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Until three weeks ago, Aaron Bady was a blogger with limited reach. His post Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government” written from his Mac laptop in Berkeley (Bady’s a final year PhD student in African Literature) sent his stats skyward and altered the way journalists were thinking about Wikileaks … even if they still shied away from the type of analysis Bady eschewed.

Alex Madrigal (another remarkable writer of insight and entertainment) explains in The Unknown Blogger Who Changed WikiLeaks Coverage, The Atlantic, how Bady’s work was spread, read, answered and commended by bloggers and mainstream journalists alike.

Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government” is as simple as it is opinion-shaping. In the spirit of Wikileaks, Bady relies on two primary sources by the same author and of the same year – Assange’s State and Terrorist Conspiracies (2006) and Conspiracy as Governance (2006) (both available in this single PDF).

Bady breaks Assange’s writing – which should feasibly be interpreted as an underpinning to Wikileaks’ philosophy – into pieces, making it digestible; making it illuminating:

[Assange] decides that the most effective way to attack this kind of organization would be to make “leaks” a fundamental part of the conspiracy’s  information environment. Which is why the point is not that particular leaks are specifically effective. Wikileaks does not leak something like the “Collateral Murder” video as a way of putting an end to that particular military tactic; that would be to target a specific leg of the hydra even as it grows two more. Instead, the idea is that increasing the porousness of the conspiracy’s information system will impede its functioning, that the conspiracy will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function. You destroy the conspiracy, in [Assange’s] words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire:

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

The leak, in other words, is only the catalyst for the desired counter-overreaction; Wikileaks wants to provoke the conspiracy into turning off its own brain in response to the threat. As it tries to plug its own holes and find the leakers, [Assange] reasons, its component elements will de-synchronize from and turn against each other, de-link from the central processing network, and come undone. Even if all the elements of the conspiracy still exist, in this sense, depriving themselves of a vigorous flow of information to connect them all together as a conspiracy prevents them from acting as a conspiracy.

Theorised and defined as conspiracy, Wikileaks’ challenge to – and Bady’s distillation of –  the structure of secret diplomatic communications compliments David Campbell’s analysis of a networked world. It also precedes my comment to Campbell; that the praxis of government, corporate and public relations will change drastically in the wake of Cablegate and Wikileaks. In response, Campbell agrees that this maybe inevitable.

Hopefully the implications of Wikileaks will be a transparent future for the betterment of all; the dismemberment of closed and closeted power that operates unchallenged for decades as American diplomacy has.

AARON BADY

On a personal level, Bady’s quality of writing is invigorating, and in the larger context it shows how far thoughtful (blog) writing can reach. I need to be careful here as Bady has strong criticisms of ego, journalism and the limitations of thoughtful writers to apply themselves solely to material – as does Assange – but I just want to say that Bady’s piece is not a flash in the pan.

Bady’s writing is of the highest order. I’ve heard many criticisms about Facebook, and many of them very good, but no position has maginified the acute problem of Zuckerberg’s philosophy as Bady’s The Soul of Mark Zuckerberg: What DuBois can tell us about Facebook.

Since the publication of his breakthrough piece, Bady has followed up with tenacious balance and muck-raking in equal measure. As an example, did you know US companies in Afghanistan are pimps for paedophiles? Bady:

As Boing Boing boils it down, we now know that Dyncorp, “a company, headquartered in DC with Texas offices, helped pimp out little boys as sex slaves to stoned cops in Afghanistan.” Not actualy that surprising. What we didn‘t know, though, was that Afghanistan’s Minister of Interior was told to hush things up by President Karzai and that he then requested the American assistant ambassador put pressure on journalists to keep quiet about it, because it could “endanger lives.”

Follow Aaron’s blog and on Twitter: @zunguzungu

Carl Court / AFP – Getty Images; Dan Kitwood / Getty Images; Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

These photos of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arriving at Westminster Magistrates Court inside a prison van with red windows reminded me of Ben Graville’s past work, which I wrote about here.

Graville’s In & Out The Old Bailey caused some controversy drawing accusations of exploitation. Do we feel Assange is being exploited here? I don’t really think so. Assange is well aware of media praxis and photographer protocols for winning that shot. By his direct eye contact, it would seem he’s putting on a show for these photographers? Or maybe it’s just the edit?

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RED?

You could run hog wild with reading the colour here, but I won’t. I’ll just mention, witch-hunts, the Hunt for Red October, Red Letter Day, the commies, the Reds, blood on “their” hands, whoever they are, the Scarlet Pimpernel, drive by night tactics, sex by surprise, red light districts and the red ink of Top Secret papers. All collapsing on top of this portrait of a man, still widely misrepresented.

Daniel Ellsberg, left, at a news conference in 1973 in Los Angeles. In 1971, Mr. Ellsberg passed to a reporter for The New York Times a copy of a secret report casting doubt on the war in Vietnam. Associated Press

Based upon Cablegate commentary and mutterings thus far, it is reasonable to describe an opponents’ “Hierarchy of Targets”.

At the top of the pyramid is Julian Assange, second is the suspect (possibly Bradley Manning?), then come the collective of highly-skilled professionals working for Wikileaks, next are the supporters of Wikileaks (journalists, liberals, conspiracy nuts, libertarians, hackivists, net-neutrality fans, free-speech advocates, Bush-haters, China-haters, Gaddafi haters … lots of haters, you get the point). And finally – as I said, based upon commentary – toward the bottom of the pile would be Wikileaks’ major media partners, The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and Le Monde.*

The leading newspapers of these four major powers should be and are beyond reproach. The absence of criticism toward these newspapers is telling.

Given the impossibility of controlling this outflux of data, the US Government is relying on tactics of distraction – and retribution – to elevate Assange and then take him down.

The US Government is probably well aware of the information yet to be leaked. Remember, while the cables number 251,287, of which 15,652 are “Top Secret”, only 1,344 have been published thus far.

NEWSPAPERS THEN, THE INTERNET NOW

The Nixon Whitehouse tried to smear the reputation of Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Nixon’s painting him as a loose-nut, breaking into his psychotherapists surgery and stealing private health files to later sling shit. The thing is, before Nixon got to that he was trying to take down the media too. First he got an injunction on The New York Times. Next Ellsberg went to The Washington Post so they were next to be silenced. Through remarkable networks Ellsberg got copies of the Pentagon Papers out to 17 papers and the deluge was impossible to control.

For the Pentagon Papers leak, Ellsberg photocopied 7,000 papers himself, then photocopied those again. He delivered boxes of files by hand. 1971 was a pre-computer age; it’s easy to forget.

It is also easy to forget that Nixon administration shut down the New York Times’ publication of the Pentagon Papers for four whole days. Ellsberg’s leak brought about The New York Times vs. The United States of America, and ever since the separation between government and free press has been constitutional protected (if not always used to advantage by partisan “news” networks.)

Because of that court case – as much as the unlimited distribution possibilities of the internet – Assange and Wikileaks didn’t have to worry about any government closing down the four newspapers it had chosen as allies and partners.

As newspapers had gone before, so internet server companies followed; Assange predicted both the pressure from the government and the capitulation from Amazon and other server companies.

AREN’T WIKILEAKS AND NEWS ONE AND THE SAME?

Given that Wikileaks is only releasing individual cables after a partner has researched, redacted and discussed editorial ethics and responsibility, and given that in that light there is no difference in substance of Wikileaks’ publishing and that of its partners, why is Wikileaks singled out?

Assange claims to be a journalist. Given his blatant care (partnering with thousands of professional journalists) thus far in protecting the safety and identity of people mentioned in the cables, it seems like a fair claim.

I agree with the point of view that the Afghan or Iraq War Logs were not the equivalent to the Pentagon Papers; they told us only what we knew. We knew war was violent, we knew nasty alliances existed, we knew civilians were slaughtered, we knew no-one was in control as they claimed, we knew Iraqi’s carried out sectarian killings on one another and we could guess the allied forces turned a blind eye. Alternatively, in the way that the U.S. Embassy Cables are challenging a super power with legitimate accusations of Imperialism against it, the Embassy Cables leak could be an equivalent.

Interestingly, Ellsberg is in no doubt. If he was leaking the Pentagon Papers today, he’d be using the internet.

*Somewhere in the hierarchy of targets, there’s an argument to include Wikileaks’ methods and technologies (encryption, mirror sites, Wikileaks’ documents-cache poised for release should things not go Assange’s way). However, to keep it neat, I prefer the hierarchy of targets be made of people, not tactics.

There’s so much to be read and said about the unraveling stories and analysis of the Wikileaked Embassy Cables. The coverage by the Guardian, the New York Times’ Lede Blog and Kevin Poulsen and friends at Wired.com have been my main sources.

I cannot recommend highly enough David Campbell’s analysis – Wikileaks: From the personal to the Political.

Here’s some important snippets:

Wikileaks does publish the cables with the redactions made by media partners. (The Guardian explains how it does this here). So at the time of writing, Wikileaks has released only 1,203 of the 251,287 cables contained in the leak. This makes the coverage of the cables a prime example of networked journalism from which all partners, including the public, win.

In 2009, Wikileaks and Julian Assange won the prestigious Amnesty International New Media Award for exposing hundreds of alleged murders by the Kenyan police, an act which led to a United Nations investigation.

Assange is holding up a copy of The Guardian displaying a front-page story on the earlier release of the Afghan war logs. He is standing with his laptop. In the background is Don McCullin’s famous 1968 photograph of a shell-shocked marine from Hue in Vietnam. Signifying, first, the relationship between Wikileaks and its media partners, second, the role of the Internet, and third, the historical memory of the Vietnam War that hangs over current American military operations…

And just two more things from me.

1. If Julian Assange and his employees were Chinese they’d be lauded in the US as heroic dissidents and champions of free speech.

2. When was the last time rape was the headline story across the globe for a 48 hour period? Rarely? Never? Ever? Unfortunately, in this instance, I think the topic of rape will merely serve as a prop in the distraction techniques of mass media as existing powers attempt to divert the issue – from the global cultural sea change upon us – to the witch-hunt of America’s newest most-wanted. Dialogue about women’s rights, societal violence, machismo and misogyny is vitally important, but again it is diluted, set aside. The discussions that are occurring are, for the most part, not the right ones.

PRESS TV reports:

In response to a question by Press TV on Monday over the whistleblower website’s “leaks,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said “let me first correct you. The material was not leaked, but rather released in an organized way.”

“The US administration released them and based on them they pass judgment …. [The documents] have no legal value and will not have the political effect they seek,” the Iranian chief executive added at the press briefing in Tehran.

Ahmadinejad stressed that the Wikileaks “game” is “not worth commenting upon and that no one would waste their time reviewing them.”

Here, Ahmadinejad proves how little reality interests him. As with every outside threat, he attributes it to a malevolent US. Why scream conspiracy? Especially when the leaked material is being corroborated by diplomats across multiple nations? It’s a ludicrous notion. I wonder what Assange thinks of Ahmadinejad’s accusation?!

[via Lede blog, NYT]

I know the drill, Got cells to burn,
I’m dressed to kill, A mortal coil,
And time is still, On secret soil.

Yeah pay the bills, Cells to burn, Mouths to fill
On Boeing jets, In the sunset make glowing threats.

Yes shall we take a spin again in business,
This time is fixed lets sweeten our facilities,
It took all the man in me.

Lyrics from Massive Attack’s Atlas Air

The animated video for Massive Attack’s Atlas Air, directed by Edouard Salier is a tour de force.

Rampaging and amorphous, what can only be described as a Donnie Darkoesque were-bunny, rips it way through and across blackened territories of prismatic violence. Against and allied, it runs with commercial jets into explosions. Apparently, this is a second appearance for the satanic leporid; it previously romped around Massive Attack’s last video Splitting the Atom.

The randomness of it all, sometimes seen through a gun-sight, recalls the Wikileaks Apache Attack video. But other things are going on too – burning oil fields (the first Gulf War); shattering buildings (9/11); Prestwick airport gets a mention (not the most well known airport but it was the site of a botched car-bomb attack in 2007).

Ultimately, this is a video about extrajudicial rendition flights, the absence of law and the suspension of human rights. The screen grab above – which flashes by so quickly you’ll be forgiven for missing it – deals quite clearly with the involuntary movement of humans, only in this case that of slavery.

Just as the 9/11 plotters usurped commercial airliners for their ideology, the US military adopted commercial jets for its murky logistics. Salier doesn’t miss the opportunity to point out the hypocrisy in the visuals. 737’s get a mention in Atlas Air‘s lyrics.

Salier shows us the negation of order and, perversely, the power-distorted dominance and slick allure of disorder.

By strangling any reason out the compressed annihilation, the Atlas Air video is, for me, one of the finest visualisations of REAL terror. Massive Attack and Salier are not describing anything that relates to the rhetorical usage of the word ‘terror’ pushed on us by war-mongering politicians; they are dealing with pure destructive force as and when it is sent out against an equal force.

This is not a narrative of us against them or of us against them and their allies, or even us and our allies against them and their allies, it is about how fucked it all is … and about the terrifying, beyond-human-scale to which violence escalates. By relying on images of man made cities and theatres of war, Salier reminds us that these crushing vortexes are of our own creation and our own instigation.

I’ve admired Massive Attack’s intelligent use of video before.

*GWOT = Global War on Terror

I have not and will not ever go through 90,000 pages of wikileaked documents covering US military operations (January 2004-December2009). But, if the Guardian tells me its legitimate and important, I’ll begin with that understanding.

What then, when Mother Jones – more precisely Adam Weinstein – comes along and tells me not to believe Assange’s hype?

Adam Weinstein at Mother Jones dismisses the import of the Afghan War Logs on wikileaks:

“In truth, there’s not much there. I know, because I’ve seen many of these reports before – at least, thousands of similar ones from Iraq, when I was a contractor there last year. I haven’t been through everything yet, but most of what you see on WikiLeaks are military SIGACTS (significant activity reports). These are theoretically accessible by anyone in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Tampa, Florida-based US Central Command—soldiers and contractors—who have access to the military’s most basic intranet for sensitive data, the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet). Literally thousands of people in hundreds of locations could read them, and any one of them could be the source for WikiLeaks’ data.”

My question: Just because it is easy for service personnel or contractors to view the material doesn’t change the significance this leak has for the general public in its capacity to form a view of the war based on new material, does it? Weinstein counters again, “By and large, like most of the stunts pulled by Assange, this one’s long on light and short on heat, nothing we didn’t already know if you were paying attention to our wars.”

Weinstein does make the valid point that the lives of Afghan collaborators are now at risk, as their names are not redacted from the material.

Ultimately though, I fear the coverage of the leak may develop into a character dissection of Assange and “discussion” of the relative merits of new-journalism; the former will dominate and the latter could be fruitful but will probably miss the point.

I am in support of wikileaks, but mainly because I am opposed to the war. I don’t feel our media does a good enough job at getting to the realities of war for the American news consumer. We saw just last week that the mainstream media ceased using the word torture for water-boarding almost overnight. That linguistic culture shift suggests to me that the mainstream media are as subject to political pressures as any individual … so, why shouldn’t we have wikileaks mix it up? And why shouldn’t we think about the flows of information: or the definition of free media: or tactics are served when information is kept classified, hidden?

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