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Digging Into the WikiLeaks Cables 810

Posted by Soulskill
from the story-that-never-ends dept.
A number of readers have sent in new WikiLeaks stories today, many of which focus on the content of the leaked diplomatic cables. The documents showed how the US government bullied and manipulated other countries to gain support for its Copenhagen climate treaty (though behavior from the US wasn't all negative), how copyright negotiations largely meet the expectations of critics like Michael Geist, and how Intel threatened to move jobs out of Russia if the Russian government didn't loosen encryption regulations. Perhaps the biggest new piece of information is a list of facilities the US considers 'vital to security.' Meanwhile, the drama surrounding WikiLeaks continues; Julian Assange's Swiss bank account has been frozen and the UK has received an arrest warrant for the man himself; the effort to mirror the site has gained support from Pirate Parties in Australia, in the UK and elsewhere; and PayPal was hit with a DDoS for their decision not to accept donations for WikiLeaks.
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Digging Into the WikiLeaks Cables

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  • by greg_barton (5551) <greg_barton AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:41PM (#34462440) Homepage Journal

    ...don't seem to understand that the takedown of Wikileaks is a triumph of world government. It's literally the new world order responding to a threat and removing it. And they're cheering it on...

    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary @ y a hoo.com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:50PM (#34462576) Journal

      They really started to put the heat on wikileaks when Julian threatened to release information about banks. When he was attacking the puppets, there was mild outrage. Now that he is going after the puppet masters, he's a dead man.

    • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:53PM (#34462612)
      the takedown of Wikileaks is a triumph of world government

      You're confusing "world government" with a situation in which multiple governments around the world happen to have similar interests in being able to communicate, diplomatically, without every cable being broadcast by an attention whore with a poltical agenda. That's neither a conservative or liberal thing. It's a practical reality thing. Even diplomats who might side with Assange's politics are pissed at his willingness to burn the house down in order to get rid of a rat.

      Nations have to be able to communicate with each other off the public record on some matters. Assange even seems to agree on this, but he thinks that he should be the one to decide on which matters, when, and between which parties. Finding that to be the unctuous, unilateral posturing that it is is neither a conservative thing nor a world government thing. It's common freakin' sense.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by greg_barton (5551)

        ...a situation in which multiple governments around the world happen to have similar interests in being able to communicate...

        Kind of like when the state governments in the U. S. happen to have similar interests in being able to communicate, right?

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:08PM (#34462868)

        So you ever have candid conversations with coworkers, friends, your spouse and so on about other people? Conversations where you drop pretense, say what you really think, what you really mean. Do you find that these conversations are often beneficial? Now, would you still have that same kind of conversation if you know it would be given, verbatim, to the person(s) you were talking about?

        There you go then.

        As an example when we get a new student in at work, I've explained to them on various occasions when they were going to be dealing with someone who was an asshole, or someone who is incapable of following simple directions, and so on. I couldn't have those conversations if the person was listening in. I mean there isn't any way I could let a student know they are dealing with an asshole, no matter how diplomatic I was the asshole would get mad. It is important that I can have a candid conversation with the students about this, it makes them able to do their job more effectively. But I couldn't do it if I had to record my conversations and hand them over to the parties involved.

        Also it appears that Assanage doesn't want to acknowledge this. He was asked a very good, pointed, question in regards to this (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/robertcolvile/100066669/is-julian-assange-a-coward-or-a-hypocrite/). Rather than provide a defense, give reasons why he feels that the good of his actions outweigh the harm, he just blows it off angrily because he doesn't like the question. Seems like he isn't willing to consider the consequences, the downside of his actions (all actions have a downside, everything has a cost).

        • Government is completely different. If a government official wants to speak off the record to another government official, then your argument applies. However these are records that are kept of official diplomatic actions which may or may not affect the American people. We have a right to see them. A transparent government is absolutely necessary to avoid an outright police state.
        • by BobMcD (601576) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:36PM (#34463420)

          I couldn't have those conversations if the person was listening in. I mean there isn't any way I could let a student know they are dealing with an asshole, no matter how diplomatic I was the asshole would get mad. It is important that I can have a candid conversation with the students about this, it makes them able to do their job more effectively. But I couldn't do it if I had to record my conversations and hand them over to the parties involved.

          In that case, then, you really shouldn't do it. Not only is it potentially harmful, but you're causing your biases to flow downward onto every new employee you're responsible for training. Further, you're just some schmoe and not an entire government. With the size and importance of the organization increasing, so does the responsibility.

          We need to develop a means of governing without secrets. Period.

          It is genuinely the only way to survive the coming age. We're in the midst of an information renaissance, and Wikileaks is simply ahead of it's time. Our entire culture will adapt to the notion that you could be being watched. This might hopefully lead us into an era where we can be more honest with each other, especially at the political level.

        • by blue trane (110704) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:46PM (#34463622) Homepage Journal

          The reason you're afraid of having your opinions exposed is because you can't back them up, they are subjective, so you're more comfortable saying them in a situation where you think they won't come out and be challenged. In other words, you're a coward.

        • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:59PM (#34463832)

          Guess what, even if what he did was stupid and irresponsible, he didn't commit any crimes. Not any crimes that have been successfully prosecuted in the US anyway. He's not an American citizen, so he didn't commit treason. He never signed a security briefing, so he isn't bound to report and debrief if he receives classified material, he never accessed material he didn't have clearance for (it was sent to him, illegally, by someone who did have the clearance). The only thing he did, is exactly what every mainstream media does when they receive a leaked, classified document. He reviewed the information to determine if it was worth disclosing, discussed it with other media outlets with more expertise, and released it to the public. Exactly the same way that the AP, Reuters, CNN, Fox News, or the BBC would do.

          So, stupid and irresponsible probably. Deserves what he's getting, sorry, but no.

        • by Stellian (673475) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:05PM (#34463914)

          The analogy is flawed because governments are not private individuals. As an individual, you have an essential right to keep secrets: it's called privacy, and it's critical for liberty. Yes, I have the right to hide even if i didn't do anything wrong.

          The government on the other hand is an entity with unlimited power and has a single purpose: to represent the people, maximize their overall welfare, and mediate the conflicts. I ask you, where is the need for secrecy in performing that task ?

          There is an often repeated 'fact' these past few days, that government needs secrecy to be effective. Assange has gone 'too far' they say. It's often repeated, but there are rarely any arguments brought in favor. Quite the opposite, it's impossible for the government to be effective if it can operate in secrecy. It will always evolve into a corrupt conspiracy that looks out for it's own collective interest, not those they are representing. Again and again, history has shown that open societies maximize liberty, and that oppressive states operate by controlling fear and information. What's the point of holding elections if I don't know what the incumbents are doing, and what the opposition is planning ? That's a charade, not democracy.

          One can argue that the military surely can't work without secrecy. The enemy will learn of the 'surprise' attack and flee. That may be true, but then again, the military is the exact antithesis of democracy. There's no vote when choosing the best attack target. I lead, you follow, I aim, you kill - that's how the army works. The military is a totalitarian institution and this maximizes it's effectiveness to kill.

          It's you choice if you want to live in a secretive, militarized society as a pawn of the leaders, or as free individual who get's to decide democratically what the army should really protect him against.

        • by nospam007 (722110) * on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:08PM (#34463946)

          "So you ever have candid conversations with coworkers, friends, your spouse and so on about other people?"

          Yep, and the co-worker usually goes to the person you talked about and says:
          'You'll never believe who thinks you're an asshole!'

        • by Tranzistors (1180307) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:26PM (#34464210)

          I didn't get it as well - why Assange didn't make is stance all the way. It is actually very easy point to make – governments are screwing everyone over. Diplomats say they operate in the interest of their state and I believe them. But hat are those interests? If it is secret, then people cannot state their interests. Would US spying on British and vice versa be supported, if it was open? Most likely not.

          This is basically government cheating on us. Maybe it is beneficial, but betrayal of our trust none the less. As for analogy – is it OK to cheat on your spouse, it they won't find out? (Opinions differ on this one as well).

          To go even further, politeness in international relations is a devalued currency – everybody is polite and lies a lot. That is why everyone with half a brain don't believe what diplomats say. Do you know why lying is bad? It is because it shows complete disrespect for the other party involved. And this disrespect is painfully obvious. Not only that, but countries manipulate each other as if they are natural recourse or something.

          When these things come to light, of course they are ugly and damage is done and whatnot, but if it can change the culture international relations to something less disturbing, I am all for it.

          And to make a counter attack, I would have asked, what exact deals can only be made under secrecy. So far I have only generic claims and no explanations what so ever. And even if there are such deals, are they morally right.

          About assholes. We live in the world of assholes, where they believe they are loved and whatnot. If Saudi Arabia would say out loud "Iran, we would feel much safer, if your country was ran by a mad cow", maybe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would respect opinions outside his make believe world.
          Maybe you should visit the assholes in your office and say "You are an asshole. People around you suffer direct mental pain." Or maybe you are ready to sacrifice well being of your employees for the well being of your own?

        • by syousef (465911) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:36PM (#34464374) Journal

          As an example when we get a new student in at work, I've explained to them on various occasions when they were going to be dealing with someone who was an asshole, or someone who is incapable of following simple directions, and so on. I couldn't have those conversations if the person was listening in. I mean there isn't any way I could let a student know they are dealing with an asshole, no matter how diplomatic I was the asshole would get mad.

          "Asshole" isn't exactly the height of diplomacy. You could try "fussy" or "particular" and instead of "incapable of following simple directions", try "creative" or "likes to have input".

          It's actually very unprofessional to go around calling anyone an asshole in the workplace regardless of whether you face discipline for it. Chances are those students will remember you as "the guy who calls people assholes". When that pimply faced kid grows up he too may become what you classify as an asshole but with power over you. Or worse maybe he's not an "asshole" and just considers you too unprofessional to promote (or keep).

      • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:23PM (#34463154) Homepage

        It's not technically Assange that decides what leaks. It's people with access to the data who leak. Some people are painting this as an attack on diplomacy itself, but it's not and can never be. Assange doesn't have magical powers to shut down diplomatic dialogue as he is merely the messenger, not the message.

        The story of the cables is very simple. A young, idealistic and (yes) rather naive young private who had been told his entire life that the USA was the light and the good in the world joined the military. There, he found he had access to everything. What he discovered is story after story of abuse of power shielded by secrecy, abuses that disgusted him. We know this because he said so himself. He decided to do something about it, and did.

        If all there'd been in this archive was an occasional rude diplomat do you really think it would have leaked at all? Probably not. Manning didn't seem like an unhinged anarchist to me. He seemed like somebody angry about what he read, somebody who correctly thought others would agree.

        The easiest way to protect yourself from Wikileaks is to ensure your organization doesn't do anything worth leaking. Simple as that.

        • by dpilot (134227)

          > The easiest way to protect yourself from Wikileaks is to ensure your
          > organization doesn't do anything worth leaking. Simple as that.

          Are you trying to say, "If your organization has done nothing wrong, you've nothing to fear from Wikileaks."??

          Seems to me that my government has been saying that kind of thing to me, as they extend their surveillance powers.

    • by scourfish (573542) <scourfish@@@yahoo...com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:55PM (#34462642)
      Why is it that whenever there is some sort of multi-national drama, suddenly the discussion gets shifted to "conservatives are mindless drones of some tinfoil hat New World Order," or "Fox News is partly to blame" or the likes? I seriously wish that Godwin's law could be modified to include the phrases "liberal media bias", "Fox News", "New World Order," sheeple," and "shill"
    • And they're cheering it on...

      A conservative could be getting raped by a grizzly bear, and they'd cheer it on as long as it meant that a hippie was going to get punched in the face.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or maybe it's just the recognition by grown-ups that Assange's action threaten not just individual government officials and policies, but all governments' ability to conduct diplomacy. Dumping 250,000 State Department cables onto the Internet isn't a, attack on a policy, official, or even a single government; it's an attack on the entire diplomatic system itself.

      If diplomats fear they can't speak to their counterparts in confidence about significant concerns, diplomacy degenerates or stops. You might not li

    • by Bicx (1042846) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:11PM (#34462932)
      I'm conservative and I fully realize this. Very large organizations are freezing or removing Assange's assets with a response time very unusual for large companies. To me, this points to extreme government pressure (like the acts mentioned in some of these cables). It's pretty obvious the rape charges were probably dug up from nowhere, and it's making a joke of interpol and national judicial systems. It's obvious that there is unprecedented government pressure to catch this guy either on a bogus technicality or through brute force that blatantly ignores international law. It does scare me that governments are willing to bypass justice at an international level when a real danger to politicians is present. I hold beliefs that not everyone agrees with, and I hope that there won't be a time when holding an unpopular believe gets me labeled as an "international threat to peace" not worthy of personal freedom.

      However, with that said, I think Assange could have been much more careful about what he exposes to the public. Exposing information such as locations important to U.S. security is irresponsible, offers no real benefits, and just paints an easy target on the back of his head.
  • by x1n933k (966581) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:43PM (#34462472) Homepage
    I'd really like to comment on this but I afraid of the consequences. I'd like to work someday and possibly travel to the US. I'd rather just pretend I don't know what's happening. Besides, none of this really affects me. It's about the past and from where I stand today nothing from any of the actions they have taken has changed my life in any way. At least now yet.

    [J]
  • by jbolden (176878) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:48PM (#34462532) Homepage

    For me both this and the Afghan war wikileaks showed that journalism is working again. It seems that after the failures that led to Iraq the media really is doing a better job. Most everything in the leaks was rumored. Also its nice to see the USA is doing pretty much what it claims to be doing. Of course what's also interesting is no one is even attempting to deny these facts. Wikileaks has become the most reliable source we have on many topics. The government freak out is just what corporate America and then consumer America had to deal with a 15 and 10 years ago. Welcome to the internet age.

    The most interesting topic is what this reveals about Pakistan and Afghanistan. Its time to level with everyone involved and I hope the congress has a vigerous debate about Afghan policy this time around.

  • Re: Michael Geist (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:52PM (#34462594)
    "copyright negotiations largely meet expectations" is misleading. More like, "confirm that the US has been bullying other countries into changing their laws to suit US interests".
    • by hedwards (940851)
      I think this was already known publicly. I don't think that we knew the specifics, but in recent times governments have been complaining about that sort of behavior.

      Additionally, it doesn't take a genius to see that what the US negotiators are likely looking at is what we've got in the US or more, which pretty strongly suggests that other nations would have to change their laws to suit our interests.

      However, it is worth noting that the US exports a lot of IP of various sorts, and we have been ripped o
  • by gQuigs (913879) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:53PM (#34462608) Homepage

    Tell them that you support Wikileaks and that you want answers about what the cables reveal the US Goverment is doing. That what the US is doing against Wikileaks in response to this is wrong and unAmerican. The response by the US Government is embarrassing.. it confirms that we really do all of these backhanded actions that the cables say.

    https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml [house.gov]
    http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm [senate.gov]

  • by BStroms (1875462) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:53PM (#34462610)
    I haven't been on the 'Wikileaks is a terrorist organization' bandwagon, understanding that it's important that crimes not be covered up. However, when I read earlier today about the leak of the list of vital US facilities, I had to wonder just what they're thinking. I honestly can't figure out how the release of that benefits the public in any way. Yet it provides information that anyone seeking to harm the US would find quite valuable.

    I don't think information should be made public for the sake of making it public. There are some things that are better off kept secret.
    • by he-sk (103163)

      Devil's advocate here...

      If you were working in one of those facilities, wouldn't you want to know that your job entails a higher risk than elsewhere?

    • by radtea (464814)

      Yet it provides information that anyone seeking to harm the US would find quite valuable.

      Value is related to scarcity or difficulty of acquistion. How exactly is it difficult to acquire information that any of the items on the list are important to the US?

      Glancing over the list for Canada there is nothing but a bunch of bridges and dams and industrial facilities, including nuclear facilities, that are obviously important. But vital? Or secret? Don't make me laugh.

    • by copponex (13876) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:35PM (#34464364) Homepage

      It's an excellent cross reference to see what's really going on in any country on that list. If the US suddenly gives a shit about the Congo, check the news. The mine they rely on is now under threat. If next door there are millions of people being hacked to death with machetes, and we don't care, check the list. There is no useful resource we are exploiting. It's to illustrate that the United States does not operate on principle, but on self-interest, as every state does.

      Unfortunately, Assange seems to be overplaying his hand. His only way out of prison time is to reveal something truly new and corrupt enough to get world outrage focused on the United States instead of himself. Then he will have the international support he needs to stay a free man.

      He's either building up to this moment, or his arrogance has done him in.

      Actually, another tactic may be that he's forcing them to breach the poison pill contract he has established. If he gets picked up and releases the encrypted file keys, it could unleash holy terror worldwide as all of the information they have redacted so far is suddenly unleashed. If there's enough in there to cause a slew of double agents to be exposed internationally, then he'll again have a better chance of staying alive if not free, and he will have collapsed the covert policies that have been running the world since the 20th Century.

  • by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:54PM (#34462624)
    Is the fact that for the first time in my life, I am literally afraid of my Govt if I go to see a website and that I fully expect to be traced, put in a database, and labeled as some subversive. For going to a web address.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:54PM (#34462626)

    Former UK Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said WikiLeaks' actions were "verging on the criminal".

    Since when do we arrest people for doing things that are almost illegal?

  • by thesandbender (911391) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:11PM (#34462948)
    This was an account with the Swiss Postal service (which also operates as a bank in Switzerland). Since he does not live (permanently) in Switzerland he should not have had an account to begin with so they closed it. He still has access to the funds he just can not accept anymore payments or transfers. I've taken and extended vacation in Switzerland and when I tried to open account (to avoid credit card fees from my US bank) I was told the exact same thing. I'm sure he can walk down to any of the commercial banks and open an account provided he meets the balance requirements.
  • by mapkinase (958129) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:16PM (#34463046) Homepage Journal

    I liked the slashdigest format. I hope it will catch on.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:49PM (#34463680) Homepage Journal

    Really? How is it that we are more interested in taking down Wikileaks founder Assange than say... Osama Bin Laden, who *actually* is a terrorist?

    Why is it that anyone the USA doesn't like gets branded as a terrorist? Doesn't that worry you? How far away is the day that free speach is labeled a terrorist act?

    I mean, seriously -- right now in China, you go to jail for speaking out against the government and we then proclaim that China isn't "free".

    But in the "free" USA, if you speak out against the government, Amazon disowns you, the government *wants* to arrest you and your website is taken down. hrrmmmm. While China may be more extreme, the basic policies between the USA and China are not all that different. Which is to say, if you're a rabble-rouser, or you in any way embarass us, we'll take you down.

    I am concered that I see posts on slashdot saying that Assange needs to be treated as a traitor. Go after Robert Novack first. If the media were doing its job, we wouldn't need Wikileaks.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.

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