Cablegate and the aftermath: a few observations
Wikileaks released a set of United States diplomatic cables on Nov 28, 2010, popularly referred to as Cablegate. Let’s consider the events which happened afterward.
- A hacktivist brought down WikiLeaks(just before the cable leak) using Distributed Denial of Service(DDOS) attack.
- Amazon shuts down Wikileaks (which use to run on its EC2 service)
- Bank of America, Paypal, and Visa declared not to process payment(donations) to WikiLeaks.
- Suddenly, the Swiss rape case against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (the case 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 Guardian further published the allegations in the case, and from here began an analysis of what is consensual and what is not. It should be noted that the leak of the Afghan documents happened on July 25, 2010, and within a month the first rape case on Assange was registered.
- Assange dating profile from OKCupid was discussed and his more than five years old love letters to a 19-year-old were leaked. He was 33 then.
- Anonymous brings down Visa, Mastercard, the swiss rape case prosecutor’s website, and some other websites (using DDOS of course) under Operation Avenge Assange.
- Bank of America (~300) registers anti-BofA domain names
- CIA creates WTF (Wikileaks Task Force)
- Some people believe that DDOS is an expression of freedom of expression. Just like workers blocking entry to a factory during a strike.
Even if we buy this argument, the global nature of the internet has more severe implications. Just like strikes, while DDOS is illegal in some countries, most countries have no laws against it. Consider (say) a person in the 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 laws with its firewalls. But is it possible for a nation to identify (1) who is breaking the law? (2) Cut the communication? (3) Punish the lawbreaker 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.
- 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 the COICA bill, the fate of everything on the Internet is still influenced by US Government or maybe by lobbyists who were captured in cables.
- One of the cables stated that “USA learned Internet is fundamentally controllable,” the continuous re-appearance of Wikileaks has proved that’s not the case.
- BofA’s reaction clearly shows how important it is to protect a brand online.
- The creation of WTF does imply that the US government is reconsidering its policy of intelligence information sharing (which was relaxed after the 9/11 attacks) which will have further implications regarding security.
- The leak of Assange’s 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 the past, our privacy (or lack thereof) is the new norm of the Internet-centric world.
- 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 qualify him as a rapist”) has resulted in shameless debates, it has raised a question of how not to violate not-so-intuitive laws while traveling internationally.
- Probably, the aptest reaction to Cablegate is from XKCD. I would interpret it as a group shouting “let all but our personal information be made public”.
- This is my blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.
- In this blog post, my intention was neither to justify nor to criticize what WikiLeaks did.