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espionage_Act_of_1917

  15. This is why the fallout from wikileaks is overblown.
    http://www.libradex.com/viewAr…..affil=mich

  16. This why the fallout from Wikileaks is overblown.

    http://www.libradex.com/viewAr…..affil=mich

  17. I love when people think this is actually how computers work.

  18. It all gives me this vision of Thiessen dreaming about single-handedly

    I don’t think anyone wants a vision of the single-handed dream of Thiessen I already had today.

  19. To date, WikiLeaks has released roughly 0.004% of the 250k documents in the current ‘diplomatic cables’ collection. The main question to answer then, might be: did they start things off with a bang, intending to bluff from there on out, or vice versa? If the former, it might be argued (and constantly is) that it was not much of a bang. Which raises another question: in what universe would that seem to be a good strategy?

    1. I certainly would throw the good stuff out first – not least because I couldn’t be sure I’d be around to release it later, if you know what I mean. So I’m thinking this was the bang. And if it was underwhelming…. well, anybody with personal experience of the department knows that State is boring as fuck.

      1. I can easily see that as being possible in the case of Assange, assuming he intended from the beginning to make himself a martyr. However, it doesn’t work so well with respect to WikiLeaks itself. What could they really expect to achieve with a bluff? They have to know from the beginning that they’re going to get called on it, meaning that whatever they have will get released, whether its really a bluff or not. In other words, it’s a foregone conclusion that the state is going to pull that trigger; when they do, would you like it to do damage to the state, or to WikiLeaks?

  20. It points out that the WikiLeaks cables “were provided in violation of U.S. law,”

    Sure. Provisions of law that don’t apply to Wikileaks, as far as I know. To an attorney, the use of the passive voice in the letter is a dead giveaway. If there was a violation of law by Wikileaks, they would have said so, and provided a citation to the law.

    Since they didn’t, there isn’t.

    and then it claims: “As long as WikiLeaks holds such material, the violation of the law is ongoing.”

    I doubt this is true. The law prohibits releasing classified material. That’s kind of a one-time thing. They seem to be arguing that murder is an ongoing violation as long as the victim remains dead.

    Seriously, if Wikileaks was my client, I’d write back and ask them for chapter and verse on what law my client is violating, and their theory on why what my client does violates that law.

    1. Even if it were illegal under US law to possess classified material, isn’t WikiLeaks outside US jurisdiction?

  21. Julian Assange, the public face of WikiLeaks, is, among many things, cowardly. Courageousness would involve meeting with Iranian dissidents, Russian journalists, Pakistani Christians, or Chinese human-rights activists ? and then releasing any confidential information that they might have about the torment institutionalized by their countries’ authoritarian regimes. That would be risky to Assange, however, since such governments do not customarily go to court against their leakers; they gulag them ? or liquidate them.

    So, instead, Assange navigates through the European northwest among the good-life elites whose economic and security protocols he does so much so undermine. Being summoned to a trumped-up Swedish hearing for being an exploitative cad who fails to wear a condom in his ephemeral hook-ups is not the same thing as being dragged into the basement of the Pakistani intelligence service or appearing in an orange jumpsuit on an al-Qaeda execution video. Why does not the peripatetic Assange at least drive about, say, the back roads of the Middle East, Mexico, or Central Africa in his quest for conduits to spread cosmic truth and justice?

    In truth, Assange is a sorry product of the postmodern West. He reminds us of the morality of Western shock artists who freely caricature Christianity on the hallowed principle of free speech, but, in a nano-second, censor themselves when Islam might provide an even larger target for their cynical secular disdain. WikiLeaks is the journalistic equivalent of a Piss Christ exhibition of the contemporary art world ? a repellent reminder of the cowardly selectivity of the shock-jock huckster.

    1. *clap*

      *clap*

      *clap*

      Your bravery, sir, in stating these facts is to be commended. You stood up like a prairie dog poking his head out his hole and proclaimed to the world that this vilified man, whose execution has been called for, is the coward.

      Bravo.

    2. “That would be risky to Assange, however, since such governments do not customarily go to court against their leakers; they gulag them ? or liquidate them.”

      Unlike the U.S., where we only have powerful establishment figures calling for his execution, but where there is good chance that it won’t happen, or at least will happen in a way that can plausibly be denied.

  22. Marc Thiessen is the most contemptible “conservative” columnist of them all bar none. The guy recent called TSA baggage screening retards “unappreciated patriots,” has defended torture and extraordinary rendition, and Obama’s assassination orders on US citizens, and well, now there’s this.

  23. Message from Julian: Dear West: You don’t own the internet.

  24. Nobody bothered to mention the attack of MasterCard, or the Swedish prosecutor’s office. The bots are out. Hackers unite!

  25. Visa.com is currently under a DOS attack. Criminal act or “freedom fighters”? Discuss.

    1. I vote yes on anarchic vandalism. Not the the smashy windows kind, but definitely the DDoS kind. Yes, both are wrong, but those fucks who smashed my windshield are going to pay.

    2. Freedom Fighters

    3. Yes.

      That said, if a large business decides to provide material support for a government engaging in oppression, it’s made itself a fair target (to a limited extent — murder would be extreme unless their support is military, but vandalism and disruption are proportionate responses). They aren’t neutrals once they pick a side.

      And frankly, the government does the same damn thing, but worse. Consider the persecution of Qwest’s CEO on charges that were, I’m utterly unrelated to his refusal to let the NSA violate the rights of his customers. Compare that with the immunity retroactively granted to the telecoms that conspired with government. Side with the government, break the law with no consequences. Side with the Constitution/people/rule of law, go to jail. It sounds like an offer you can’t refuse, so Anonymous is making a counteroffer.

      1. A business decision that you don’t like, made by a private company (that you are free not to do business with), is “material support for a government engaging in oppression;” and that company should therefore be subject to criminal acts of vandalism? That’s one impressive ethical contortion. I see similar reactions from toddlers when their mommies won’t buy them a toy.

        1. Criminal acts of vandalism, as defined by the authority in question, you mean. And vandalism is faulty abstraction here; DDoS could hardly be termed as such, because in reality, nobody has any right to run a website, any more than I have a right to post this here right now. You, me, Visa, Anonymous — we all create this environment in real time, and none of us are granted any special rights as a result of our choice to make use of it, utopian machinations of the law notwithstanding. I say utopian, because whether anyone wants it to be true or not, it’s the Wild West out here, and people had best learn that at the end of the day, they have to get along to get along. That’s just technical reality, not a value judgment, and 99.99% of the time it works great. And Visa are big boys; they can weigh their options and make their decisions. Neither Visa nor Anonymous need us to condone or condemn their actions; they’ll do what they do, and so will we.

  26. Hey, Poindexter: it’s not a fucking wiki.

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