How to Think About WikiLeaks

By Alexis C. Madrigal
This is a regularly updated post. It was first published 12/8/2010 at 11:51am. Its time-stamp indicates when it was last changed.

In the days since WikiLeaks began releasing a small percentage of its cache of 250,000 cables sent by State Department officials, many people have tried to think through the event's implications for politics, media, and national security.

Writers pulling at the knot of press freedom, liberty, nationalism, secrecy and security that sits at the center of the debate have produced dozens of fantastic pieces. We're collecting the very best here. This page will be updated often. New links will be floated near the top of this list.

Send suggestions to amadrigal[at]theatlantic.com.

For clarity's sake, I'm sorting this archive into four sections. On the main page, you'll find the links from the last day or so. Next, you'll find the main stash of links on WikiLeaks. Third, you'll find thinking about Julian Assange. The last section will contain links pertaining specifically to WikiLeaks and journalism.
Go straight there:


Kim Zetter on WikiLeaks' finances. [Wired]

WikiLeaks' expenditures have risen dramatically in the last five months, from a paltry $38,000 between October 2009 and July 2010 to more than $495,000 in the last five months, according to a foundation that manages most of the organization's donations. The jump in expenses appears to be due to salaries the organization recently began paying staff members. WikiLeaks has said in the past, before it began paying salaries, that its operating costs run only about $200,000 annually. (Added 12/13/2010, 5:07pm)

Paul Vixie comes out strongly against the "mob rule" of the DDoS. [RedBarn.org]

John Adams wrote that "the very definition of a republic is 'an empire of laws, and not of men.'" Perhaps in some parts of the world, public affairs and even private affairs are ruled by men. But in the industrialized modern western world that has built most of the Internet infrastructure as we know it today, human affairs are ruled by law. Somehow we're willing to forget this in the heat of our political passions. The Internet has always had a distinct cultural "wild west" feel to it, and many of the world's laws aren't easily applicable here. But, we all remain citizens of our respective nations, and we live mostly in nations ruled by law. The Internet must reflect this also. Denial of service is not merely a peaceful protest meant to garner attention for a cause. Denial of service is forcible and it is injurious. It is not like any form of civil disobedience, but rather it is criminal behaviour more like looting.(Added 12/13/2010, 12:07pm)


A new Twitter feed provides legal news, analysis, and opinion on the issue in the WikiLeaks case. [@WLLegal]

A Beijing Daily op-ed argues maybe Julian Assange should win the Nobel Peace Prize. [China Media Project]:

And this brings us back to the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the decision by the Nobel Committee and the remarks of a number of other Westerners [concerning Liu Xiaobo], considering the acts of free speech in which this Assange has personally participated, opposing all on his own the "government violence" of several Western nations, could he not be regarded as a "fighter for freedom of expression"? Why don't the noble members of the Nobel Committee claim that the Peace Prize is given "in the defense of freedom of expression," and then give it to this Assange who has been persecuted, chained and jailed by the West? (Added 12/13/2010, 11:57am)

Deanna Zandt touches off a discussion about civil disobedience and denial-of-service attacks. [DeannaZandt.com]

There's a whole 'nother discussion here about power, privilege, risk and comfort when it comes to digital activism. What the short version of my feelings amounts to is that as long as we are as comfortable as we are, we won't risk anything. We have too much to lose. Thus, the question comes back to: how do I digitally throw myself in front of a tank? (Added 12/13/2010, 11:50am)

David Carr on how it's WikiLeaks that's been changed by journalism, not the other way around. [New York Times]

Notice that with each successive release, WikiLeaks has become more strategic and has been rewarded with deeper, more extensive coverage of its revelations. It's a long walk from WikiLeaks's origins as a user-edited site held in common to something more akin to a traditional model of publishing, but seems to be in keeping with its manifesto to deliver documents with "maximum possible impact." Julian Assange, WikiLeaks's founder and guiding spirit, apparently began to understand that scarcity, not ubiquity, drives coverage of events.(Added 12/13/2010, 10:30am)

Fareed Zakaria on whether WikiLeaks is actually bad for U.S. diplomacy. [TIME]

I don't deny for a moment that many of the "wikicables" are intensely embarrassing, but the sum total of the output I have read is actually quite reassuring about the way Washington -- or at least the State Department -- works. First, there is little deception. These leaks have been compared to the Pentagon papers. Which they are not. The Pentagon papers revealed that the U.S. engaged in a systematic campaign to deceive the world and the American people and that its private actions were often the opposite of its stated public policy. The WikiLeaks documents, by contrast, show Washington pursuing privately pretty much the policies it has articulated publicly. Whether on Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or North Korea, the cables confirm what we know to be U.S. foreign policy. And often this foreign policy is concerned with broader regional security, not narrow American interests. Ambassadors are not caught pushing other countries in order to make deals secretly to strengthen the U.S., but rather to solve festering problems. (Added 12/13/2010, 10:18am)

Thomas Darnstadt provides a German perspective on the state's privacy rights. [Der Spiegel]:

There is no good or bad public sphere, just as there is no such thing as a bit of a public sphere. According to the German Constitutional Court, it is only the full- fledged ability of all citizens to have access to all information, at least in principle, which makes the formation of public opinion possible. And it is the unobstructed formation of public opinion that makes it possible to view the outcome of elections as being representative of the will of the people. Is the state permitted to keep secrets from its citizens? Are citizens permitted to disclose such secrets? The answer to both questions is very simple: Yes. (Added 12/13/2010, 10:30am)

C. Fred Alford on how WikiLeaks has changed whistle-blowing. [New York Times]

The WikiLeaks data dump challenges a long held belief by many of us who study whistle-blowing -- that it is important that the whistle-blower have a name and face so that the disclosures are not considered just anonymous griping, or possibly unethical activity. The public needs to see the human face of someone who stands up and does the right thing when none of his or her colleagues dare. WikiLeaks' release of the secret cables seems to have changed all that. There is something about the power of so much raw data that seems to take on a life of its own. One can only imagine that there will be other whistle-blowers using similar strategies. This will depend very little on the survival of WikiLeaks, but rather, the ability of the Web to make public vast amounts of data. For better and worse, this changes whistle-blowing as we've known it. (Added 12/10/2010, 12:42pm)

Zeynep Tufecki on the cables' disruption of the standard insider-outsider dynamics. [Technosociology]:

Many commentators have noted that the confidential U.S. embassy cables published by Wikileaks contain nothing that would surprise an "informed observer." I agree and have said so as much myself. However, I think this actually is the real scandal exposed by Wikileaks: there is a fairly large circle of "insiders," which include much of punditry and journalists, who have a fairly accurate picture of most issues, who nonetheless cooperate with, and in fact, make possible, the efforts of modern states to portray themselves as making decisions dictated by pure motives and high-minded principles rather than by power and interests. In my view, the potential impact of Wikileaks and similar efforts is not necessarily about leaking well-guarded secrets, which these were not; rather, it is about changing the audience for a particular discourse from insiders to outsiders. Rather than expose unknowns, I think it is more accurate to say that Wikileaks has collapsed the distinction between the "front" and "back stages" of the modern state, and exposed the gap between the day-to-day reality of modern statecraft and its civic front.(Added 12/10/2010, 11:20am)

Legendary hacker mag 2600 condemns Anonymous' denial-of-service attacks. [2600]

Denial of service attacks against PayPal, Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, and other corporations and entities have been underway for the last few days, as widely reported in the mainstream media. Each of these targets had previously taken some sort of action against the whistleblower website wikileaks.org and its affiliates. The media reports almost invariably refer to "hackers" as being behind these actions. While there is great sympathy in the hacker world for what Wikileaks is doing, this type of activity is no better than the strong-arm tactics we are fighting against. (Added 12/10/2010, 11:33am)

Bruce Schneier on WikiLeaks' role and new models for government secrecy. [Schneier.com]

This has little to do with WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is just a website. The real story is that "least trusted person" who decided to violate his security clearance and make these cables public. In the 1970s, he would have mailed them to a newspaper. Today, he used WikiLeaks. Tomorrow, he will have his choice of a dozen similar websites. If WikiLeaks didn't exist, he could have made them available via BitTorrent... And just as the music and movie industries are going to have to change their business models for the Internet era, governments are going to have to change their secrecy models. I don't know what those new models will be, but they will be different. (Added 12/10/2010, 12:10am)


Jack Hunter on the conservative case for WikiLeaks. [The American Conservative]

Decentralizing government power, limiting it, and challenging it was the Founders' intent and these have always been core conservative principles. Conservatives should prefer an explosion of whistleblower groups like WikiLeaks to a federal government powerful enough to take them down. (Added 12/9/2010, 4:37pm)


The Economist on how the pro-WikiLeaks side in the info war organizes itself. [The Economist]

About ten people, called "OPs", are able to launch an attack. If any OP abuses his power--if he fails to heed what anons call "the hive mind" in IRC conversations-- the other OPs can lock him out of the chat. If any anon fails to be inspired by the target, she can remove her own computer from the volunteer botnet, reducing its effect. Anonymous is a 24-hour Athenian democracy, run by a quorum of whoever happens to be awake. It's hard even to define Anonymous as a "group", since not all members participate in all projects. The attempt to take down Mr Lieberman's site, for example, is part of an effort called "operation payback", a demonstration of support for Mr Assange. (Added 12/9/2010, 1:05 pm)

Evgeny Morozov on DDoS attacks as civil disobedience. [Foreign Policy]

That said, I don't think that their attacks are necessarily illegal or immoral. As long as they don't break into other people's computers, launching DDoS should not be treated as a crime by default; we have to think about the particular circumstances in which such attacks are launched and their targets. I like to think of DDoS as equivalents of sit-ins: both aim at briefly disrupting a service or an institution in order to make a point. As long as we don't criminalize all sit-ins, I don't think we should aim at criminalizing all DDoS. (Added 12/9/2010, 1:29pm)

Dave Winer on taking the war part of infowar seriously. [Scripting News]

I watch my friends root for the attackers and think this is the way wars always begin. The "fighting the good fight" spirit. Let's go over there and show them who we are. Let's make a symbolic statement. By the time the war is underway, we won't remember any of that. We will wonder how we could have been so naive to think that war was something wonderful or glorious. People don't necessarily think of wars being fought on the net and over the net, but new technology comes to war all the time, and one side often doesn't understand. (Added 12/9/2010, 2:17pm)

Louis Klarevas on why the Espionage Act needs to change in the Internet era. [The Atlantic]

The Espionage Act, which has been cited by members of Congress calling for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be prosecuted as a spy, could be loosely interpreted as making it illegal to post a link to WikiLeaks on your Facebook page. The World War I era law, intended primarily to punish government employees and contractors who pass classified information to foreign government agents, is wildly out of date. Written long before the Internet changed how information and media work, the Espionage Act is unsuited to our era and long overdue for reform. (Added 12/9/2010, 1:05 pm)

Hans Magnus Enzensberger on state secrets, from a 1964 essay on treason. [Critical Essays]

One can therefore draw two opposite conclusions...: either that everything is a state secret or that state secrets no longer exist. In a certain sense both sentences mean the same thing; the first changes into the second, but with the following result: the betrayal of such secrets is prosecuted ever more ruthlessly the more eagerly statesmen proclaim them. The absurdity of this situation is apparent; but the very delusionary character of the taboo prevents its dissolution. (Added 12/9/2010, 2:25pm)

Glenn Greenwald on a central misunderstanding of what WikiLeaks has done. [Salon]

But as of now, that they have been largely following the lead of newspapers in publishing these cables is called "reality" and "truth."  That WikiLeaks just indiscriminately dumped "thousands of secret cables" is the primary U.S. Government claim being made to distinguish it from media outlets and to depict them as criminally irresponsible.  Except, at least as of now, that claim is an absolute, demonstrable lie.  (Added 12/9/2010, 1:47pm)

Robert Cringely points out the audacity of what WikiLeaks has done. [InfoWorld]

But, I can't stop thinking about WikiLeaks. Why? Because this is the single most important story to hit the Internet ever. It dwarfs the Drudge Report's Monica Lewinsky scoop, the Twitter anti-Tehran uprising, and even the Pam Anderson sex video. Never before has a small band of whatever-you-want-to-call-thems taken on every major nation simultaneously, twisting them into knots. But thanks to the distributed nature of the Net, they have -- and I suspect they won't be the last. (Added 12/8/2010, 9:57pm)

Johan Lagerkvist on the impact of the forgotten man in all this, Bradley Manning. [Yale Global]

The latest WikiLeaks episode reminds us that the weakest link in officialdom is the individual. This time his name was Bradley Manning. In the age of social media it takes only one disloyal or conscience-stricken employee, one skilled "hacktivist," to disseminate encrypted oceans of information, logistically impossible in pre-internet days. The diplomacy of nations has always been a highly vulnerable endeavor but, since the explosion of social and commercial networks online, there are now innumerable possibilities for renegade organizations and individuals to expose, destroy and retreat. As with the "war on terror," contestation is about powerful and hard-to-target asymmetrical relations, which is why elite politics and high-level diplomacy are under more pressure than ever. (Added 12/8/2010, 2:19pm)

Ethan Zuckerman on the Internet as a public and commercial space. [Columbia Journalism Review]

What's really hard about this is that we perceive the web to be a public space, a place where you should be able to go and set up your soapbox and say whatever you want to say to the world. The truth is, the web is almost entirely privately held. So what happens here is that we have a normative understanding that we should treat this like public space--that you should have rights to speak, that no one should constrain your rights--but then you discover that, basically, you're holding a political rally in a shopping mall. This is commercial speech, controlled by commercial rules.

Clay Shirky on what WikiLeaks means for press freedom. [cshirky.com]

The key, though, is that democracies have a process for creating such restrictions, and as a citizen it sickens me to see the US trying to take shortcuts. The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us "You went after Wikileaks' domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don't like the site. If that's the way governments get to behave, we can live with that."

Over the long haul, we will need new checks and balances for newly increased transparency -- Wikileaks shouldn't be able to operate as a law unto itself anymore than the US should be able to. In the short haul, though, Wikileaks is our Amsterdam. Whatever restrictions we eventually end up enacting, we need to keep Wikileaks alive today, while we work through the process democracies always go through to react to change. If it's OK for a democracy to just decide to run someone off the internet for doing something they wouldn't prosecute a newspaper for doing, the idea of an internet that further democratizes the public sphere will have taken a mortal blow.

Micah Sifry on the U.S. government's actions in the wake of Cablegate. [TechPresident]

So, while I am not 100% sure I am for everything that Wikileaks has done is and is doing, I do know that I am anti-anti-Wikileaks. The Internet makes possible a freer and more democratic culture, but only if we fight for it. And that means standing up precisely when unpopular speakers test the boundaries of free speech, and would-be censors try to create thought-crimes and intimidate the rest of us into behaving like children or sheep.

Geert Lovink and Patrice Riemens on where WikiLeaks is coming from (among other things). [Network Cultures]

WikiLeaks is also an organization deeply shaped by 1980s hacker culture, combined with the political values of techno-libertarianism that emerged in the 1990s. The fact that WikiLeaks was founded - and to a large extent is still run - by hard-core geeks is essential to understanding its values and moves. Unfortunately, this comes together with a good dose of the less savoury aspects of hacker culture. Not that idealism, the desire to contribute to making the world a better place, could be denied to WikiLeaks: on the contrary. But this brand of idealism (or, if you prefer, anarchism) is paired with a preference for conspiracies, an elitist attitude and a cult of secrecy (never mind condescension).

Jonathan Zittrain and Molly Sauter on the three phases of WikiLeaks from a dynamite FAQ on the organization. [Technology Review]

Wikileaks has moved through three phases since its founding in 2006. In its first phase, during which it released several substantial troves of documents related to Kenya in 2008, Wikileaks operated very much with a standard wiki model: the public readership could actively post and edit materials, and it had a say in the types of materials that were accepted and how such materials were vetted. The documents released in that first phase were more or less a straight dump to the Web: very little organized redacting occurred on the part of Wikileaks.

Wikileaks's second phase was exemplified with the release of the "Collateral Murder" video in April 2010. The video was a highly curated, produced and packaged political statement. It was meant to illustrate a political point of view, not merely to inform.

The third phase is the one we currently see with the release of the diplomatic cables: Wikileaks working in close conjunction with a select group of news organizations to analyze, redact and release the cables in a curated manner, rather than dumping them on the Internet or using them to illustrate a singular political point of view. (Added 12/9/2010, 4:37pm)


Nikil Saval on the relationship between information and politics. [n+1]

The secrets remain the problem--they convert even honest public servants, newly enthralled with what they're able to occlude, into sycophants and liars. But having secrets out in the open doesn't automatically give us politics... Let's remember that information is not yet knowledge--it's only the object of knowledge. Information sits mute, inert, intransigent, until we begin to imagine better and to ask the right questions. The WikiLeaks documents offer us another opportunity to consider what kind of government, what kind of politics, we have, and to imagine what kind, if any, we would want instead. (Added 12/9/2010, 4:48 pm)

The Economist on WikiLeaks' downsides. [The Economist]

But any gains will come at a high cost. In a world of WikiLeaks, diplomacy would no longer be possible. The secrecy that WikiLeaks despises is vital to all organisations, including government--and especially in the realm of international relations. Those who pass information to American diplomats, out of self-interest, conviction or goodwill, will be less open now. Some of them, like the Iranian businessman fingered as a friend of America, could face reprisals.

Taiwanese cartoon news animators provide a hilarious, but good video explainer. [NMA.tv


See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/12/how-to-think-about-wikileaks/67689/

(Added 12/9/2010, 1:22pm)

Evan Hansen on why WikiLeaks is good for America. [Wired.com]

Instead of encouraging online service providers to blacklist sites and writing new espionage laws that would further criminalize the publication of government secrets, we should regard WikiLeaks as subject to the same first amendment rights that protect The New York Times. And as a society, we should embrace the site as an expression of the fundamental freedom that is at the core of our Bill of Rights, not react like Chinese corporations that are happy to censor information on behalf of their government to curry favor.

Dianne Feinstein on why WikiLeaks is bad for America. [Wall Street Journal]
 

This latest WikiLeaks release demonstrates Mr. Assange's willingness to disseminate plans, comments, discussions and other communications that compromise our country. And let there be no doubt about the depth of the harm. Consider the sobering assessment, delivered in an email to employees of U.S. intelligence agencies late last month, by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: "The actions taken by WikiLeaks are not only deplorable, irresponsible, and reprehensible--they could have major impacts on our national security. The disclosure of classified documents puts at risk our troops, law enforcement, diplomats, and especially the American people."

Roberto Arguedas puts WikiLeaks and net neutrality in perspective. [Gizmodo]


The potential for Comcast or Verizon abusing their place in the food chain pales in comparison to an overt example of governments colluding to silence what they can't defeat in court with intimidation and technological warfare... As Senator Joseph Lieberman makes clear (via Cory), it's easy for unscrupulous advocates of censorship to view this as an opportunity, a watershed that brings together their traditional loathing of old media with contemporary technology. (Added 12/8/2010, 9:57pm)

Xeni Jardin on Internet groups' response to government pressure on WikiLeaks. [BoingBoing]

Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, the crescendo of extra-legal pressure tactics threaten all our freedom.

Silencing Mastercard.com with pingfloods or malware isn't going to do much to advance the cause of liberating those who would be silenced. But what exactly should be done? Normally I'd dismiss tweets describing this as "the world's first great infowar" as hyperbole. But this time, everything really does feel unprecedented. (Added 12/8/2010, 1:51pm)

John Naughton on the larger political significance of Wikileaks. [Guardian]

The political elites of western democracies have discovered that the internet can be a thorn not just in the side of authoritarian regimes, but in their sides too. It has been comical watching them and their agencies stomp about the net like maddened, half-blind giants trying to whack a mole. It has been deeply worrying to watch terrified internet companies - with the exception of Twitter, so far - bending to their will. But politicians now face an agonising dilemma. The old, mole-whacking approach won't work. WikiLeaks does not depend only on web technology. Thousands of copies of those secret cables - and probably of much else besides - are out there, distributed by peer-to-peer technologies like BitTorrent. Our rulers have a choice to make: either they learn to live in a WikiLeakable world, with all that implies in terms of their future behaviour; or they shut down the internet. Over to them.

Steve Aftergood on how WikiLeaks may lead to more secrecy, not less. [Secrecy News]

It is true that Wikileaks offers the most direct public access to the diplomatic cables and other records that it has published, most of which could not be obtained any time soon through normal channels.  But instead of subverting secrecy regimes, Wikileaks appears to be strengthening them, as new restrictions on information sharing are added and security measures are tightened.

Matthew Battles on a historical analog for WikiLeaks. [Gearfuse]

What's happening now is reminiscent of the state of censorship in France in the decades leading up to the Revolution, the story of which is admirably told in historian Robert Darnton's The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-revolutionary France. In the eighteenth century, publishers required a royal privilege to legally publish books in the kingdom of France. Morally outrageous works and works critical of the government were of course denied these privileges; the publishing sphere's response was to set up presses beyond the borders of France. The French appetite for the secret, the sexy, and the outlaw was met by pirate publishers operating beyond the reach of Government critiques could never sell as well as naughty books, of course--but in many cases the two were combined, in stories that told salacious tales of the nobility and their ministers which contained coded criticisms of official policies. Bawdy literature served as a form of encryption by which pre-revolutionary authors could ensure their disruptive messages could survive. (Added 12/8/2010, 12:21pm)

Daniel Drezner argues WikiLeaks will make things rough for historians down the line. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

As confused as the early analysis of the WikiLeaks cables has been, it is in the long term that their effect will be most negative for political scientists and diplomatic historians. (Added 12/8/2010, 9:57pm)

Wikipedia cofounder Larry Sanger on why he can't support WikiLeaks. [LarrySanger.com]

Let me put this another way.  There are a lot of things that the U.S. State Department does that democracy-loving people across the political landscape can agree are positive, or at least supportable.  But some of those things have to be done in secret.  That is the nature of diplomacy, espionage, and foreign policy in the real world, which is a dangerous, complex world.  To leak three million communiqués potentially undermines everything positive that the U.S. can do in the world.  Come on, folks--can't you see that?  It should be obvious, and it's very disappointing that it isn't more so to liberals.  Unless you count yourself as one of the aforementioned radical leftists, who want to see the U.S. lose, period, then you cannot support Wikileaks' action.  It is completely unsupportable.

Cintra Wilson on Americans' reaction to the leaked cables. [Hartford Advocate]

We have been so successfully brainwashed by the idea that we shouldn't know what our own government/military is doing, that when unadorned truth is given to us, it looks so alien that we actually believe we shouldn't see it. We've been kept in the dark for so long we're like prisoners released from solitary confinement who are so pained and frightened when exposed to sunshine we want to go back in the hole.

To get a feel for the primary documents, try our CableGate Roulette minisite, which serves up random stories handpicked from Wikileaks archive. The red button loads a story. [The Atlantic]

new story button.png

Evgeny Morozov on whether Assange is actually anti-secrecy. [Christian Science Monitor]

The more I learn about Julian Assange's philosophy, the more I come to believe that he is not really rooting to destroy secrecy or make transparency the primary good in social relations. His is a fairly conventional - even if a bit odd - political quest for "justice."

As far as I can understand Mr. Assange's theory - and I don't think that it's terribly coherent or well thought-out- he believes that one way to achieve justice is to minimize the power of governments to do things that their citizens do not know of and may not approve of if they do...

Here we mustn't forget that Assange made a name for himself in computer circles by being one of the key developers of a software application that helped users - and particularly human rights activists in authoritarian regimes - to encrypt and protect their data from the eyes of the authorities. So I don't think that Assange opposes "secrecy" altogether; for him, it's really all about keeping the government in check. (Added 12/8/2010, 2:19pm)


Aaron Bady on how Assange thinks. [Zunguzungu.wordpress.com]


He decides, instead, that the most effective way to attack this kind of organization would be to make "leaks" a fundamental part of the conspiracy's  information environment. Which is why the point is not that particular leaks are specifically effective. Wikileaks does not leak something like the "Collateral Murder" video as a way of putting an end to that particular military tactic; that would be to target a specific leg of the hydra even as it grows two more. Instead, the idea is that increasing the porousness of the conspiracy's information system will impede its functioning, that the conspiracy will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function. You destroy the conspiracy, in other words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire.

Todd Gitlin on the difference between Assange and Daniel Ellsberg. [The New Republic]
Kevin Poulsen and Kim Zetter from September on how Daniel Domscheit-Berg, founder of OpenLeaks, left Assange's organization. [Threat Level]

"You are not anyone's king or god," wrote Domscheit-Berg in the chat. "And you're not even fulfilling your role as a leader right now. A leader communicates and cultivates trust in himself. You are doing the exact opposite. You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader."
"You are suspended for one month, effective immediately," Assange shot back. "If you wish to appeal, you will be heard on Tuesday." (Added 12/10/2010, 12:05am)

Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers was a great democratic act that helped clarify for the American public how its leaders had misled it for years, to the immense detriment of the nation's honor. By contrast, Wikileaks's huge data dump, including the names of agents and recent diplomatic cables, is indiscriminate. Assange slashes and burns with impunity. He is a minister of chaos fighting for a world of total transparency. We have enough problems without that.

Mark Pesce on what comes after Assange's WikiLeaks. [The Human Network]

In exactly the same way - note for note - the failures of Wikileaks provide the blueprint for the systems which will follow it, and which will permanently leave the state and its actors neutered.  Assange must know this - a teenage hacker would understand the lesson of Napster.  Assange knows that someone had to get out in front and fail, before others could come along and succeed.  We're learning now, and to learn means to try and fail and try again.

This failure comes with a high cost.  It's likely that the Americans will eventually get their hands on Assange - a compliant Australian government has already made it clear that it will do nothing to thwart or even slow that request - and he'll be charged with espionage, likely convicted, and sent to a US Federal Prison for many, many years.  Assange gets to be the scapegoat, the pinup boy for a new kind of anarchism.  But what he's done can not be undone; this tear in the body politic will never truly heal.

Jack Shafer on the martyrdom of Assange. [Slate]

But throw a nonappealing guy with a cause into jail, and suddenly he becomes a hero. Assange already has a core group of supporters. (I count myself one.) The arrest and jailing will recruit new supporters from their sitting places on the fence; they'll now say, "I don't agree with everything he's done or how he has done it, but these sex charges seem a little trumped up!" Assange's opponents--the honest ones, at least--will rise to say that they'd love to see the pasty-faced bastard dumped into the Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., and become acquainted with the Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, FBI traitor Robert Hanssen*, shoe bomber Richard Reid, abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, and Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. But, they'll add, not on Swedish sex charges.

Jay Rosen on what exactly WikiLeaks is, as an institution. [Video: PressThink]

It is the world's first *stateless* news organization. What I mean by that is that all previous press companies or outfits have been formed under the laws of a given state and they reflect the culture and society of that place. The BBC is an international organization but it was formed, created by the British people. The New York Times has, still, despite its shrunken size, a global reach, but it is the product of the United States and of New York and it exists under the laws, traditions, and press culture of a state. But Wikileaks belongs to the Internet. And not only does it not obey the laws of any one nation. Not only does it exceed or secede from the press culture in the countries of the world, but it doesn't even start where they start. And so, it's a novel formation, a type of organization we haven't seen before. (Added 12/8/10, 12:50pm)

C.W. Anderson on the cables as a peculiar kind of "crowdsourced evidence." [Nieman Lab]

So the presence of these strange new extra-journalistic news objects isn't all that new. New "quasi-sources" have been hacking journalistic workflow for years. What's new is the scale of the evidence that's now bombarding journalism. The question of how to manage reader-submitted photos is a qualitatively different question than the dilemma of how to manage hundreds of thousands of leaked cables being provided by an information-transparency organization whose ultimate motives and values are unclear. Think of the State Department cables as a massive pile of crowdsourced evidence -- only in this case the "crowd" is the U.S. diplomatic corps, and the first work of document collection and analysis has been done by an outside organization. (Added 12/9/2010, 1:17 pm)

Emily Bell on how WikiLeaks has woken up journalism. [EmilyBellwether.wordpress.com]

Journalism is not just an intermediary in this, it is part of this. Journalists need to know what they think about the mission of Wikileaks and others like it, and they need to know where they would stand if the data dropped onto their desks and the government pressured them to be silent.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/12/how-to-think-about-wikileaks/67689/