Monday, December 27, 2010

Well here's a different take ...

... on WikiLeaks: The Blast Shack. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The more I think about this, the more I am convinced the outcome will be a black swan. This piece, like all the others I have looked at, interprets the matter in terms of what we know now, projecting that into the future. I suspect something unsuspected will happen. I also think that in the long run Julian Assange and Bradley Manning will become footnotes. Manning seems to me a confused young man. Give him a slap on the wrist, and let him go on with his life.


  1. Manning may very well be a "confused young man," but what he is accused of is no minor crime.

    Manning took an oath as a soldier and another oath not to disclose unauthorized classified information.

    If he is convicted in a lawful court martial for disclosing classified information, then I hope he receives the maximum punishment.

    The disclosure of classified information, particularly in wartime, aids our enemies and places our troops in greater danger.

    Enemy intelligence officers have not only received the classified information posted on WikiLeaks, they have also been able to determine the classified sources and methods used to obtain that information, which in turn exposes greater secrets, which in turn leads to greater danger to our troops.

    For example, Navy radioman John Walker gave the Soviets classified information that led to the deaths of our troops in Vietnam.

    For the average reader, the data on WikiLeaks may seem not seem like much, but to a trained and expierenced intelligence officer, it is a gold mine.

    I spent most of my working life in the U.S. Navy and the Defense Department protecting classified information and protecting our military and civilian personnel.

    As an investigating officer I've conducted investigations into the possible disclosure of classified information.

    This is a serious matter.

    Millions of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilian employees have been faithful to their oaths over the years and through the wars. They were true to their brothers-in-arms.

    If convicted, Manning should be given much more than a slap on the wrist.

  2. As usual, Bruce Sterling manages to sum things up very well, including what's scary and what's not. He's entirely correct, for example, about the potential for the NSA to be a detriment to democracy. His analysis of Manning's probable state of mind is also very believable, to me at least, who has known similar types of semi-hackers.

    "Superpower hypocrisy" is what this is all about. People in power panicking and making repressive attacks because they feel embarassed and because they were made to look stupid. The logic behind their attacks on WikiLeaks is permeable and flawed, as Sterling points out.

  3. By "a slap on the wrist," Paul I didn't mean no punishment at all. I think he ought to serve some time, but I don't think he should be executed. I think he should be made to understand the gravity of what he did and pay accordingly. But to regard him as Alger Hiss is excessive. As Jesus said, "the law was made for man, not man for the law."
    As for Sterling, Art, I think he's as cliched in his thinking as many others. I worked for a number of years in the field of arms control and disarmament. The Dr. Strangelove view of that field is, to put it bluntly, complete bullshit. And most of what people think about "superpowers" is based entirely on what they read in newspapers or whatever. It's all a good deal more complicated than what the ideological cliches might lead one to believe. Trust me: GeopoliticaL reality is actually just as ambiguous and subtle as any poem you might read. It's time poets figured that out.

  4. Frank,

    We are war and it might come to light in the future that the WikiLeaks material caused the death of American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I'd like to also defend NSA, as NSA defends us every day.

    NSA has stopped numerous terrorist acts since 9/11 and they saved a good number of American lives during the Vietnam War and the Cold War.

    NSA is not a detriment to democracy, the organization is a protector of democracy.

    Without our military, and NSA is part of the U.S. military, there would be no American democracy.

  5. I dunno. I'm not convinced by the pro-NSA arguments. I do not doubt for a minute that they do indeed protect many of our freedoms—but I also do not doubt that the habit of secrecy itself can breed abuse of power. I find it amazing that no-one in this debate seems to remember the Nixon years, or Daniel Ellsberg: those issues are indeed relevant and parallel to the current topic.

    I guess, as Agent Mulder once said, "I'm trying to figure out which lie to believe." LOL

    To be honest, if one has to choose between cant or viewpoint, I find Sterling's more congenial than the others presented here. For one thing, Sterling does know what he's talking about; I've read his columns off an on for years, and his insights into hacker culture are not cliched, they're dead-on accurate. And they match my own experience of cyber-culture.

  6. P.S. Like hell is the NSA "part of the US military." They are no more part of the military than is the CIA or the DEA or the FBI. They are a governmental agency, not a military agency.

    If you want to make an argument like that, first get the facts right, and second, watch out for the gaps in basic logic. LOL

  7. Sterling's piece undoubtedly offers a useful perspective with regard to hacker culture, but is very thin on evidence, particularly in terms of character analysis. He should stick to fiction. And even in fiction, characters are permitted to develop over a 20-year period.

    Frank, you may very well be right about a black swan. The internet itself has proved to be one.

    @Paul, if it's such a serious matter, the Defence Department seems to do a piss poor job of protecting it.

  8. I suspect, judging from many of the comments following Sterling's piece, that a good many of those who approve of Assange do so because the leaks have to do with the US military and the US foreign policy, but that, if the leaks had been from the current Justice Department, say, or the Department of Education, they would feel quite differently.

  9. Mr. Durkee,

    Below is a link to a listing of Defense Department organization. NSA comes under Defense agencies:

    NSA reports to the Secretary of Defense and is commanded by a U.S. Army General (or an Air Force General, or a Navy admiral).

    NSA, like all of the members of the intelligence community, which includes the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is also a Defense Department command, also reports to the Director of National Intelligence.

    As I noted in my intial comment, I spent more than 37 years in the U.S. Navy and the Defense Department.

    I've been to NSA headquarters for training and briefings and I've worked alongside uniformed and civilian NSA people.

    Those uniformed and civilian people swore an oath to defend the Constitution. They protect America. They serve America.

    You mention Nixon and Ellsberg. They were politicans, not NSA. It was Nixon and Keneddy and Johnson and their political appointees, not NSA uniformed or civilian employees involved in those scandals.

    While you sleep soundly or read poetry peacefully, NSA people are working around the world - at firebases in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as ships at sea - defending you, me and the rest of the country.

  10. Working in the so-called name of defence is not always defendable.

  11. Working in the name of anything, Lee, may not always be defensible. But the people I have known in the military have generally been more honorable than many of those I have known who have tended to denigrate them (I used to get calls at my house in Germantown from a guy named Abby Hoffman, so I know the "peace movement" from the inside, you might say.)