Understanding Julian Assange, and The WikiLeaks

The world is under attack. At the center of it all is Julian Assange, and his organization called, WikiLeaks. Yet this isn’t an ordinary attack. There are myriad philosophical considerations that one needs to address. There is the question, “is this right, or wrong?” to, “Should governments have secrets?” There are questions like, “Is WikiLeaks doing the job of journalism?” How about questions that “what wikileaks is nothing more than voyeurism?” There is also the question on the robustness of our Internet infrastructure.

Let us first go through the implications of this on Internet infrastructure.



Internet infrastructure

The implication of this thought bomb that wikileaks unleashed has repercussions on the status quo of the Internet. Denial of service by being kicked out of hosting providers is nothing new. BitTorrent and other File Sharing sites have experienced this in the past. The disabling of DNS is another, and leads to a philosophical question of the robustness of the Internet infrastructure itself. The disabling of DNS under the request of the US Government without so much due processes leans dangerously close to 1984. If it can be done to WikiLeaks, it can be done to any one who has a service, business or activity on the Internet.

Domain Name Service or DNS is the Internet equivalent of the Phonebook. To reach google.com, for instance, you type the name “google.com” on your browser. That is the same as you scrolling through your phonebook, looking for a name of the person you want to reach. The same way that your phone translates the name into a phone number so that the phone company can properly route your call, is the same as what the Web Browser does when you hit that enter key on your web browser asking it to connect to a website.

Being removed from the Domain Name Service is the equivalent of being kicked off the Internet because you become “unreachable.”

DNS and web hosting companies are well within their rights to keep you off their service through a violation of their terms of service, it raises interesting questions on fragile our online life is, by putting it on the hands of others. The removal of WikiLeaks from DNS is a point of failure.

Already, Internet denizens are rallying to mirror WikiLeaks’ content on their individual sites or redirecting it to the new hosting company in Sweden.

Therefore we ask, shouldn’t there be a peer-to-peer based Domain Name Service, which the founders of the Pirate Bay are already working on, and would such a service create a darknet? One part is the regular Internet, and the other— a popularized Darknet, which is a less censored version of the original Internet.

Now the challenge is posed to Cyber Warriors on the Internet: how do you ensure the lights are on when governments, or other organizations wage cyber war on you? Is it imperative therefore to create a truly decentralized Internet? That there is a need to decentralize and secure root DNS?



Internet freedom

How easy would it be for the next time some government wants content off the Internet?

Secretary Hilary Clinton gave a speech early this year on Internet Freedom. She spoke of the Freedom to Connect. She said, “the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace.”

A friend of mine, described a project on the Internet that we are working on as an agora.

Isn’t the Internet one huge agora?

Is not the denial of service against WikiLeaks, an attack on the Freedom to Connect?

If this Internet is free, shouldn’t it be a venue for all ideas?

If the symbol of a country is a flag, and does it also not mean that we can exercise our civil liberties by burning that flag?

If these Internets are free, shouldn’t all knowledge be freely available? Even knowledge such as those found in a corner, in those dark alleys where child pornography lurks. On one side there are those Neo-Nazis. There are trolls. There is bile. There is hate. There are words posted on blogs that make decent people sick.

As xkcd pointed out, “someone is wrong on the Internet.”

Yet, the censorship of wikileaks is that— censorship.

American representative Ron Paul on his twitter wrote regarding Wikileaks, “In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble.

How do we attack bad ideas, and is WikiLeaks necessarily, a bad idea?



Cablegate

The right of WikiLeaks to be on the Internet is apart from what it has done: release state secrets. Iraqi War Diary, and Afghanistan War logs are one thing. Is the release of Cablegate, excessive?

Should governments keep secrets?

What WikiLeaks has done is like stealing someone’s private thoughts for the whole world to know. The argument has merit in that we don’t always say what’s on our mind. We keep some opinion to ourselves, right? Dean Jorge Bocobo @-replied to me on Twitter, he said, “@cocoy if we could all read each other’s mind civilization might not be possible. Wikileaks is like that.”

That’s true too isn’t it?



Voyeurism or journalism?

Is WikiLeaks voyeurism or journalism?

The world needs to keep things secret. What wikileaks has done is the equivalent of recording a conversation between two people, and telling a third what that conversation was about.

If WikiLeaks is Voyeurism, then it suggests that the people behind WikiLeaks has done this routinely, monitoring the world’s signals. It isn’t impossible to do, but it is also difficult for few choice individuals to actively do it. State-sponsored signals gathering is required for the depth of intelligence that WikiLeaks has accomplished.

Voyeurism suggests that Jullian Assange derives pleasure in enjoying seeing someone in distress.

That isn’t who Julian Assange is. To differentiate Assange and WikiLeaks’ philosophy, its raison d’être would be a mistake.

Tom Peyer wrote, “Wikileaks is to journalism what hiphop once was to music.

To understand what wikileaks is, one needs to delve to understand who Julian Assange is.

Julian Assange, some say is a folk hero, a real life, “V,” from “V from Vendetta”. Some say he is out for power. Zunguzungu points out that Assange is out “to destroy this invisible government.”

In “State and Terrorist Conspiracies” (PDF link), Julian Assange wrote, “To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not. Firstly we must understand what aspect of government or neocorporatist behavior we wish to change or remove. Secondly we must develop a way of thinking about this behavior that is strong enough carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity. Finally must use these insights to inspire within us and others a course of ennobling, and effective action.”

That is Assange’s belief.

Julian Assange is an anarchist.

Wikileaks traces its ethos from Assange’s hacker roots. He has combined his knowledge of the digital universe with his experience in journalism.

If knowledge is power, and if the Internet is the greatest accumulation of that knowledge and the best way to unleash the entire knowledge of human kind, isn’t that great power? In many ways, WikiLeaks has done what Journalism has failed to do: uncover the secret world of power. It opened a can of worms such as these charge that al-Jazeera changed coverage to suit Qatari foreign policy.

That can’t be good.

Wikileaks is the forbidden fruit that no one is suppose to eat. It is pandora’s box.

US State Department has warned Columbia State University students not to discuss about WikiLeaks on Facebook, on Twitter. The Huffington post quoted:

“[The alumnus] recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter,” the Office of Career Services advised students. “Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.”

It is like asking to put back the toothpaste out of the tube.

Is it still censorship when the subject matter at hand is confidential information that was stolen?

Does it harm the Interest of free men everywhere to learn that funds flowing to Terror groups are now largely unimpeded? That in fact, terrorist financiers are using bank robberies, kidnap for ransom, harvesting drugs from Afghanistan, religious pilgrimages to Mecca is helping fund terrorism around the world?

What about the ambitions of Iraq’s neighbors? That apparently, their meddling is one of the many reasons why that country is still struggling in a post Saddam world?

Does the release of this information give Intelligence service around the world, an early Christmas and in doing so, does it translate to an attack on the world?

Why Iran loves WikiLeaks,” is an example of how much damage WikiLeaks has done to the diplomatic discourse. How can diplomats speak with candor with each other after this? Does knowing all this diplomatic cable help make the world a better place, or has it simply opened a can of worms, that makes the world even more untenable?

We have taken a bite. We have opened the box. Wikileaks gives us knowledge, but it is in the analysis by the New York Times, the Guardian, and others— the filtering out of the raw data so that the world can make sense of it all is where we derive wisdom. What wikileaks has successfully done is disrupt the applecart. It has exposed fundamental weaknesses in DNS and how easily the tap can be turned off. It has thrown an egg on Journalism’s face. The story on al-Jazeera, on the dangers in Iraq, could serve the public perceptions of the fundamental trouble in the region and how utterly important it is to tame Iran.

Wikileaks released Terror targets— location of sites vital to US national security.

Is Wikileaks worth the price of disclosing US diplomatic cables, thus damaging the ability of diplomats everywhere to speak with candor with everyone?

In the same vein that Napster changed the way movie and music industry in Hollywood has, Wikileaks did something similar to fundamentally change the world of diplomacy, journalism, and government, and maybe a further decentralization of the Internet. Has Wikileaks gained a small victory in the short term, but the larger battle merely forces all players to ante up their game? Is this change as permanent as Napster’s revolution of ushering digital download? Does this therefore open up a world that requires a Steve Jobs and iTunes to fix and stabilize for the next generation, and that in the same way that Wired declared Music piracy to be over, so too would a new status quo be formed?



Photo Credit: Espen Moe, some rights reserved.

This post was originally published on Cocoy Chronicles.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • Bert

    only one solution: lock the doors and windows.

    as long as windows and doors are not securely locked, robbers, voyeurs, and wikileaks will be there to whet their appetites.

    if locking is not possible, the next best option is to beg…please, bad guys, please don’t do it.

    now, to the point of Cocoy:

    I think that Julian Assange is just wanting to attract attention, he’s a KSP (kulang sa pansin). no other reason. it’s like digging something from the ground. if it’s gold he’s digging then good for him. if it’s dirt, what’s in it for him?

  • Bert

    only one solution: lock the doors and windows.

    as long as windows and doors are not securely locked, robbers, voyeurs, and wikileaks will be there to whet their appetites.

    if locking is not possible, the next best option is to beg…please, bad guys, please don’t do it.

    now, to the point of Cocoy:

    I think that Julian Assange is just wanting to attract attention, he’s a KSP (kulang sa pansin). no other reason. it’s like digging something from the ground. if it’s gold he’s digging then good for him. if it’s dirt, what’s in it for him?

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Why is it that when totalitarian governments suppress information it is wrong but when liberal democracies do it, it becomes okay?

    There is no greater good involved here because good is relative as far as that question is concerned. The correct answer depends on which side you’re on.

    Whether or not the information was stolen is also irrelevant because going down that road will again end up with people taking sides. Think Garci Tapes. Those were stolen too. GMA’s attempts to suppress them were condemned by one side and applauded by the other. Who was right and who was wrong there?

    For now the only clear thing about the issue is the US reaction to the leaks. It is pathetic.
    Cyber attacks, getting wikileaks thrown out of the web, getting paypal to stop dealing with wikileaks in order to cut its funding only revealed that the US can behave just as badly as any totalitarian regime.

    I expected a liberal democracy to react in a more civilized manner. Those cables could have been explained, placed in the proper context. Those cables were not out of the ordinary. As one Arab diplomat said after being told of the contents of the cables, “You should read what we say about the US.”

    Everyone does it, everyone gathers information on the other. And it’s not all bad because less ignorance about the other means less fear of the unknown, greater ability to predict behavior hence more confidence and a greater sense of security.

    All in all I think the leaks were good because it allowed us to see how the US government works and how it plays the game of nations. And I’m relieved to find out that it is just like any other government, devoid of superhuman powers, stumbling along trying to make things work.

    There was no need to suppress the information. As US Defense Secretary Gates said,

    “Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think — I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.

    Many governments — some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”

    • GabbyD

      “The correct answer depends on which side you’re on. ”

      absolutely! hhmm.. to clarify: side of the US vs… Iran? US vs… North Korea? if these are the countries whose side is the “other side”, is there a good case for siding with them?

      “All in all I think the leaks were good because it allowed us to see how the US government works and how it plays the game of nations. And I’m relieved to find out that it is just like any other government, devoid of superhuman powers, stumbling along trying to make things work.”

      ironically, this is the SAME argument that says diplomacy is secret. the power of diplomacy exists under secrecy. without diplomacy, the US is indeed just another power.

      there’s an interesting guardian article about how the leaks reveal the decline of US influence…

      as for gate’s comment, he’s absolutely right,but u miss the point. the point is US diplomacy WILL take a hit, not whether its large or small.

      as i mentioned last week: this is a bigger version of mai mislang — where is the outcry for resignation?

      PS: its a bigger version of mai mislang only if the leaks are as explosive as whats been released. the leak isnt over yet — still bigger stories might still be come out

      • Manuelbuencamino

        GBD,

        “absolutely! hhmm.. to clarify: side of the US vs… Iran? US vs… North Korea? if these are the countries whose side is the “other side”, is there a good case for siding with them?”

        From their side, yes. From our side, no.

        “As for gate’s comment, he’s absolutely right,but u miss the point. the point is US diplomacy WILL take a hit, not whether its large or small.”

        Yes US diplomacy will take a hit and the reaction to the hit should be commensurate. A minor hit does not deserve a significantly overwrought reaction. That’s why the point is the gravity of the hit and not simply the hit.

        • GabbyD

          ah! so it does matter whose side ur on…

          so it answers the question: why differential treatment for LIBERAL DEMOCRACIES vs TOTALITARIAN AUTOCRACIES

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Why is it that when totalitarian governments suppress information it is wrong but when liberal democracies do it, it becomes okay?

    There is no greater good involved here because good is relative as far as that question is concerned. The correct answer depends on which side you’re on.

    Whether or not the information was stolen is also irrelevant because going down that road will again end up with people taking sides. Think Garci Tapes. Those were stolen too. GMA’s attempts to suppress them were condemned by one side and applauded by the other. Who was right and who was wrong there?

    For now the only clear thing about the issue is the US reaction to the leaks. It is pathetic.
    Cyber attacks, getting wikileaks thrown out of the web, getting paypal to stop dealing with wikileaks in order to cut its funding only revealed that the US can behave just as badly as any totalitarian regime.

    I expected a liberal democracy to react in a more civilized manner. Those cables could have been explained, placed in the proper context. Those cables were not out of the ordinary. As one Arab diplomat said after being told of the contents of the cables, “You should read what we say about the US.”

    Everyone does it, everyone gathers information on the other. And it’s not all bad because less ignorance about the other means less fear of the unknown, greater ability to predict behavior hence more confidence and a greater sense of security.

    All in all I think the leaks were good because it allowed us to see how the US government works and how it plays the game of nations. And I’m relieved to find out that it is just like any other government, devoid of superhuman powers, stumbling along trying to make things work.

    There was no need to suppress the information. As US Defense Secretary Gates said,

    “Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think — I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.

    Many governments — some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation. So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another. Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”

    • GabbyD

      “The correct answer depends on which side you’re on. ”

      absolutely! hhmm.. to clarify: side of the US vs… Iran? US vs… North Korea? if these are the countries whose side is the “other side”, is there a good case for siding with them?

      “All in all I think the leaks were good because it allowed us to see how the US government works and how it plays the game of nations. And I’m relieved to find out that it is just like any other government, devoid of superhuman powers, stumbling along trying to make things work.”

      ironically, this is the SAME argument that says diplomacy is secret. the power of diplomacy exists under secrecy. without diplomacy, the US is indeed just another power.

      there’s an interesting guardian article about how the leaks reveal the decline of US influence…

      as for gate’s comment, he’s absolutely right,but u miss the point. the point is US diplomacy WILL take a hit, not whether its large or small.

      as i mentioned last week: this is a bigger version of mai mislang — where is the outcry for resignation?

      PS: its a bigger version of mai mislang only if the leaks are as explosive as whats been released. the leak isnt over yet — still bigger stories might still be come out

      • Manuelbuencamino

        GBD,

        “absolutely! hhmm.. to clarify: side of the US vs… Iran? US vs… North Korea? if these are the countries whose side is the “other side”, is there a good case for siding with them?”

        From their side, yes. From our side, no.

        “As for gate’s comment, he’s absolutely right,but u miss the point. the point is US diplomacy WILL take a hit, not whether its large or small.”

        Yes US diplomacy will take a hit and the reaction to the hit should be commensurate. A minor hit does not deserve a significantly overwrought reaction. That’s why the point is the gravity of the hit and not simply the hit.

        • GabbyD

          ah! so it does matter whose side ur on…

          so it answers the question: why differential treatment for LIBERAL DEMOCRACIES vs TOTALITARIAN AUTOCRACIES

  • Bert

    If we don’t want to be burglarized, or voyeurized, we should keep our doors and windows securely locked. That goes to with governments.

  • Bert

    If we don’t want to be burglarized, or voyeurized, we should keep our doors and windows securely locked. That goes to with governments.