WikiLeaks – what do you think?

What do you all think of the latest WikiLeaks disclosure? To be more specific:

  1. The leak itself – do you think it’s actually meaningful or damaging?
  2. Do you buy the US government’s claims that it puts people at risk?
  3. Do you think the leaks harm US interests?
  4. Do you think this is a failure of internal controls in the US government?
  5. What sort of controls do you think the government should have had in place to either prevent this from happening or to prosecute the people who leaked it?
  6. Do you think the WikiLeaks organization did anything wrong and should carry liability, or only the person who leaked information, or nobody at all?

Here are my views … I’d love to hear yours:

  1. Meaningful or damaging?
    Not at all meaningful — did you read any leak that did anything more than put in some diplomat’s own words something everybody already knew?
  2. Puts people at risk?
    I think the US government is over-reaching here. Really? Put who at risk? Give a single example. That goes for all past wikileaks too – if you’re going to claim that people are harmed, then give at least one example!
  3. Harms US interests?
    It’s a bit of embarassment, but really — there was no new information in the leaks. For example, I would think that citizens of Arab countries already knew that their government was scared of the Iranian nuclear threat and wanted the Americans to act. Can they really be so stupid as to think otherwise? To think so is at least condescending. I think the US reputation was harmed somewhat, but only by the fact that the data leaked, not by the content of the leaks themselves. i.e., damage from “How could you let so much of this data leak out? How incompetent are you?” rather than “Wow, I didn’t know that about your internal policies!”
  4. Failure of internal controls?
    If you don’t want something leaked, clearly you don’t share it with thousands of people! Clearly, this was a failure of controls, but arguably someone looked at the data and classified it as very low risk even if it leaked, and consequently didn’t protect it. That decision may have been reasonable, while the government effort to hush it up afterwards is more of an embarassment.
  5. What sort of controls are needed?
    Well – if they limited document downloads to one at a time, if they authenticated users who search for and download these documents, if they logged access and if they watermarked documents with the ID of the user who grabbed them, they would force users to take personal, legal and possibly criminal liability for their use of these documents. That seems to me to be the right balance between open information sharing and accountability. Now that the leaks have happened, I think it’s almost inevitable that the (useful) data sharing program will be replaced with some sort of draconian controls, due to government over-reaction.
  6. Did WikiLeaks.org do anything wrong?
    The person who leaked the data certainly did break the law. I doubt WikiLeaks.org did anything unethical or illegal, but I am not a lawyer.

I would add to this that the American government response to this whole incident has been nothing short of embarassing. I’m embarrassed for the US government — for making wild claims about the harm caused by these leaks (what harm? seriously?) and about the strong-arm tactics they seem to be using to suppress further distribution (shutting down WikiLeaks’ DNS service, Amazon web hosting and most recently PayPal account).

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