Wikileaks Cablegate Reactions Roundup

I’ve been dealing with a family illness, but couldn’t let the Wikileaks Cablegate incident pass without comment. In between hospital visits, I’ve been jotting down links related to the historic leak.

It’s a stunning experiment of forced transparency, prying open government against its will without much care or concern about the ramifications. Wikileaks is the Pirate Bay of journalism — an unstoppable force disrupting whole industries because they can.

To help make sense of my own opinions about it, I rounded up some of the more interesting responses and visualizations. Enjoy.


The Story So Far

Wikileaks is offering the diplomatic cables directly from their website, with 278 available from over 250,000 to be released in stages over the next few months. View them here, or any number of mirrors. Alternately, StateLogs lets you browse and search the complete collection.

The Guardian offered the best coverage, in my opinion, including a data dump of all the metadata in CSV format and on Google Fusion. The Guardian’s liveblog from Monday showed how the story rolled out as it happened, and today’s liveblog is an excellent up-to-the-minute list of the fallout.

Reuters country-by-country summary of the revelations in the release.

In a long interview with Forbes, Julian Assange says that half their leaks are from the private sector, they’re getting an exponential increase in leaks, and are planning a leak for a major U.S. bank in early 2011. Bank of America shares were down on the rumors. In today’s interview with TIME, he says Hillary Clinton should step down.

If you’re wondering about Assange’s broader motivations for Wikileaks, this great post surfaces some of his earlier writing about hampering America’s ability to keep secrets. (Or you can dig around yourself through his old blog, available from Archive.org.)

Personally, I’d love to hear more about James Ball, a data journalist who worked closely with Wikileaks to analyze the data. In this NBC Nightly News interview, he says he’s not an employee, but in another Telegraph interview, says he’s paid by Wikileaks. I’d love more details.

Marc Ambinder explains some of the technical details about how modern diplomatic cables are stored and transmitted. In short: PDFs in Outlook PST files transmitted over SIPRnet (which was disconnected last week) and then burned to a mislabeled CD while lip-syncing Lady Gaga.

Interestingly, Wikileaks didn’t give the leak to the New York Times, who instead received them from The Guardian. Their series of followup articles have been good.

Visualizations

The Cablegate data dump’s browsable in a number of ways, with interactive visualizations using Tableau Public. (Tableau originally wrote about it, but deleted the post.)

StateLogs, a Cablegate browser designed by French journalism nonprofit OWNI in collaboration with Slate.fr, offers a tag cloud of the most popular subjects in the cables.

Der Spiegel posted an interactive visualization of the cables by country, and both The Guardian and El Pais made similar static visualizations.

Ed Summers tried to visualize the social graph of the cables, looking at the sending and receiving stations of the cables. (Code’s on Github, if you want to have fun with it.)

David Horn made a lovely tag cloud of the most commonly used terms in the cables so far.

You can download all the files yourself from the Pirate Bay.

Who supports Wikileaks?

Not many public figures!

Rep. Ron Paul is the most (only?) notable American politician to support them publicly. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.”

Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. In an NBC interview, the Bradley Manning of the 1970s said the release was “useful… and the public deserves to know.” And Noam Chomsky, who also assisted with the Pentagon Papers.

In the media, the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins wrote a compelling column defending Wikileaks, saying, “It is for governments – not journalists – to guard public secrets, and there is no national jeopardy in WikiLeaks’ revelations.” Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, Slate’s Jack Schafer, and The Economist’s Will Wilkinson also defended Wikileaks.

The newspapers that had access to the material didn’t take a position, but obviously felt the material was newsworthy. The New York Times discussed the decision to publish, and responded to readers’ questions today.

In one of my favorite articles so far, the New Yorker’s Blake Eskin draws parallels to Facebook and other online privacy scandals.

Oddly, Rush Limbaugh seems to approve of the leaks.

In the tech world, EFF cofounder John Perry Barlow’s publicly supported Wikileaks and Assange from his Twitter account. Free Software Foundation/GNU creator Richard Stallman supports the Wikileaks release on his political blog.

It won’t surprise many that Pirate Bay cofounder Peter Sunde positions it as a free speech issue.

The ACLU agrees, saying “We’re deeply skeptical that prosecuting WikiLeaks would be constitutional, or a good idea… The American public should not have to depend on leaks to the news media and on whistleblowers to know what the government is up to.”

The EFF denounced Amazon’s decision to shut down Wikileaks’ hosting. “In the end, it’s not just WikiLeaks that suffers from corporate policies that suppress free speech, here on matters of intense public importance. It’s also readers, who lose out on their First Amendment right to read the information WikiLeaks publishes.” They later published a broader statement of support.

Reporters Without Borders made a public statement Saturday in support of Wikileaks. “Reporters Without Borders can only condemn this determination to hound Assange and reiterates its conviction that WikiLeaks has a right under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment to publish these documents and is even playing a useful role by making them available to journalists and the greater public.”

Who’s against Wikileaks?

Most US politicians, left and right, came out forcefully against Wikileaks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: told reporters, “It is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.”

NATO condemned the release, saying “it endangers civilians and military personnel… It is illegal, irresponsible and dangerous.”

George W. Bush, Senator Joe Lieberman. Rick Santorum calls the Wikileaks release “terrorism.” Mike Huckabee wants Assange executed. Sarah Palin wrote on Facebook that Julian Assange is “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands.”

Most world governments denounced Wikileaks. China won’t comment on the contents of the leak, but blocked access to Wikileaks, citing the preservation of US-China relations. The Russian government wants to destroy Wikileaks before they leak KGB info. In the UK, Downing Street and Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP (Chairman of the UK Intelligence and Security Committee and former Foreign Secretary) denounced the leak.

Bill O’Reilly says the leakers should be executed or spend life in prison.

Wikipedia cofounder (and critic) Larry Sanger wrote that, “I consider you enemies of the U.S. — not just the government, but the people.” He expanded on his view in a larger essay, stating, “Julian Assange is no hero. He is a twit… He gives hackers a bad name.”

Adrian Lamo, the ex-hacker who Manning confided in, condemned the leak in a series of amusingly odd press releases. He likes pie.

In the middle?

Jimmy Carter doesn’t think the release will be as damaging as Hillary Clinton believes. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates agrees.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claims the release wasn’t an accidental leak, but a psychological warfare campaign by the United States.

The Internet Responds

Taiwan’s NMA News does the obligatory CG reenactment.

The Wikileaks website suffered ongoing attacks, but is holding up well after moving to Amazon EC2. Jester, a “hacktivist for good” who targets terrorist websites, took credit for Tuesday’s DDOS.

Dan Gillmor posed some thoughtful questions for Wikileaks, journalists, and the U.S. government.

Julian Assange fan art, from Fuck Yeah Julian Assange.

Also: Julian Assange and Bradley Manning costumes from Halloween. (No Rule 34 yet, though.)

4chan could not be reached for comment.

December 1

The Daily Show chimed in last night, making fun of everyone involved.

Bowing to political pressure from Joe Lieberman, Amazon kicked Wikileaks off of Amazon Web Services this morning leading to some temporary downtime. Wikileaks responded by moving to European servers, saying, “If Amazon are so uncomfortable with the first amendment, they should get out of the business of selling books.”

Will Wilkinson at the Economist followed up his earlier Wikileaks defense with a thoughtful new post on how technology enables leaks, with or without Wikileaks. “Jailing Thomas Edison in 1890 would not have darkened the night.”

December 2

McSweeney’s: Fragments from Wikileaks: The Musical. “To radically shift regime behavior We must accept a new kind of savior; How can any authority control what we see When all information wants to be free?”

The Onion: Julian Assange Fired From IT Job At Pentagon

The ACLU spoke out in support of Wikileaks, saying it’s a First Amendment issue.

Tableau Software, the site that hosting the official Wikileaks visualizations, pulled them offline, citing copyright and the indirect public request from Joe Lieberman.

December 3

The free EveryDNS service canceled Wikileaks’ DNS service, blaming capacity issues, effectively making wikileaks.org inaccessible. Wikileaks is still in control of the domain, which is registered with the U.S.-based Dynadot domain registrar. For unknown reasons, they haven’t yet switched DNS to another provider, choosing instead to switch domains entirely Swiss domain wikileaks.ch, though also with DNS provided by EveryDNS. Unsurprisingly, the domain is currently inaccessible.

Don’t miss Julian Assange’s live Q&A with the Guardian this morning, with questions provided by readers. He confirms that the encrypted insurance torrent contains the complete diplomatic cables archive and, to the delight of conspiracy theorists everywhere, that “in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs.”

The EFF denounced Amazon’s decision to shut down Wikileaks’ hosting. “In the end, it’s not just WikiLeaks that suffers from corporate policies that suppress free speech, here on matters of intense public importance. It’s also readers, who lose out on their First Amendment right to read the information WikiLeaks publishes.”

EFF cofounder John Perry Barlow is publicly supporting Wikileaks from his Twitter account. “Years ago, I wore a button for some time that declared: ‘I am Salman Rushdie.’ Now: I am Julian Assange.”

Some extended background that was new to me: an interview from September with Julian Assange’s 20-year-old son, Daniel.

Nieman Journalism Lab argues that the Wikileaks cables were a positive force for mainstream and non-traditional journalism.

Joe Lieberman, riding the anti-Wikileaks wave as far as he can, introduced legislation making it a federal crime to publish the name of a U.S. intelligence source.

Today, Rep. Ron Paul publicly supported Wikileaks become one of the only U.S. politicians to support Wikileaks, in a Fox News interview and from his Twitter account. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.”

December 4

PayPal permanently suspended Wikileaks’ account used for fundraising, citing terms of service violations for facilitating illegal activity.

In response to the attempts to shut down Wikileaks DNS and hosting, hundreds of fan-made mirrors are appearing online. The Pirate Party site is hosting an automated mirror list, which periodically checks for uptime. Many more have been posted to Twitter with the #imwikileaks hashtag. The official Wikileaks site was offering a self-serve mirroring service, but the form currently submits to an inaccessible IP address.

December 6

Julian Assange’s Swiss bank account, used for personal assets and the legal defense fund, was closed. The bank claims the funds will be returned.

The official mirror list now shows more than 500 active Wikileaks mirrors.

Anonymous started Operation Avenge Assange, encouraging a DDOS on Paypal today.

The Atlantic made CableGateRoulette, a random leaked cable with every view.

December 7

Julian Assange was taken into UK custody related to the Swedish sex offenses and denied bail because he’s a flight risk. He’ll remain in custody until December 14, when his extradition hearing is scheduled. He’s promised that cable releases will continue in the interim.

Following Paypal and the Swiss bank PostFinance, Visa and Mastercard both cancelled the accounts used by Wikileaks for donations.

Senator Joe Lieberman expanded his attack on Wikileaks, told Fox News that the New York Times chould now be investigated by the Justice Dept.

In totally unrelated news, the U.S. State Department today announced the U.S. will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011. “New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.”

December 8

Anonymous successfully DDOSed Mastercard, taking down parts of their payments infrastructure in the process.

The EFF published a strong statement of support for Wikileaks. “Shutting down sites like WikiLeaks is a very serious attack on freedom of expression.”

Kevin Rudd, Australia’s foreign minister, said Wikileaks was not responsible for the security breach. More a statement of fact than actual support, he said, “The core responsibility, and therefore legal liability, goes to those individuals responsible for that initial unauthorised release.”

December 9

Julian Assange may be in a London prison, but the cable releases continue as promised, with new revelations daily.

So do the Anonymous DDOS attacks, with Visa successfully brought offline yesterday, an unsuccessful attempt at taking down Amazon, and fairly-successful shot at Paypal today.

Wikileaks issued a public statement distancing themselves from Anonymous, and The Economist tried to interview them in IRC.

Gregor Aisch visualized the Wikileaks mirrors on a map, and how it’s grown over the last few days. (Though calling it a network is inaccurate, the mirrors are static archives and not actually connected to one another. Some are pushed updates from a central source, others are periodically updated manually.)

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is perhaps the first world leader to publicly support Wikileaks. The Russian president’s office suggested Julian Assange should be nominated for a Nobel Prize.

December 10

This morning brings the most shocking cable so far, currently spreading like wildfire on Twitter.

SVT released a rough cut of WikiRebels, an hour-long documentary by two filmmakers who’ve followed Wikileaks since Summer 2010. It includes interviews with the key players, concluding just after the Iraq war papers in late October.

In an amusing twist, EasyDNS started providing DNS services for Wikileaks after being confused for EveryDNS last week.

The Guardian published a collection of reactions around the world.

Former Wikileaks employee Daniel Domscheit-Berg talks about OpenLeaks, which is set to launch next week.

December 14

I’m wrapping up these daily updates. You can keep up on the news at The Guardian, the Wikileaks tag on Delicious, and Dave Winer’s new WikiRiver aggregator. And here’s an updated list of Wikileaks mirrors, checked often.

I’ll leave you three links: a new Tumblr fanpage, Julian Assange’s OKCupid profile, and Anonymous’ newest operation.

26 thoughts on “Wikileaks Cablegate Reactions Roundup

  1. Thanks mate. I have been hanging out for your comment on this. Fantastic roundup as usual.

    All the best for your family.

    Cheers,

    Mal (in Sydney, .au)

  2. Thanks for the effort Andy, I appreciate it. I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of impact these latest releases has had, and you have offered a nice omnibus of stuff from the web to help readers stay informed.

    Thanks again and good job.

  3. Great roundup. Just one tiny little bone to pic.

    Wikileaks is the Pirate Bay of journalism — an unstoppable force disrupting whole industries because they can.

    I don’t think Assnage is doing this just because he can. I think, and I wholeheartedly agree with him on this, he feel that people have a right to know and people (in this case he) who have the ability to reveal the truth have a responsibility to.

  4. The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is the freedom of information.

    N.Korea is a dictatorship(and the world disapproves of that) and it controls everything the people can do, read, and say….

    Whereas the rest of the world is a democracy, and they have freedom of information and not kept in the dark…… oh wait a sec, hold on. DERP, it looks like the rest of the world actually is in a dictatorship without knowing. Or at very least a hypocrisy.

    Quick quick, kill wikileaks with fire, for its threatening our hypocritical dictatorship!!!!!

    We cannot have the people knowing the truth and thinking for themselves.

  5. Thanks for this round-up and to the commentators for further useful write-up. I shall be re-posting this.

  6. Keen to “get into” the leaked data and make sense of it all – many thanks for pulling the arguements together and linking out so well.

    Oddly tho’, when I was looking at some of the cables earlier today, I ended up liking the layout structure of the reports! Which really is not one of the greatest discoveries to be had here 🙂 I shall keep looking.

    Ferg

    tweet @ferg4ddc

  7. I think there was a time (possibly not? everything seems so much better from far) when I would have been against this, since the news media did a good job doing real investigative journalism.

    Since the massive commercialization of news, this doesn’t happen anymore. I think a corner was turned during the run up to the Iraq War, where literally no journalist was skeptical of anything the govt said (except maybe Paul Krugman, but he is an op-ed writer, not a journalist). Since then things have only gotten worse. Since the responsible media is not willing to do its job, its necessary less protected folks like Assange (who don’t have the protection and resources, say a NYTimes journalist would have) do it. And that lack of resources and protection necessarily translates in these dumps being far more indiscriminate.

    Imagine if these leaks had occured leading up to the Iraq War (most of the cables are based then, and earlier). At the very least the British would not have participated because the public would have known that their forces did not believe a word the Americans were saying.

    The possibility of the millions of lives that may have been saved is worth the chance that a few may be lost (however there is no evidence any have been lost and the Pentagon has admitted as much) due to these leaks.

  8. I am not critical of Wikileaks per se, though I fear that in this huge amount of data something really damaging to individual persons can slip through.

    There are limits, I think few people would agree that publishing the blue prints of nuclear weapons or facilities or exposing undercover agents of democratic governments is perfectly fine.

  9. Great summary of the meta-story, but perhaps you could do a post covering more of the reportage of the content itself rather than the story itself.

    Maybe this is just a function of everyone being more interested in talking about the leaking, rather than the leaks.

  10. ‘Make this world at war again’

    No I wouldn’t say that is the objective. I would say it’s objective is simply to make public what individuals in positions of power want to make secret.

    Will the knock on outcome be an increase in war? It’s possible, but unlikely. Will the knock on be that individuals realise that their actions are (or at least may become) accountable to the people they claim to be working for and those individuals therefore pay more attention to the wishes of those people and not to ideological motivation. I hope so.

  11. Thanks for the rundown. To you doubters. Information is power, and Julian is trying to give some back to the people of the world.

  12. You might count Stratfor as being somewhere in the middle. I find their analyses from a geopolitical perspective to be insightful, provide depth and context, and pretty scrupulously apolitical. In a recent article, they figure that the most recent release may make for some awkwardness and embarrassment, but

    Everyone already knows this is how the game is played, and leaders in Washington and beyond have already demonstrated that countries with real problems to work on are not going to let a glimpse of what goes on behind closed doors interrupt important geopolitical relationships. […]

    What’s more, the idea that WikiLeaks could hurt diplomatic relationships between the United States and the rest of the world also assumes that the rest of the world conducts diplomacy in a more “honest” manner — it does not — or that it somehow does not fear that one day its own dispatches may be laid barren for all to see — it does. And given American intelligence capabilities, there’s a good chance most countries do not want to gamble on whether the United States is already reading them.

  13. So sorry about that. I had both of the other references right, but somehow slipped in the EasyDNS reference. I’d just read about the EasyDNS/EveryDNS mixup and was trying not to make the same mistake myself. Ridiculous.

  14. It’s a fact that secrets are hard to keep. No one can stop it. Cork out of the bottle. Problem ? Yust as mucht the printed book once was. Question: what’s next: E-Power to the people. Direct webvoting democracy with a lot of transparency. Technology brings revolution, it always did.

  15. People keep harping on freedom of speech, freedom of speech, but they also keep forgetting that freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want without repercussion.

    Is it ok to say whatever we want to whoever we want whenever we want? Of course not. I can’t go up to someone and threaten to take their life without legal consequences. There are also laws against slander (verbal) and libel (written).

    So why is it ok to release information, some classified as [state] secret(s), to the world when said information could result in any number of negative consequences including but not limited to death?

    Freedom of speech! Freedom of speech!

    Yeah, and I hope that you don’t lose life or liberty if terrorists ever act on the released information. The lack of common sense regarding freedom of speech is amazing.

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