Monday, December 20, 2010

The Quest to Plug Wikileaks

Posted by Picasathe extent to which the U.S. government has gone to stop the dissemination of WikiLeaks documents is readily apparent. Politicians and government officials have pressured Internet service providers to stop hosting the whistle-blowing organization’s site, and have condemned it on myriad occasions.
But undermining the U.S. government’s attempts is the fact that, thanks to millions of individual users and easily available software, efforts to stop the on-line dissemination of the biggest classified information leak in history have largely proved futile.
“Any effort to put the genie back in the bottle is always futile in the Internet era,” independent technology analyst Carmi Levy said. “Even if WikiLeaks is stamped out, the data is already out there.”
Shortly after WikiLeaks started posting the first of the classified cables last month, Amazon shut down one of the group’s websites, which was running on one of its servers. The timing of Amazon’s decision – coming after U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman inquired about the relationship between the company and WikiLeaks – caused some to question whether Amazon had been pressured into shutting the site down. However, Amazon denied that, saying WikiLeaks had simply violated the company’s terms of service by, among other things, posting material it did not own and that may cause individuals harm.
A few days later, online payment service PayPal also shut down the WikiLeaks account – the whistle-blower website solicits donations to keep the site running.
However, in both cases, the site has simply found other avenues to maintain its presence. The website is now believed to be running on servers in a Swiss bunker, among other locations. It has also set up donation accounts with other companies.
Indeed, WikiLeaks appears to have foreseen such issues years in advance: The organization set up multiple accounts with service providers in several countries long before it became infamous for high-profile leaks.
But perhaps the most significant factor working in the site’s favour is the sheer number of individual users reposting its content. Moments after WikiLeaks releases new information, users tend to upload it using a medium called BitTorrent – a file-sharing tool that allows individuals to simultaneously download and share information. Because of the widely dispersed nature of BitTorrent, it is virtually impossible to shut down.
WikiLeaks has taken advantage of the medium to post what is calls “history insurance,” a massive encrypted file it released to the public without explaining its contents. It is believed that, should the site be shut down or its staff arrested, WikiLeaks would post the decryption code, allowing the people who’ve already downloaded the file to see its contents. Until then, nobody appears to know whether the file contains highly sensitive, embarrassing information, or is simply a bluff by WikiLeaks.
Meanwhile, Washington confirmed Sunday that it may have to relocate some of its sources as a result of the WikiLeaks release, but stopped short of saying any of those sources had come into harm because of the website.
“We may well have to reassign some of our diplomats and a couple of our ambassadors,” Philip Crowley, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, said on CTV’s Question Period. “We’ll be watching that closely in the weeks and months ahead.”
More than 100 demonstrators gathered outside the British Embassy in Madrid late Saturday to protest the detention of the founder of secret-spilling website WikiLeaks and the closing of the site's Swiss bank account.
The Spanish-language website Free WikiLeaks said protests were scheduled to be held in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville and at least three other Spanish cities.
Protesters held placards saying "Free Julian Assange" and "Truth Now," and chanted "freedom of speech."
The website also said demonstrations were planned Saturday in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and in the capital cities of Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Peru, as well as in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
"We seek the liberation of Julian Assange in United Kingdom territory," the organization said on the website. It urged protesters to gather at 6 p.m. in Spanish cities.
Assange remains in a British jail awaiting a hearing Dec. 14 at which he plans to fight Sweden's request to extradite him to face "sex crimes" allegations there. Basically the same type of charges he had dropped not even a year ago.
One of his lawyers denied media reports that Assange was being held in isolation at Wandsworth Prison in London.
"He told me he had single cell," Mark Stephens said. "He has the ability to watch TV with other prisoners — which he doesn't do because he hates daytime telly. He takes his meals with other prisoners." They're hoping he gets shanked I'm quite sure.
Stephens said lawyers met with Assange at the prison for an hour Thursday to prepare for next week's hearing.
The Free WikiLeaks website also calls for "the re-establishment of the WikiLeaks ( Internet domain," and the restoration of Visa and MasterCard credit card services to enable the "freedom to move money" because no one has "proved Assange's guilt," or charged WikiLeaks with any crime. Even republican tea party leader Ron Paul has stood up in support of Julian Assange saying "In a free society, we're suppose to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble!" I never would have guessed I'd be in agreement with a tea-bagger, but he's dead right on this troubling issue of freedom of the press. There is NO free press anymore!

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