From an infosec perspective, the US losing over a gig and a half of classified material to a mid-level military goon with a CD-RW labeled “Lady Gaga” is nothing short of a bloody nose. It means several things: the database is unprotected and/or the database was available to people who had no business with it; there are working CD burners (and probably working USB ports, allowing for more easily concealable USB drives, for that matter) on computers with access to this database; and no physical screening is done on the military personnel entering and exiting the building to audit for what data is being transferred over the premises’ borders. It means that military security is nowhere near as invasive as has been recent TSA airport security changes. It means that military informational security, to put it bluntly, fucking sucked.
To add insult to injury, the information leaked was of a magnitude heretofore unseen in history. That we now have computers with which to store all our data in a convenient and indexable manner is an amazing leap forward in data retention capability for humankind. That we also now have computers with which we can duplicate said data at almost no real cost, means it was practically trivial to blow away the previous high score — which, by the way, was also set on Washington’s game board. Sure, most of the leak is useless, meaningless, nothing more than “sausage-making”. But there are nuggets being uncovered every day, whose truth value are obvious and real, though revealing them may put specific lives in danger after the fact. To wit:
- US diplomats were asked to spy on the UN leaders
- US’ chief Middle Eastern ally Saudi Arabia has applied very large amounts of pressure on the US to attack Iran
- There’s a number of very good reasons to fear Pakistan’s nuclear program
- Yemen assented to, and covered up, US-led drone strikes on al Qaida
- Syria was genuinely stunned by the assassination of a Hezbollah leader, leaving US and Israel as chief suspects
- Saudi Arabia — again, US’ “biggest ally” in the ME — is apparently like an ATM for terrorists
- Brazil covered up Islamic terrorists to protect their international image
- Lebanon tried to give prior warning to the allies in the War On Terror, about Hezbollah’s underground communications network
And this is but a sampling of some of the bombshells. There’s a lot of meat here, even in the censored version of the file. Geopolitics, and the common folk’s understanding and insight into it, has never been more volatile. And with the world’s biggest democracies slipping inexorably toward authoritarianism and secrecy, the recent Wikileaks releases, of the war diaries for both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Collateral Murder video that got Pvt. Manning (the data leak) arrested originally, all serve as a floodlight, shining on every participant in the geopolitical arena equally. The leak itself is a startling bit of truth in a world of secrets, it would seem.
However, in taking on the role of spokesperson for Wikileaks, its founder, Julian Assange, made himself something of a target of opportunity. Right-wingers have basically done everything short of demanding Assange’s assassination over the leak. No — wait — they did that too. And not just bloggers, but prominent politicians like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Meanwhile, Joe Lieberman has already drafted an anti-Wikileaks law, plugging the glaring hole that has been exposed in the US government. No, no, not to fix the potential for childs-play-like leaks, but to give legal justification for arresting Assange given that Assange hasn’t actually broken any US laws in his role as leak-publisher.
There’s another aspect to this whole debacle, though. One that I’ve been merely setting the stage for, up until now. And that is, Julian Assange was accused by two Swiss women of rape back in August, a few days after the Afghanistan logs put his name in the public eye. More specifically, he had consensual sex with two women, days apart from one another, but the women withdrew their consent when Assange’s condom variously broke or came off. He allegedly ignored their demands to stop, turning what was a consensual sexual encounter into unconsensual, ergo rape.
The timing has led to the usual conspiracy theories — that the US government set Assange up for these rape charges as part of a smear campaign to, if not somehow invalidate the Wikileaks revelations, at least to pin him down long enough so he could be extraordinarily renditioned (e.g. kidnapped) and/or subjected to enhanced interrogation (e.g. tortured).
There is, mind you, absolutely no evidence that this is the case.
Until such evidence is forthcoming, I can only assume that the vehemence with which the adherents of this particular theory defend and flog it on public discussions on the matter, is at best a pecking order reaction, as Our Lady postulates. That is to say, Assange is the martyr for the Wikileaks cause, the hero against the big bully US government, and therefore the ladies accusing him of rape must obviously be trumping it up and should have their names dragged through the mud in retribution for the affront on The Good Guy. Government picks on Assange, Assange potentially assaults some women, therefore the misogynist hero-worshippers leap to Assange’s defense against the potentially true allegations and pick on the women involved. Because these hero-worshippers already feel bullied by the government, and can’t rightly assert themselves against the real threat, so they need to pick on someone a little easier to push around. And who’s easier to push around than a woman and her rights to her own vagina, amirite?
The main issue I have with this entire situation — though I have many issues with how this is playing out, this is my major concern — is the fact that Wikileaks and Assange are two separate entities. The actions of one should not reflect on the actions of the other. Nor should the specific complaints about one reflect on the other. If you believe the rape allegation is false, and your belief is predicated solely on the fact that Assange is responsible for Wikileaks’ existence and the fact that it has done a mostly-good service with regard to geopolitics, then you’re conflating the two sets of data falsely, doing everyone in this conversation a disservice. And if you’re swallowing everything his lawyer is claiming, and without a single critical thought, then you’re a fool.
Wikileaks, as I’ve said, is its own entity now. It can survive Assange being imprisoned or even assassinated, and it can survive (and has survived) the financial shutdown it has experienced recently (in the Swiss banks closing their accounts, Paypal freezing their donations, and Amazon shutting down their torrent hosting, all shortly after the US government made it clear that being involved with Wikileaks in any way is toxic), as there are presently over 300 mirrors. Wikileaks has survived a suspiciously timed DDoS attack (likely aimed at taking them down). Wikileaks will surely therefore survive its founder facing justice for his actual crimes, if he has actually committed any.
I’m all about bringing criminals to justice. Every criminal exposed in the Wikileaks documents should be brought to justice and punished according to the severity of their crimes, no matter how high placed. And if it turns out Assange is a criminal in a non-geopolitical fashion, then he should be punished according to his crimes as well.
Note: this was actually written yesterday afternoon, before a fight that may or may not have cost me a friend on Facebook way-too-late last night. Some word choices were used in that fight that were written here first. But you have only my word on it, of course. The only other person who’s seen this in advance might be easily (though falsely) accused of conspiracy.