Wikileaks As Systems Disruption

In a previous column (“Civil Aviation:  A Case Study in Systems Disruption,” C4SS, Nov. 23),  I argued that al Qaeda’s “failed” attacks on the US civil aviation system were in fact successes because their primary objective was not to inflict casualties. Rather, they were intended to impose new, ongoing costs on the functioning of the system, and to make it more authoritarian (and hence more brittle and inflexible, and incapable of functioning effectively).  Mike Masnick of Techdirt made a similar observation (“How the US Response Turns ‘Failed’ Terrorist Attacks into Successes,” Nov. 30). The attacks are cheap, and the responses are extremely costly.

By this standard, Wikileaks is also a rousing success.  Julian Assange has argued, similarly, that the most important effect of leaking secret documents is not the external pressure on authoritarian, hierarchical organizations to change their policies. It’s the self-destructive policies the organizations themselves adopt in response:

“The leak … 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 … 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 … depriving themselves of a vigorous flow of information to connect them all together … prevents them from acting as a conspiracy.”  (Quoted by Masnick in “How the Response to Wikileaks is Exactly What Assange Wants,” Dec. 2)

Government attempts to suppress Wikileaks demonstrate, once again, the old adage that the Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it.

Wikileaks’ Domain Name Service knuckled under to U.S. government pressure and shut down the Wikileaks domain name. But what happened in response?

In the short term, Wikileaks supporters publicized surviving URLs outside the reach of ICANN, like  Hundreds of Wikileaks “mirrors” have proliferated around the world. I’m proud to say that the Center for a Stateless Society, which pays me to write these columns, hosts one of them.

And even though Wikileaks is inaccessible under its old URL in the United States, it is available at its dotted IP address from servers in Europe: This IP address has been blogged and tweeted all over the Internet, in an act of defiance comparable to the DeCSS uprising of several years ago (when bloggers publicized the “illegal” hack to movie DRM). 

As long as there are Wikileaks servers in countries outside the reach of the U.S. government, they will be available through their IP addresses — and people will learn how to find them.

In the long term, Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde has started a project to create a peer-to-peer DNS system, which won’t docile take orders from the U.S. government, as an alternative to ICANN.

Meanwhile, oleaginous moral scold Joe Lieberman is using the same ineffectual strategy to suppress Wikileaks that the recording industry used against file-sharers. Under pressure from Lieberman, stopped hosting Wikileaks. Amazon subsequently claimed that this had nothing to do with Lieberman’s request. But Amazon’s spin was clearly false; according to Talking Points Memo, Amazon followed up its action with a statement to Lieberman’s Homeland Security Committee staff confirming it had obeyed Its Master’s Voice (“After Getting Amazon To Boot Wikileaks, Lieberman Eyes Other Firms,” TPM, Dec. 2).

Daniel Ellsberg is now calling for Amazon employees to leak details of the company’s contacts with Lieberman to Wikileaks. Wouldn’t it be sweet to see Holy Joe dancing around and gibbering in even more impotent rage?

If necessary, Wikileaks could distribute information through numerous simultaneous BitTorrent submissions, which could only be stopped by shutting down the Internet.

The more the dinosaurs thrash around, the faster they sink into the tar pit. If the National Security State continues this strategy, it’s only a matter of time until the State Department falls to Wikileaks and the helicopters evacuate Hillary Clinton from the roof of the Harry S. Truman Building.

So bring it on. As I’ve said before: This is a war to the death between hierarchy on the one hand, and networks and free culture on the other.  In the end, we’ll have their bleeding heads on our battlements.

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