State Department, Once Again, Asks Wikileaks To 'Return' Leaked Cables

from the that's-not-how-digital-works dept

Earlier this year, we all had a good laugh over the demand from the Pentagon that Wikileaks “return” the leaked documents it held. Lots of people pointed out that they were digital copies. You don’t “return” stuff that’s digital. All this demand did was make the Pentagon look totally clueless about how digital information works. It looks like the PR geniuses at the State Department have decided to do the same thing. They’ve put out a demand that Wikileaks “return” the remaining diplomatic cables in its possession.

Once again, this just makes the State Department look clueless, out of date and confused about the internet. First of all, you don’t “return” digital documents. But, more importantly, Wikileaks has already shown that it has no intention of doing any such thing — and making such a request just looks silly by the State Department. It’s foot stamping rather than doing anything productive. Given the State Department’s ridiculous PR over this whole Wikileaks thing, is it really any wonder why those old attempts by the US government to hire PR people to convince the people we were invading that it was for their own good turned out so disastrously bad?

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Comments on “State Department, Once Again, Asks Wikileaks To 'Return' Leaked Cables”

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Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Dear State Department,
Under normal circumstances, you would be able to retrieve your copy of the cables from However, due to circumstances beyond our control (ie political pressure being exerted by parts of the US Government) our site is experiencing technical difficulties.
Sorry for any inconvenience, but your request cannot be processed at this time. Go DIAF.

ignorant_s (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

When I use the word “document” I am referring to the information itself, compiled the way it is in whatever format, not necessarily something tangible.

So …”They’ve put out a demand that Wikileaks “return” the remaining diplomatic cables in its possession”…..

Just pointing out that this is merely a legal formality to set up a case against Assange. They have put it in writing that they think this information could harm or injure the US and they have asked for it back. That is in preparation for a case. Wikileaks actually “returning” the cables is impossible and I am sure the government knows it.

This letter serves not only as the basis for a case against Assange, but also a warning. Read between the lines…. What the government is really saying is “Don’t release anymore cables, asshole”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Physical thinking

I believe this shows a sort of “physical thinking”, which treats copies of the cables as if they were physical objects which can only be at one place at a time.

The same sort of thinking can be seen on the attempts by copyright owners to find a way – any way – to make digital data behave as if it were physical objects, being moved instead of copied.

They do not seem to be able to comprehend that, on the digital world, copying is the natural action, unlike on the physical world, where moving is the natural action.

Richard (profile) says:


Given all the mirrors out there (not to mention the torrents) it is now de-facto impossible for wikileaks to delete all copies of the documents ( giving the government the benefit of the doubt on tech. competence).

Maybe they should print the lot out onto paper, pack it into cardboard boxes, and post it to the state department.

crade (profile) says:

Yeah, they are just playing to their uninformed (or uninvolved) crowd. It’s a good PR move I think (unethical of course, but when did that ever matter?). It’s the same PR move as calling copyright infringement “theft” and “piracy”. A little lie that people won’t really care when they are called on it and proven it was a lie, but still serves the intended purposes of painting a picture that they are knights in shining armor going after an evildoer.

ottermaton says:

at risk?

In response to the direct question, “Do you actually have any evidence of a specific incident where a person has been harmed because of what’s come out from Wikileaks?” he blathers on vaguely for a while implying that there are people at risk, and then she pins him down with, “Specifically because of the Wikileaks information?” and he says, “Yes.”

Well, who ARE these people? If they really are “at risk” what are you doing to “protect” them?

crade (profile) says:

Re: at risk?

I am these people. I’m at risk of losing my right to elect my government because they hide the truth that I need in order to be able to vote. Being at risk of not being able to elect my government puts me at risk for all sorts of other harm they might do to me after they have falsely obtained authority over me and the others who didn’t have the information they needed to vote either.

ignorant_s (profile) says:

Re: Probably a legal loophole

That is exactly what it is. The Espionage Act makes it a crime to possess or transmit “information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation”….and also makes it a felony to fail to return said documents. The request was a formality.

So, if its a crime to “possess or transmit” said docs, how many people could get screwed here? If they only go after Assange is that selective prosecution?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Probably a legal loophole

It is the rush to judgment, the rush to condemn that is the most concerning here. No, not the Feds condemning wikileaks, but rather the TD community as well as other communities rushing to damn anyone who dares oppose Wikileaks. The yahoos from 4chan anon are pretty much a fine example of react first, judge later.

It is truly a shame to see TD and the community that comes with it doing all the things they damn their opponents with.

Vic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Probably a legal loophole

Sorry, up to now I have noticed only one rush at the official level – and that is exactly the rush to blame Wikileaks for everything!

So, do you want to see the same rush on an unofficial level? Just blindly “stand by your government”, right?

And, oh man where are you looking to, that is the US government that reacts here and now first, without even any promise to think later…

ottermaton says:

Re: Please accept this spider as payment ...

WTF?!?! The least you could do is give credit where it’s due instead of some crap scraper site.

Just look at some of the comments on the site you referenced: “I like you am associated with carpet cleaning and it is
wonderful to see fellows associated this industry with the same mentalities and thoughts” Yeeeaaa ..

Anonymous Coward says:

What if...

Well, lets just play devils advocate here, and lets say perhaps the DoD and State dept. are not (god I hope they are not) as stupid as they seem. Maybe they are asking for the “Orginals”… like, prior to any modification/redaction. Perhaps they are watermarked in some way. Maybe they are not asking for all copies of the digital file, but instead, the actually files (unmoded) or better yet, the USB/CD-ROM.

Also, they may be asking for legal reasons… later on, they can use their apparently unwillingness of “Wikileaks” to return ‘stolen’ goods, or something to that effect. I dunno, just brainstorming here

interval (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Simply asking for the material back implies a lack of fundamental understanding of the nature of the media itself. If the state dept. had it in its mind to some how “trick” Wikileaks into both returning the material and deleting the local copies I think instead they’d have opted for simply legally strong-arming Wikileaks into doing whatever they felt would be necessary to paper-over this little episode. Like bashing down the doors and confiscating their IT equipment, and at the same time getting information on Wikileaks other nodes (being a distributed repository).

The Baker says:

Not Suprised

I was ordered to return copies and originals of all emails referring to a mater by a federal district court judge in SC. I provided a CD and printouts. He was quite angry that I hadn’t complied with the order and threatened me with contempt if I didn’t provide the originals. It took my lawyer quite a lot to explain that this wasn’t how it works. That was just four years ago.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Not Suprised

Pretty scary isn’t it.

“If I delete it on my blackberry. Will the person I sent it to still be able to see it?”

“But if I copy a disk, I have two disks. What do you mean? If I copy a file I only need one hard drive, thats amazing”

Analog -vs- Digital some people haven’t gotten out of the “This Is Physical Stuff” mentality.

interval (profile) says:

Back the the Future (Or Shades of Dr. Strangelove)

Even after one generation in to the internet age. I just have to guess there’s an old guy in the state dept’s IT section smoking a pipe and telling heads that they really need to put all the state’s secrets into a “…taped memory bank, connected to a series of gigantic computers…”

Christ; even the motionless media “cassettes” in Star Trek were larger than our microSD forms we have today, but at least they were on the right track only a few years after Dr. Strangelove.

Rekrul says:

Re: Back the the Future (Or Shades of Dr. Strangelove)

Christ; even the motionless media “cassettes” in Star Trek were larger than our microSD forms we have today, but at least they were on the right track only a few years after Dr. Strangelove.

Yes, but today’s storage is limited to 16-32GB at best. They never said what the capacity of those cartridges was. For all you know, they could hold 1,000 petabytes.

Anonymous Coward says:

by that standard, they don’t “have” the documents. They are merely in possesion of a copy of the ‘contents’ of said documents. The documents are still present at the DoD and have not been stolen. Furthermore, Manning is the only one who should be facing charges for this crime. Wikileaks is not under US jurisdiction, and never was. Bradley Manning saw these documents, copied them, possessed the copies, and transmitted copies to a foreign news agency. Wikileaks is merely the messenger.

Johnny says:

I stole the files back for them

I am sure the State Department will be happy to know, that I stole* the “Insurance” file from Wikileaks with the purpose of returning it to the State Department. I’ll be sending it back to the State Department shortly, hope their inbox can handle large files.

* stole in the MAFIAA sense of the word.

Anonymous Coward says:

This insistence on the return of documents probably is to set up dumb move to assert some legal basis.

What it really does is show the world how corrupt they are and will stop at nothing even in the face of the absurd or impossible.

It removes any doubt that whatever happens it is happening not because of justice, common sense or whatever it is happening because someone is angry and have the power to do it regardless of what others think.

Those people are spitting in the face of society.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually everyone is misinterpreting this request. The government isn’t asking for the documents back because they think they can put the genie back in the bottle.

They are asking for the documents back because they themselves don’t have a copy (or can’t find them). Plus they are too technically inept to scrape them from wikileaks.

They just want to have their own copy.

Prashanth (profile) says:

Lage Raho Wikileaks!

I’ve got an idea stemming off of the person’s idea to send them ZIP files of the leaked documents. That idea alone won’t be quite enough, so let’s do this Lage Raho Munna Bhai style: [either method is acceptable]
[Analogue Method] Print out several of these leaked cables, package them in envelopes and/or boxes along with flowers and “Get Well Soon”/”Deepest Condolences” cards (roses if the former, daisies if the latter), and send these packages to various State Department addresses.
[Digital Method] Do the ZIP file idea, but also rig the package with a Rick Roll video and make it show the document names (but not the contents) and only play the Rick Roll when the ZIP file is opened.
How does this sound?

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