The Wikileaks War Escalation & U.S. Mimicry of Authoritarian Regimes

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There is a war taking place at this very moment. An information war between the U.S. government and Wikileaks, along with their respective allies. Elements of both  parties to the war are likely acting illegally.

First, at the behest of the  State Department,  several big corporations have ended all dealings with Wikileaks. The U.S. government successfully persuaded Amazon, Paypal, Mastercard, Visa, and others to  withdraw all services to Wikileaks in an attempt to undermine the latter’s ability to disseminate information and raise funds.

The companies explain that they are justified in their actions because Wikileaks is or might be engaging in illegal activity. However, at this point in time, it is far from clear if Wikileaks has done anything illegal.

Outside of official state action,  there have been several DDoS attacks upon Wikileaks in the last few days.

Wikileaks’ partisans have fought back: a group of hackers–who call themselves “Operation Payback”–attacked and shut down Mastercard.com for cooperating with the government. It is still down at this moment. The same group also took down a swiss bank because it closed Wikileaks’ bank account.

Futile Censorship

Ulimately, this government-initiated war to cripple Wikileaks’ technical capabilities is futile; Wikileaks reports that there are 1005 mirror of its website already floating around the web. In other words, the leaked cables, all 250,00 of them, will see the light of day irrespective of the government’s efforts to stifle them.

The U.S. government and other powers are purposefully waging an intense war of propaganda–directed not at the substance of the leaked cables but at  how people view Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

Sen. Lieberman, leading the charge, has went so far as to call for an investigation into the NYtimes to determine whether the newspaper violated the espionage act.

Lieberman and others are squeezing all the persuasive power they can out of the inherent nationalism that sits within us all in order to destroy Wikileaks.

In doing so, the US government is revealing itself for what it is rather than what it so often purports to be. Our government has persistently and stridently criticized governments of nations, such as Cuba and Venezuela, for engaging in state-sponsored censorship. And rightfully so. Yet now that information adverse to the U.S. goverment’s interests has been massively exposed like never before, it is doing all in its power to censor in a manner it publicly claims to be against.

The diplomatic cables are now a permanent fixture of the public sphere, even if they were obtained illegally. Not willing to confront reality, the US government is attempting  to censor the cables at all costs, even if it involves violating the principles of the first amendment. This is an echo of tactics employed by authoritarian regimes.

For example, despite overwhelming evidence that Cuba locks up political dissidents, the Cuban government does all it can to deny reality by means of erasure and obfuscation. One may say that the Wikileaks case is different because the cables were illegally obtained, but the act of the censorship is identical because of the inevitable existence of the information in the first place.

Put differently, I believe that the very same government actors who are attacking Wikileaks would act similarly regardless of the nature of the information that has been released, as long as the information at stake stands to jeopardize their agenda. Even if the information disclosed showed egregious or illegal activity by the government, the censorship would be at full tilt.   Thankfully, the messenger is not the source.

 

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