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  1. #1
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    Leaking Classified Information via the Internet

    So here's one for you.



    I don't know how many of us were keeping an eye on this, but there's a well-known journalism website that encourages persons (eg. employees of governments or large corporations) with access to sensitive but pertinent (to public wellbeing or critical news) documents to anonymously submit to them to the site.

    They verify the data is true as best they can, then publish for all to see. It's done in the name of promoting transparency.



    They've exposed, among other things, banking corruption in Iceland, an Internet blacklist in Australia, military corruption in Morocco, and an infamous video of a helicopter attack against civilians in Iraq.

    On the other side, there are those concerned that a website like this could undermine legitimate war efforts in some situations (for example, by revealing a miliary strategy).



    So, speaking very generally and avoiding personal attacks, I'm curious about what you guys think about this brand of journalism.

    Is it journalism?

    Do you believe a website like this (and perhaps more like these in future?) are a necessity in today's world, or a potential menace?

    Do you believe there are situations when sensitive information should be hidden from the public?... Which is to say, does the "for your own good" argument ever hold water?



    The method of this website is to encourage those with access to important, relevant information to "leak" it. In some cases that is considered illegal, but would you consider it immoral as well, and how necessary are these kinds of methods to journalism on the whole?



    I know what I think, but I'm curious about your views.

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  2. #2
    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    In principle I support the concept but human nature being what it is you will get disgruntled face less cowards who will use their access to normally "classified" information to embarass, get back at, or whatever, those they feel have treated them harshly or unfairly.

    So in it's current form I hope, and I think it eventually will, it will be shut down and some time in the future be resurrected with much more stringent requirements and controls on authenticity and relevancy for its content. How you do that I don't know off the top of my head.

    The one thing that puzzles me though is did the person running the site (now in custody over other matters) expect any other type of reaction from world leaders, governments etc.....I mean, wtf was he thinking

  3. #3
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    In America, the first amendment provides freedom of the press.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
    The Justice Department has steered clear of prosecuting journalists for publishing leaked secrets. Leakers have occasionally been prosecuted instead.

    The question is, is the person who publishes the info to be harmed, or should they instead act upon the person who originally leaked the info.

    Can and should America take action when the site and the owner are outside of the USA?

    If the publisher gets in trouble, is that setting a precedent for the freedom of the press world-wide?

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    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    You raise some very interesting and valid points which have also been raised elsewhere and need to be sorted out.

    Quote Originally Posted by pmw57 View Post
    In America, the first amendment provides freedom of the press.

    The Justice Department has steered clear of prosecuting journalists for publishing leaked secrets. Leakers have occasionally been prosecuted instead.

    The question is, is the person who publishes the info to be harmed, or should they instead act upon the person who originally leaked the info.
    with everything else being equal, imho both the publisher and leaker should be prosecuted if they broke the law. but that is the $64M question atm. what is the law?

    Quote Originally Posted by pmw57 View Post
    Can and should America take action when the site and the owner are outside of the USA?
    my undestanding under current law is that unless the website is operating under US jurisdiction then the US has recourse only against its own people who break US laws by leaking information.

    Quote Originally Posted by pmw57 View Post
    If the publisher gets in trouble, is that setting a precedent for the freedom of the press world-wide?
    probably not, but it will change the way people interact with each other especially at "high" levels.

    So the above points are part of the reason why I think the site should be shutdown until the above and other relevent issues have been sorted out (and that is obvioulsy not going to happen quckly). Then it can be resurrected.

    ok, now that I've given my what's your ?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalon View Post
    ok, now that I've given my what's your ?
    My opinion is the the press should not collude with the government, for once people notice such collusion it leads to a loss of faith in the press.
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    It is an interesting topic... Ideally, this type of journalism should not be necessary... but of course, the world isn't ideal, is it?

    I think this type of journalism is necessary because governments do lie and do things that they shouldn't do... but it is also true that this journalism may cause huge security holes, and also they may believe that they can do anything for the sake of "information"

    Another interesting point would be why am I supposed to trust them? Like in any newspaper, there's not way that I can't guarantee that the information is not manipulated or that it is the very personal point of view of the journalist, or maybe that the journalist is publishing something for his/her own interest.

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    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmw57 View Post
    My opinion is the the press should not collude with the government, for once people notice such collusion it leads to a loss of faith in the press.
    yes agree 100% and I think most people would as well.

    but then how do we go about policing and exposing any illegetimate collusion? I don't think the current method is the right way although I agree with the principle behind the method.

    Imho the numero uno thing that has to be sorted out, defined and agreed to is "What is freedom of speech?"

    Obviously it can't mean open slather for anyone to say what they like where they like. So until a line in the sand can be drawn and everyone agreeing to it (which will probably never happen) we're always going to have the situation we have now with that site (btw - why can't we mention the name?) where just about anything can be published there. The only issue then will be to what degree will the security/privacy issues exist?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalon View Post
    with everything else being equal, imho both the publisher and leaker should be prosecuted if they broke the law. but that is the $64M question atm. what is the law?
    Under US law, there is very little a publisher can be charged with, thanks to the first amendment. In this particular case, they may attempt to invoke the Espionage Act of 1917, but it may prove difficult as the goods which were "liberated" were not actually physically stolen--just copied in digital format rendering the original copies still perfectly usable. The goods were also classified as intellectual property, rather than physical property.

    The individual responsible for the leak has been arrested and charged under the maximum force under the law, and has been in custody since July. His life is probably over at this point. The courts are looking at a jail sentence of upwards of 50 years.


    On one hand, it's a little disconcerting to have confidential information floating out in the public eye which wasn't meant to be public. On the other hand, it informs voters on what's actually happening off-camera. Obviously, some politicians have been severely embarrassed by this, while others have not. If you notice, some of the ones who have been thoroughly embarrassed seem to be leading this "witch-hunt".

    A lot of people in the US don't trust the government and their selective (or no) disclosure policies, especially about important national issues. This offers a peak behind the curtain.

    Then again, there are security issues to consider--keeping operations safe, personnel safe, citizens safe, and allies safe.

    Bottom line is that nobody's really sure what to do about this--it's really the first situation of its kind. In some ways it's good, in many ways it's not. Granted, there have been leaks on specific matters in the past, but the scale and the amount of material available is certainly unprecedented.
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    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    yep agree and I should have said "in general" as laws can really only apply to that country.

    maybe the only way to clamp down on this, given the complexity and potential impracticality of having international laws governing leaks is for each country to make laws that severley discourage "inappropriate" leaks by their people. This should severley restrict the supply of leaks. But then we get into the "grey" and controvertial area of what is "inappropriate"

    hmmmm...but then what about if someone leaks what is eventually deemed an appropriate leak which references another country that believes the leak is not appropriate under it's laws.

    Oh well, the more I think about it the more I think now that Pandora's Box has been opened or the jeanie has been let out of the bottle there is no going back now and this will certainly alter how people will interact with each other on the global stage.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Force Flow View Post
    Bottom line is that nobody's really sure what to do about this--it's really the first situation of its kind. In some ways it's good, in many ways it's not. Granted, there have been leaks on specific matters in the past, but the scale and the amount of material available is certainly unprecedented.
    The problem as I see it is that it was leaked to an "internet" news site, to a worldwide audience.

    If the leak went to the NY Times or any other "brick and mortar" press organisation, there would be nowhere near this amount of hysteria.

    I believe that the crux of the matter centers on the issue of control. It's not that Wikileaks is out of control, it's that no political pressure can be applied to them, which is something that tends to keep the more traditional press organisations in line.
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  11. #11
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    I dont like it - it looks something like a one man's crusade...

    the next thing we will se is probably neighbour spying on neighbour, and releases it onto some new site, or brothers spying on brother etc etc... i see no limitations here...
    maybe if it could be done more quietly..some things are not for the masses... i don't know, but i can't say i like it as it is today...
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    I haven't given much thought to it but for the time being I'm throwing it in the "copyright infringement" pot (which I think it essentially is).

    So to answer the question, yes, I think it's immoral.
    Saul

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazybanana View Post
    I dont like it - it looks something like a one man's crusade...
    Something to remember is that wikileaks is not a one-man show. The organisation employs many different people, just like any company.

    Julian's role is to "front" the company. When people personalise a company (Apple is Steve Jobs!) it's tempting to think that taking down the man will take down the company. That's just not the case though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by php_daemon View Post
    I haven't given much thought to it but for the time being I'm throwing it in the "copyright infringement" pot (which I think it essentially is).
    IANAL but copyright infringement is a private undertaking. Governments do not initiate such proceedings, not should it.
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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Crazybanana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmw57 View Post
    Something to remember is that wikileaks is not a one-man show.
    i know this, but this is how it looks right now...
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    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmw57 View Post
    Julian's role is to "front" the company. When people personalise a company (Apple is Steve Jobs!) it's tempting to think that taking down the man will take down the company. That's just not the case though.
    I'm confused now :

    Sure he's the "front man" but if he for whatever reason said ok shut it down immediately, are you saying it can't or wouldn't happen?

    (I'm talking about Julian Assange and not Steve Jobs - just in case you were wondering which )

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalon View Post
    Sure he's the "front man" but if he for whatever reason said ok shut it down immediately, are you saying it can't or wouldn't happen?
    It's not very likely though it is.

    When for whatever reason I am presented with convincing evidence that god exists, then I will no longer be an atheist.

    Given that aliens visit earth and introduce themselves in peace to our governments, we should consider how we might handle such things.

    Just because something is possible, doesn't mean that it's probable that it will actually occur. We may prepare for such eventualities should they occur, but we shouldn't bank on it either.

    Given that he has an insurance package in case things are taken down, it's not very likely at all that he will give such an order. How do you know that the insurance won't activate once things are taken down too?

    This is why acts to discredit him instead are performed.
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    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    I'm even more confused now.

    was that a yes or a no?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalon View Post
    I'm even more confused now.

    was that a yes or a no?
    Yes it was
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalon View Post
    Sure he's the "front man" but if he for whatever reason said ok shut it down immediately, are you saying it can't or wouldn't happen?
    He's editor-in-chief and spokesperson, and is attributed as the founder. It is technically owned by a company owned by "sunshine press", but I wasn't able to pinpoint which "sunshine press" it was with a quick google search since there is a number of like-named companies.

    I'm sure he can control the direction of the organization regardless, as he appears to have the final say in most matters, but he also instituted a "dead man's switch" consisting of some potentially volatile information to be released to the public in the event that something happens to him. I'm sure that have given some folks pause, especially the people who have literally called for his head. Instead, they've gone after his reputation.
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    Non-Member Kalon's Avatar
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    omg what kind of monster has been created here that we can't shut down ?

    then who has the authority to shut it down?

    someone stop the planet, i wanna jump off

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalon View Post
    omg what kind of monster has been created here that we can't shut down ?
    It's not like he's a maniac or insane or after world domination...he just believes that certain things that have been covered up or haven't been disclosed should be disclosed.

    He's claimed that not everything has been released, and some of the information which was more classified/sensitive in nature or related to current operations has been withheld. Prior to the public release of his stash of information, he also claims to have contacted the US government about information they may have wanted withheld due to security issues. He claimed not to have received a response. At least, that's according to when I read in the local paper this morning.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalon View Post
    omg what kind of monster has been created here that we can't shut down ?

    then who has the authority to shut it down?

    someone stop the planet, i wanna jump off
    Just shut down the internet, because wikileaks is not the only press organisation doing this, and they won't be the last either.
    As your questions about shutting him down have illustrated, this is a matter of control.

    Wikileaks is the only the messenger. Do not shoot the messenger, because many more exist in their place.

    Instead focus on the parts of your own organisation that are weak enough to allow such leaks to occur, and potentially (though unlikely) improve your business practices so that there are no grounds for such leaks to even exist.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaun(OfTheDead) View Post
    Which is to say, does the "for your own good" argument ever hold water?
    It's said that "'necessity' is the excuse of tyrants and the creed of slaves"

    I tend to agree with the Bananamanna; the faceless "tyrants" need to keep these secrets, and a rights warrior (read different ilk of tyrant) needs to expose the secrets.
    Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pmw57 View Post
    Wikileaks is the only the messenger. Do not shoot the messenger, because many more exist in their place.

    Instead focus on the parts of your own organisation that are weak enough to allow such leaks to occur, and potentially (though unlikely) improve your business practices so that there are no grounds for such leaks to even exist.
    Agreed
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