Politicians Investigating Leaks Sites… Not Leaks

from the you're-doing-it-wrong dept

It was rumored recently that some politicians were going to investigate Wikileaks for some leaked documents that were posted there. The details weren’t clear, and I was hoping something was lost in the translation, and they meant that the politicians would be investigating the leaks not the site Wikileaks for posting it. No such luck apparently. Three Congressional Reps have apparently asked Homeland Security what can be done about sites that post leaked documents, including not just Wikileaks, but Cryptome as well. In the letter to Homeland Security, they basically suggest that if needed, they’ll put forth legislation that would make reposting such content illegal, which could create one hell of a First Amendment legal battle at some point. Either way, these politicians are focused on the wrong things. The problems aren’t these sites, which are just service providers for the information. The problems are the leaks of info themselves.

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Comments on “Politicians Investigating Leaks Sites… Not Leaks”

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ChimpBush McHitlerBurton says:

Re: Feynman's maxim

In other words, “We tend to want to shoot the messenger”.

That being what it is, I’m still perplexed by not only the desire to go after the leak publishers instead of the leak-makers…

…but what about the malfeasance the leak exposes? No discussion on the legality of the leaked action and the benefit that the leak provides to correct misdeeds in government?

Of course not. Let’s not use the information to bust more prostitutes, let’s just bring up Craigslist on charges and make prostitution even harder to correct.

That’s thinkin’ for ya’…

(the reason for all this I suspect? Some might be surprised at the level of complicity by officials in both examples. Shutting down the ability to view misdeeds in broad daylight is probably in the best interest of certain well placed individuals.)


Ben Robinson says:

dificult to stop

From what i understand Wikileaks was purposely designed from the outset to be dificult to shut down. It operates in multiple jurisdictions and the software it uses is free open source. Trying to shut it down would end up being the ultimate streisand effect/game of whack a mole. Lets hope the politicians realise this.

Stander says:

Kill the Messenger

FTA -> “Three Republican lawmakers have asked the Department of Homeland Security what can be done to bar or criminally penalize whistleblower sites that reposted a sensitive airport-screening manual that was published on the internet by a government worker.”

First amendment covers this hopefully. Also, isn’t there some sort of law which provides protection to a whistle blower … oh yeah, that only protects against corporate retribution not government.

Get a load of that guy in the picture – they make him look like Adolf. Pretty funny.

John Doe says:

Makes you wonder

There was a senator or congressman who stated we should investigate the person who leaked/stole the climategate emails as well. Makes you wonder why a government officer would worry more about prosecuting the culprit rather than investigating to see if there is any truth to the claim. Its not like the world is going to spend trillions of tax dollars in the next few years to solve a problem that isn’t a problem. No, lets not focus on that, lets catch the guy who exposed the fraud.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Difference

“I would note that there is a difference between whistleblowing (revealing illegality or wrong-doing) and just leaking information, especially when that information is classified.”

Very true, though some of us believe that “classified information” needs to be done away with entirely. Just be open and honest. No need to hide troop movements beyond not broadcasting them. No need for spies and all that nonsense. I’d rather my country be open and weak, than closed and strong…

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Difference

“No need to hide troop movements beyond not broadcasting them. No need for spies and all that nonsense.”

Okay, I’m all for openness, but that’s just silly. The Internet is global. “Not hiding” is exactly the same thing as broadcasting. If our enemy can determine our troops’ positions at will, then yeah, we have a problem.

“I’d rather my country be open and weak, than closed and strong…”

How about a happy medium? “Open and weak” could easily become “closed and ruled by someone else.” I do not agree with the war in Iraq. I believe that war should be used only as a last resort. But, when it is used, we better be damned good at it. Like it or not, freedom does require defense. Giving enemies free and open access to our strategies and tactics is not going to help us at all. It’s going to cause a lot of soldiers, who are real, valuable people just like you and me, to die.

Anonymous Coward says:

They will catch the guy, they will expose what happened, but it doesn’t change the very basic thing:

Any media (including websites) should not be in any legal position to push out secret or secure government documents with impunity. The act of sharing the document is pretty much as bad as the original leaker. In many cases, it is worse, because it means that the document ends up widely distributed.

oh yeah, sorry, 230 230 230 230 230 230 230 230! Riiiight!

Anonymous Coward says:

I saw on a satirical news show that the TSA has been without an administrator since Jan 2008. I have no way to confirm this one way or not, but the satirical news show discussed that in their effort to fill these positions, entire TSA screening manuals being released on Government job websites.

Now, I never saw the job, nor did I see postings in question. However, I think it’s weird when the head of a consolidated set of departments may need to post entire operational manuals online for all to see.

Kinda weird.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Leaks...

Some of the posts are suggesting that posting the leaked information is wrong because it is suppose to be secret. I agree ONLY when the information is secret out of true necessity to act on the information.

Plans detailing the next push in our non-congress declared war? Should be kept secret until it happens.
List of names of people engaged in espionage or monetizing activities, names of people undercover? Secret.
List of protected witnesses and their locations? Secret.

The number of people put under wiretaps without court permission? Hell no.
A treaty that will change every aspect of copyright? NO.
Unclassified manual that you want to keep secret anyways? Getting luke warm, at best.
Historical documents that cover the fumbling and panic of the 9/11 attacks? NO.

Unless the information is secret (and classified) to protect the lives of soldiers, witnesses, or undercover workers, or otherwise directly hold the means to kill a person (DIRECTLY, not indirectly like the screening guidelines) IT SHOULD NOT BE SECRET FROM THE PEOPLE.

The problem isn’t the leaks of info, it is the fact that there is information to leak. It is the belief that hidden info is the right way to protect against technological failures. And it is the thought that keeping information secret to prevent embarrassment is OK.

BobinBaltimore (profile) says:

Re: The Leaks...

I agree with your sentiment, but there is this pesky issue of the law. Different classifications of government documents are made through a defined process. I am not contending that this process is without politics, errors or deceit, but it is the process. Anyone who knowingly skirts that or releases said documents is subject to the long arm of the law. The misuse of those classifications should also be prosecuted, but rarely is.

I do hope the law and the process changes. But, in the meantime, I also don’t want every rogue with access to docs feeling that they, as either smart or stupid individuals (there are examples of both with clearance), can decide which should be released without fear of repercussions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Any media (including websites) should not be in any legal position to push out secret or secure government documents with impunity. The act of sharing the document is pretty much as bad as the original leaker. In many cases, it is worse, because it means that the document ends up widely distributed.

oh yeah, sorry, 230 230 230 230 230 230 230 230! Riiiight!

I agree that WikiLeaks is probably not covered by 230 (since it refuses to comply with DMCA takedown requests, etc.), but I’d say an important part of the first amendment is that the press should be in the position to distribute secret government documents when brought to their attention by whistle-blowers in the government.

In the case that the leak reveals no wrong-doing but is seriously harmful in some way, someone probably ought to be in trouble (but hopefully not WikiLeaks).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If the government has nothing to hide then why should people be punished for exposing the truth?

It should be clear by now that the U.S. is not good at innovation or doing anything good for its people. The only thing it’s good at is lobbying and suppressing the truth and the U.S. has an advanced ability to accomplish these endeavors.

btr1701 (profile) says:


This is one is really great. So these fools in Congress now want to pass a law (or regulation or whatever) that says “if we fuck up and accidentally post shit on the internet, we can come after you with criminal charges if you pass it along to anyone else.”

Of course they don’t bother to explain how the public is supposed to know what stuff on a government web site is there by mistake and what stuff is not. I guess you’ll find out when they arrive at your home with a warrant and an indictment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course, because the politicians don’t care about investigating their own crimes, they care about investigating how the public got to know about their crimes and stopping it. Look at mainstream media, true journalism does not exist in mainstream media because important information gets censored. This whole nonsense about not allowing “non-journalists” protection has absolutely nothing to do with what’s best for society and it has everything to do with preventing the public from finding out about important information that they should know, just like they have accomplished outside the Internet. They want to stop sites like http://www.thoreau-fda.com/ (which doesn’t even work anymore) from presenting important information to the public and to prevent employees from the FDA from reporting the truth to the public anonymously. If an employee from the FDA does report the truth to the public they want to ensure that that employee gets punished so as to discourage anyone else from reporting the truth. Outside the Internet the truth never ever saw the light of day and they want to ensure that truth never sees the light of day within the Internet as well. and so far they are gaining ground and unless we stand up for what’s right the Internet will turn into the mainstream media with nothing but lies and censorship.

Ben (user link) says:

Study on TSA Manual releases effects on holiday travel

MediaCurves.com conducted a study among 665 Americans viewing a news clip featuring the leak of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) security manual on the Internet. Results found that the percentage of viewers who reported feeling “not at all safe” with air travel drastically increased after viewing the news clip about the leak. In addition, nearly one-third of viewers (28%) reported that they would be less likely to travel on an airplane this holiday season. More in depth results can be seen at:

calbo (profile) says:


it is interesting who does the protesting in these cases. When the pentagon papers were released in the 70’s, republicans were apoplectic at the violation of secrecy, while the liberals celebrated those who leaked. Now the leakers have skewered the sacred cow of environmentalism and liberals are screaming the sky is falling and off with their heads. I say we investigate congress for believing the environmental claptrap in the first place.

Alatar says:

“The problems aren’t these sites, which are just service providers for the information. The problems are the leaks of info themselves.”

And why am I feeling like the leaks themselves aren’t a problem either, but are actually one of the guarantees we’re still living in a democracy? Leaks and leakers are good for our society, and therefore should be protected, not hunted down.
By the way, aren’t these douches so prone to tell us “if you’re not doing anything bad, you don’t have to fear being watched”?

Leaks guarantee transparency, which guarantees democracy, I challenge you to prove the contrary

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