WikiLeaks Watch 12/30/2010

Most of the recent noteworthy news centers around the Greenwald-Wired Debate. This is not an easily deconstructable debate. The latest flare-up originates from a Charlie Savage piece in the NY Times that used Adrian Lamo as a source in detailing how the Justice Department is trying to build a case against Assange sans the 1917 Espionage Act. That angle would rely more on charging Assange of conspiracy as “Mendax” under something like the “The 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.” This angle would require that Assange was instrumental in either providing technical assistance to Manning to hack the necessary access to the documents or had “social engineered” Manning to use his own security clearance to do so.

Savage, in his story, indicated that the sections where Manning had detailed his contacts with Assange could not be verified in excerpts released by “Wired” and that Lamo could not provide the full chat transcript for independent verification because the F.B.I. had since taken his hard drive of his computer which contained the logs.

Greenwald attacked Savage and the NY Times for publishing this story without verifying Lamo’s claims with hard evidence and then asked Wired to publish a story to verify or discount Lamo’s claims in the NY Times piece based on their full possession of “the hard evidence.” When Wired declined to respond to Greenwald, Greenwald then published a broadside against the journalistic ethics of Wired. Wired responded by claiming that the specifics mentioned in Savage’s piece, particularly the secure FTP access to a server provided to Manning to upload his documents to, had already been disclosed in their published excerpts and that what they had not published had no relevance to the Savage piece; the decision not to publish the entire logs was related to protecting the privacy concerns of both Manning and Lamo on matters that had no relevance to the legal case at issue. Wired’s decision not to publish the full transcripts has drawn criticism from many and includes speculation that they have been perhaps served a Patriot Act National Letters restriction.

My opinion on the matter, FWIW. The transcripts implicate Manning(NOTE: also establishing he would be a hero from an ethical and libertarian justice perspective), but they actually exonerate Assange. You can’t charge Assange as Mendax when Manning had the security clearance to access the documents. There was no hacking involved, period. “Hacking,” in this context, would pertain to “engineering” elevated, unauthorized security access to system resources. Not the case here. You also cannot charge Assange for being a “SysAdmin” of his own systems in giving Manning authorized, elevated access to his own systems for him to upload his documents to. Finally, the published transcripts establish that Manning was well-motivated on his own, and that there was no “social engineering, ” or trickery involved in convincing Manning to use his own security access to hand over documents. “The 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act” utterly fails when it comes to Assange.

Another point. Lamo’s “transcripts” would be worthless unless they were recorded by him acting as an agent in a government operation. And, in such a case,(mind you, a potential National security espionage case), it stretches any credibility to think that such “evidence” would not only be turned over to Wired and the Washington Post but also to the primary investigative target, Julian Assange. Yes, the same logs would be turned over later to Wikileaks by Lamo, at the request of Assange who wanted them to assist in his defense.

Another point to consider is just how much of a “lame” hacker Lamo would be by failing to back-up and encrypt his “logs” onto additional media storage devices, particularly given the magnitude of the case and the fact that he was passing them out like candy to media organizations. The FBI “seized” his hard drive is pretty lame.

Kevin Poulsen, in his rebuttal to Greenwald, took offense to any reference to his hacker past. But I would suggest that the whole case against Manning reeks of the hacker-government nexus in the political economy that has built up around computer security. In other words, it was a “snitch operation” by Lamo who used his contacts within this nexus to allow these “chat transcripts” to be taken seriously within the government apparatus. Perhaps enough to get at Manning but not enough to get at Assange.

There is investigative journalism to be had here, but it’s not going to come from Wired.The most potent criticism of Wired’s “Threat Level” and Paulsen is that the “threat” is the political economy of computer/network security. But you are not going to read that there.

Right Wing News: “The Entrepreneur as Vile Revolutionary Doctrine”

Apparently, I’m at the cusp of a burgeoning anarcho-libertarian, neo-communist progressive alliance due to my little essay, WikiLeaks: The Revolutionary as Entrepreneur. This according to Right Wing News, which uses my essay as an example of libertarianism giving cover to vile, anti-american revolutionary doctrine.

What’s just barely touched is the effect of WikiLeaks on the continued rise of anti-Americanism in the world. Eli Lake mentions this at the start of the clip, but the point gets lost at the remainder of the discussion. WikiLeaks has tightened the tacit alliance between the anarcho-libertarians and the neo-communist progressives. Nick Gillespie is a respectable guy, but the problem with libertarianism is that its adherents give cover for some of the most vile revolutionary doctrines now gaining increased respectability. See, “WikiLeaks: The Revolutionary as Entrepreneur.” More on that later. Meanwhile see my previous entries, “How Communists Exploit WikiLeaks,” and “Exposing the WikiLeaks/Communist/Media Alliance.”

I always chuckle when conservatives engage in radical politics deconstruction. That’s because “communist conspiracy” is the only tool in their toolbox. It’s almost like a bad parody of a Billy Mays infomercial hawking the “Magic Tool,” the only tool you’ll ever need to get the job done. Got a problem with Julian Assange, well the magic tool “Communist Conspiracy” will take care of that problem for you. Have a problem with “one-sided” media coverage of leaked US cables? Well, the magic tool explains that for you as well: it’s a communist plot. Have a problem with feminists not coming down hard enough on Assange vis a vis the rape allegations? That’s a trivial job for the Magic Tool. It’s simple. Feminism is a neo-Stalinist plot.

So let us dispense with the conservative silliness. There are essentially two points being made in my original essay. One casts the “secrecy vs transparency” argument in terms of the original libertarian(going old school French) “Entrepreneur vs Bureaucrat” paradigm. Ostensibly, no one wants secrecy(or privacy) and transparency to be an either/or issue: that is to say, I doubt many would want live either in a world of complete secrecy or complete transparency. What is the proper balance, and how should it be regulated? The libertarian casts it’s lot with the depoliticized Free Market and the Entrepreneur as regulating agent in such a system over the Bureaucrat enforcing economic “special pleading” in Political Economy.

The second point addresses the “revolutionary aspect” of the Entrepreneur in terms of how a political economy of permanent war incentivized by public choice is expected to react. Call me “anti-American” if you will, but the more accurate characterization would be anti-“American Exceptionalism.” That may very well end up being a crime in America, but that potential eventuality would only be demonstrating my point. In the end, the libertarian case is not going to be made by the exaltation of obscure manifestos or essays, but rather by the plain and utterly obvious corruption of political economy itself. Statist defense of this corruption vis a vis American Exceptionalism is the hanging rope. The destiny of American Exceptionalism hits the rocks worldwide when “anti-American” becomes synonymous with “anti-Corruption.” Believe me, Americans will be the last to know.

Exceptionalism, indeed…

Murray Rothbard on Che Guevara

This interview of Starchild by Reason.tv drew some criticism for the Reasonoid commenting trolls due largely to Starchild’s statement, “”We Need a Libertarian Che Guevara.”

I thought I would just point out “Mr. Libertarian’s” eulogy of Guevara originally published in the Libertarian Forum Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought,.

Heads explode in 3..2..1…

Update
Correction: Roderick Long notes that Rothbard’s eulogy was originally published in Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought, not the Libertarian Forum, as originally posted.

WikiLeaks Watch 12/28/2010

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster
Nietzsche

Thoreau opines what it will take to end the monstrosity of the Drug War, and, indeed, if it’s even possible to end it at this point. The Wikileaks cables provide Thoreau with his answer. No.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables.

In far greater detail than previously seen, the cables, from the cache obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to some news organizations, offer glimpses of drug agents balancing diplomacy and law enforcement in places where it can be hard to tell the politicians from the traffickers, and where drug rings are themselves mini-states whose wealth and violence permit them to run roughshod over struggling governments.

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Glenn Greenwald launches a broadside against the journalistic practices of Wired, in particular singling out Kevin Paulsen, the former hacker known as Dark Dante. FireDogLake has published a Timeline attacking the reliability of Adrian Lamo, the hacker whose chat transcripts with Bradley Manning are the only known apparent source tying Manning as a source for WikiLeaks.

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My opinion is that a great deal of clarity can be gleaned by casting Assange as an Entrepreneur rather than as another type of actor, particularly hacker or political activist. This alternative framing allows one to easily punch holes in a recent spate of “Nerd Commentary” that relies on creating a context defined by a “deconstruction” of hacker psychology.

Bruce Sterling, cyberpunk literature pioneer
WikiLeaks: the “crypto anarchist” blast that has finally detonated. Sterling views WikiLeaks as a “crypto anarchist” blast promised by the Gen-X hacker set in the early 90s that has finally exploded. Sterling dismisses any notion that Assange is a journalist of entrepreneur, instead viewing him purely as Mendax the hacker. He waxes poetically, but with warnings, over the psychological makeup of the cyberpunk revolutionaries who are finally exposing that National Government and a Global Internet are not compatible.

My advice on this matter is just take what Assange has said at plain value. He considers himself an entrepreneur. Sterling gives us a Novelist’s deconstruction of the cyperpunk, nerd motivations of Assange, but other than Manning, omits the motivations of the universe of the actual leakers of the documents. That’s because Sterling doesn’t know them. The so-called cyberpunk generation has grown up and aged and insinuated themselves into the political economy. I’ve seen quite enough of them transition quite well over to rent-seeking in the political economy. Assange is not selling to Sterling’s audience for literary cyberpunk fiction. Assange’s “customer base” of leakers is a different animal altogether.

Jaron Lanier, Virtual Reality Pioneer
WikLeaks: The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy. Another piece that views Assange purely as a hacker, and WikiLeaks as a challenge to Political Economy. Whereas Sterling is conflicted over such a challenge, Lanier is clearly not. Lanier cleverly uses the term “Civil Society” in lieu of “Political Economy” and argues that this civil society requires a degree of secrecy to function. The relative balance of secrecy vs transparency is not something that should be decided by “hackers” but rather by political actors.

Once again if we cast Assange as an Entrepreneur rather than as Mendax the Hacker, Lanier’s argument begins to resemble a standard fare “special pleading” argument for tariffs and other restrictions on any economic threat to the status quo. Civil Society, of course, is the Status Quo.

Writes Lanier at the beginning of his piece:

It doesn’t seem so to me. I actually take seriously the idea that the Internet can make non-traditional techie actors powerful.1 Therefore, I am less sympathetic to hackers when they use their newfound power arrogantly and non-constructively.

Now let’s rewrite this a bit that gives this an entire new meaning:

It doesn’t seem so to me. I actually take seriously the idea that the Internet can allow non-traditional entrepreneurs to acquire market share in news. Therefore, I am less sympathetic to entrepreneurs when they use their newfound market share in news arrogantly and non-constructively.

Now it sounds like some something Steve Jobs would blurt out regarding Mac rumor sites that publish prototype product details leaks, design flaw leaks, or gossip about Jobs’ autocratic management style. Well, people are leaking and people are reading and if they weren’t leaking and reading, then there would be no market share. Who should decide the relative secrecy/transparency of Apple? Steve Jobs? A politician Jobs buys off? Or the customers of Apple products?

Lanier gives us a clue about his conception of non-arrogant, constructive reporting:

As has been frequently observed, the Cablegate episode hasn’t revealed military or “top” secrets; at least as I write this. Furthermore, while some Wikileaks supporters see the documents as a portrait of an evil USA, actually the USA comes off pretty well in them.

One wonders how there would be any market share for document-sourced journalism if governments were behaving so splendidly.

Lanier concludes with of an application of wave physics to political systems.

Anarchy and dictatorship are entwined in eternal resonance. One never exists for long without turning to the other, and then back again. The only way out is structure, also known as democracy.

We sanction secretive spheres in order to have our civilian sphere. We furthermore structure democracy so that the secretive spheres are contained and accountable to the civilian sphere, though that’s not easy.

It is schoolboy nonsense that sees anarchy as a natural frequency for Dictatorship and Dictatorship as a natural frequency for anarchy. By Democracy as “structure,” I suppose it is meant that it serves a dampening factor that maintains the “stability” of the system. But if you actually want to bring physics into the equation when discussing “complex” political economy, it is politics that create “moral hazards” that reinforce positive feedback mechanism while dampening negative feedback mechanisms. The end result is that Complex Political Economy can only sustain stability at the expense of resiliency, which guarantees that at some point the system must transition to a new (rules-based) regime or cease being a complex system at all. Stability, Status Quo, at all costs, in the end, leads to “Dictatorship.”

WikiLeaks Watch 12/24/2010

Technical Update

WikiLeaks has once again updated the name server data for the wikileaks.org domain at their registrar, Dynadot.com. The new name servers are NS100.DYNADOT.COM,NS101.DYNADOT.COM. A Nslookup on the wikileaks.org domain against these authoritative name servers returns a new address, 64.64.12.170, which is owned by ServInt. ServInt is headquartered in McLean, Virginia and is a tier 3 provider with datacenters in Washington, DC and Los Angeles, CA. The new web host, however, is configured similarly to the previous one, in that is still simply redirecting web requests for wikileaks.org to mirror.wikileaks.info(which is still being hosted by Heihachi.net in Russia) .

The interesting tidbit here is that the new hosting provider, although still serving as merely a redirector, is basically next door to CIA headquarters.

I continue to maintain that with regards to the availability of the wikileaks.org domain, Wikileaks is playing political games. The changes in the journalist model(relying on traditional organizations for distribution) and the suspension of using the website for document submissions, affords the organization the opportunity to use the website for symbolic, political propaganda purposes. I can’t think of a more obvious way to confirm this than by WikiLeaks choosing a provider next door to the CIA. In addition, ServInt, last year, made some news when it objected to a Rachel Maddow Segment that featured Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing suggesting that content providers use offshore hosting because of such things as DMCA.

Another game…

WikiLeaks Watch 12/23/2010

(Updated Below)

EFF Reports that Softlayer Technologies has forced a hosting reseller,SiteGroud, in it’s Dallas Datacenter to shut down a WikiLeaks mirror of a client on the pretext of avoiding DDoS attacks. The interesting tidbit here is that Softlayer Technologies is the hosting provider, either directly or via a reseller, of torrent-finder.info(previously torrent-finder.com before the domain was seized) that has been in news due to the DHS/ICE domain seizures. This new information would seem to confirm that DHS has made no effort to directly shut down the operation of the torrent-finder website; otherwise, it is fairly obvious that Softlayer would have happily complied with such a request.

Traceroute queries indicate that Softlayer’s network is a Tier 2 peering provider.

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Yesterday, Julian Assange was interviewed by Cenk Uygur on MSNBC and responded to charges of being a “terrorist” with a lengthy deconstruction of the definition of terrorism and concluding that it was the US Government who was actually guilty of this charge. He called Huckabee and Palin idiots and examples of “shock jock” politicians. Assange, however, several times praised the American Revolutionary traditions behind the First Amendment.

Assange, in rebuffing the claim of being guilty of espionage under the 1917 Espionage Act, used a curious argument that the 1917 Act was an antiquated piece of legislation that applied to legitimately combating espionage during the WW I, but which was no longer applicable. That would be an incorrect interpretation. The 1917 Act, particularly with the amendments of the Sedition Act of 1918, gave wide discretion to the US Attorney General to use it as a means to silence and arrest dissent. The amendments of the Sedition Act were repealed, but the 1917 Act still remains on the books and is trotted out from time to time as a potential hammer to combat whistle blowing as treason. Politicians like Joe Lieberman are advocating essentially restoring the Sedition Act of 1918 as an amendment. The 1917 Espionage Act has never been about ‘espionage” and, unfortunately, it is hardly antiquated…

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Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s leading independent newspaper which is headed by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and billionaire Alexander Lebedev, has joined forces with WikiLeaks to expose corruption in the Russian Government. I just have to laugh. I’m left wondering who actually won the “cold war” while concluding that “Glasnost and Perestroika” were much more substantial slogans than our latest American fare, “Change we can believe in.”

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Online Real-Time Resources

Greg Mitchell, at The Nation, has a daily Wikileaks blog that is an outstanding source of information to keep up to date on the politics of WikiLeaks. Note: The Nation has been much better on the topic of WikiLeaks than TSA.

The Guardian’s Cablegate section is, of course, the best real-time source to keep up to date on Cablegate.

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Update

Glenn Greenwald Reports that the UN is formally launching an investigation into the US detainment of Bradley Manning.

Oh, the irony of American Exceptionalism in the 21st century when 20th century American creations like the UN and the IMF begin to point their guns at their apostate creator.

When Mickey Mouse and Barney Fife Join Forces

TechDirt has latest regarding the Mickey Mouse/Barney Fife operation that is behind the DHS seizure of domains.

I reviewed the “technical aspects” of the affidavit, at least the original partial one that can be found here ,and it pretty much confirms what I originally reported in this post, The Background Dope on DHS Recent Seizure of Domains. At the time of my original post on this subject, it was not verifiable whether these “seizures” were a part of an “official operation” or not, or if the instigators behind this were the usual suspects, MPAA,RIAA. When DHS announced this was part of an official operation, Operation In Our Sites 2, I wrote an update post here; and based on a subsequent LA Times article, I posted posted a comment here that reflected the fact that MPAA,RIAA were the ones who were reporting the “violating sites.”

Some notes on the affidavit:

It clearly specifies that the domain seizure was to be executed by going through VeriSign. I detailed the mechanics of how that was done in my original post. However, the affidavit also clearly specifies that the domains were to be transferred in ownership over to DHS/ICE vis a vis their respective registrars. That has not happened yet. That was supposed to be done, but Whois queries against the registrar databases for the domains in question indicate that it has not been done.

The affidavit gets the registrar, the IP Address and the hosting provider for torrent-finder.com wrong. It lists Blue Razor as the registrar, and even though Blue Razor appears to be owned by the same entity that own GoDaddy, it is GoDaddy who is the registrar. The hosting provider for torrent-finder.com is SoftLayer Technologies, located in Dallas, TX, and not Secure Hosting LTD, located in the Bahamas.

Reading the affidavit,particularly as it pertained to torrent-finder.com, I now know why ICE subcontracts out to “private companies” like immixGroup IT Solutions. We are literally dealing Agent Barney Fife, here. Writes Agent Fife:

“Based on my training and experience, queries of public movie listings and my discussion with MPAA representatives, I know that “Secretariat” is a first run movie that was released to the general public for homeviewing.”

Whoa, all that tax-payer funded training gave Agent Fife the requisite specialized knowledge to figure that all out by himself. I’m sure all that experience has trained him to first check with government computers to make sure that information wasn’t classified.

Agent Fife outlines how his specially trained snooping abilities led him to conclude that torrent-finder.com was actually hosting “pirated content.” The problem for Agent Fife, however, is that the “download link” that he clicked on that allowed him to directly download a torrent for “The Town” was actually being hosted by torecache.com in Estonia. We dread the day when agent Fife’s superior training and experience leads him to discover The Google can be used to pull up direct links to torrent files the MPAA disapproves of.

This exhibit A of Hayek’s “how the worst get to the top”….