Cablegate and the aftermath: a few observations

Wikileaks released a set of United States diplomatic cables on Nov 28, 2010 popularly referred as cablegate. Lets consider the events which happened afterwards.
Events:

  1. hacktivist brought down wikileaks(just before the cable leak) using Distributed Denial of Service(DDOS) attack.
  2. Amazon shuts down Wikileak (which use to run on its EC2 service)
  3. Bank of America, Paypal and Visa declared not to process payment(donations) to wikileaks.
  4. Suddenly, the swiss rape case against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (which was registered and closed on August 20, 2010) was reopened. One week after the cable leaks, on Dec 6, Assange was notified about the rape case, The Gurdian further published the allegations in the case and from here began analysis of what is consensual and what is not. It should be noted that Afghan documents leak happened on July 25, 2010 and within a month the first rape case on Assange was registered.
  5. Assange dating profile from OKCupid was discussed and his (more than 5 years old) love letters(mails) to a19-year old were leaked(he was 33 then)
  6. Anonymous brings down Visa, Mastercardswiss rape case prosecutor’s website and some other websites (using DDOS of course) under Operation Avenge Assange.
  7. Bank of America (~300) registers anti-BofA domain names
  8. CIA creates WTF (Wikileaks Task Force)

Observations:

  1. Some people believe that DDOS are an expression of freedom of expression (just like workers blocking entry to a factory during strike).
    Even if we buy this argument, the global nature of internet has more severe implications. Just like strikes, while DDOS are illegal in some countries, most countries have no laws against it. Consider (say) a person in UK, who has to access (say) paypal which is being DDOSed from a country where there is no law against DDOS. This poses an interesting question on how will nations implement their laws in this borderless world. China did have some success in implementing its lawswith its firewalls but is it possible for a nation to identify (1) who is breaking the law? (2) Cut the communication? (3) Punish the law breaker sitting across its border?
    While (1) might be possible to some extent, in an increasingly connected world (2) is near impossible and (3) depends on (much needed) international ties.
  2. Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Bank of America took action against Wikileaks.
    Interestingly, none of these organizations took any action against wikileaks till recently (even after the Afghan war documents leak). As seen in COICA bill, fate of [everything on] internet is still influenced by US Government (or may be by lobbyists who were captured in cables).
  3. One of the cables stated that “USA learnt Internet is fundamentally controllable”, the continuous re-appearance of Wikileaks has proved that’s not the case.
  4. BofA’s reaction clearly shows that how important it is to protect a brand online.
  5. Creation of WTF does imply that the US government is reconsidering its policy of intelligence information sharing (which was relaxed after 9/11 attacks) which will have further implications in terms of security.
  6. Leak of Assange’s personal info and  the victim’s deleted blogs and twitter posts reminds us of the statement “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”.
    Gone to Texas” is a thing of past, our privacy (or lack thereof) is the new norm of internet-centric world.
  7. While the rape accusations based on controversial Sweden law (interpreted as “a woman can withdraw consent anytime during the sexual intercourse and any further advances from man qualifies him as rapist”) has resulted in shameless debates, it has definitely raised a question of how not to violate not-so-intuitive laws while traveling internationally.
  8. Probably, the most apt reaction to cablegate is from XKCD [I would interpret it as a group shouting "let all but our personal information be made public"]

Disclaimer:

  1. This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.
  2. In this blog post, my intention was neither to justify nor to criticize what wikileaks did.