New Competition For Wikileaks Shows Up — Say Hello To OpenLeaks

from the are-we-going-to-jail-them-too? dept

Like many folks, I’m somewhat conflicted about Wikileaks as an organization. It’s been clear for quite some time that it has some organizational issues, to put it mildly. However, as we’ve pointed out the concept behind Wikileaks is inevitable, and we fully expected that even if Wikileaks itself went away, others would quickly step up to take its place. Last month, we noted that some former Wikileakers (who were not at all happy with Assange’s leadership) were planning a new competitor.

Slashdot points us to the news that their offering, to be called OpenLeaks, is expected to launch next week. The new operation claims it will function slightly differently than Wikileaks, but with the same general intent: allowing whistleblowers to leak sensitive information. The main difference appears to be that OpenLeaks won’t publish information directly, but will offer it up to others to publish. I’m not entirely sure how that will work, but either way it seems to be clear that even if the US government were successful in somehow making Wikileaks “go away,” it won’t stop the general trend towards systems and institutions designed to help whistleblowing.

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67 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Err, doesn’t this completely defeat the point of “leaking” information that certain (powerful) people aren’t going to like?

The whole point of WikiLeaks dumping ALL their information (minus obvious necessary redactions) is that WL is not exactly a transparent organization. They’re not in a position that lends itself to credibility as an arbiter of information.

Neither, unfortunately, are some news organizations. The NYT’s rather anemic coverage of the diplomatic cables is proof positive of this. It’s pretty difficult to get major publications to publish documents that make their most prized sources look bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

“We’ll keep it to ourselves unless somebody wants the info” sounds extremely screwed up.

Just dump it in a torrent, send some mails to reporters and let it all flow out into the world.

WikiLeaks might be media-whoring a bit, but can’t say that doesn’t work wonders for getting people to notice the info that else possibly would’ve just been ignored by the general public because nobody thought it’d be anybodies interest.

Henry says:

ClosedLeaks

For millenium the elite have withheld the truth from the people either through ignorance or deliberately and fed people lies based on superstions, fables and bullcaper, so as the elite may prosper. Along comes the Internet and Wikileaks with vast amounts of knowledge based material with the truth and once again the elite want to shut off the information available to the public so as they can still have their very profitable wars and kill people in the millions based on lies. Freedom of Speech and the Press is vital if the human race is to survive or fight and exterminate each other for the elite. I believe OpenLeaks is just another misleading site set up to serve thee elite and they can shove it where the sun don’t shine.

ctromley (profile) says:

Re: ClosedLeaks

I agree with everything you say. The huge problem with it though, is that it’s incredibly one-sided. Things ain’t that simple.

Surely secrets can be bad things. However in the fields of politics, the military and international diplomacy secrecy and ‘ethical flexibility’ are the order of the day. That’s what you get when people and countries act in their own interests with little concern for others’.

Not everyone working in these fields is evil. Some are trying very hard to counter the evil. But they can only do it by working within those ugly environments that already exist. There are too many instances where taking the high road guarantees you lose. When playing a strategy game with your friends you don’t announce your strategy and hope to win.

Wikileaks’ mistake was releasing information that put the lives of the good guys at risk. Some of that was obvious and they did it anyway. I’m sure other damage was done by releasing info that Wikileaks couldn’t see as compromising, but the bad guys will.

Come on, people. Are we really that simple-minded? If you can’t grow up, at least try to see some obvious shades of gray. Being a hero is a lot harder than it looks in the comic books. If you try to apply comic book justice to the real world, good people get hurt.

Openness is a wonderful thing. Just do it right, or don’t do it.

Richard Kulawiec says:

Re: Re: ClosedLeaks

Wikileaks’ mistake was releasing information that put the lives of the good guys at risk.

Let’s presume that’s true, just for the sake of argument — even though nobody has yet produced any evidence substantiating it. (And we do have evidence that Wikileaks has released information put the bad guys at risk: the Guardian reports this morning that Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, who fled the country after some of the Wikileaks-released cables implicated him.)

So the release endangers people that you would classify as “the good guys”. So what?

First, your classification is hardly authoritative. To some folks, Hezbollah as “the good guys”. To others, the US Marines are “the good guys”. To still others, Mossad are “the good guys”.

The point being that if Wikileaks or any other media organization withheld information that someone, somewhere, thought might hurt “the good guys”, then they could never publish anything.

Second, even if — once again for the sake of argument — we generously stipulate that we’ll temporarily agree with your personal, limited, idiosyncratic list of “the good guys”: so what? The good guys are exposed to risk all day, every day, via their own choices. It’s not my responsibility or your responsibility or Wikileaks’ responsibility or the New York Times’ responsibility or anyone else’s responsibility to insulate them from the consequences of their own decisions.

People die every day. A heck of a lot of them die for lies — yet that doesn’t seem to be a pressing concern for those who are now, all of a sudden, terribly concerned that they might die for the truth.

Or, to put it another way: those whose lives depend on secrets being kept really ought to re-think that decision. Because — as Wikileaks has shown — there are way too many secrets and they will be leaked.

Jesse says:

This is actually a pretty good strategy. Part of the problem with wikileaks (I should say problem with everyone else) is that people tend to think of mainstream media in one corner and wikileaks in some different corner. But really there is little difference in what wikileaks is doing and the mainstream media. By offering the information up to other publications, they are making it harder for the fear-mongerers to scapegoat an easy target. It will be much harder to blame all world media without a huge backlash.

mr a source says:

godwin grech

julian assange could be charged with espionage what about godwin grech.He was providing inside information from aust treasury to the editor of the telegraph,the bhp mining co dir and an unnamed foreign power.He also gave special tax concessions to at least one car company,reason unknown.These are the things he’s admitted to yet he has never been charged or faced a court.What’s going on.!!??

Richard Kulawiec says:

Just one experiment of many, I'm sure

It will be interesting to see how this works out in practice. But even as we debate this, I’m certain others are in the works. Some will be well-organized, some will be chaotic, some will succeed, some will fail. But let’s credit Wikileaks and Cryptome (among others) for having the ingenuity and the nerve to blaze the trail.

mr a source says:

godwin grech

julian assange could be charged with espionage what about godwin grech.He was providing inside information from australian treasury to the editor of the telegraph,the bhp mining co dir and an unnamed foreign power.He also gave special tax concessions to at least one car company,reason unknown.These are the things he’s admitted to yet he has never been charged or faced a court.What’s going on.!!??

Hmmm says:

Cowardly.

Openleaks came about from fear. It’s pretty obvious. Hell, they even state it in their announcement (that they don’t expect to get political pressure like wikileaks has).

Some of the members of the wikileaks organisation have gotten scared of the attention they’ve received, and have backed off, offering up a significantly easier to control version of wikileaks for some reason.

The entire reason wikileaks is so effective at what it does is because it *publishes the information it receives whether or not anyone else does*. When you do that, the established media outlets can either just ignore it completely and get outpaced by blogs and such until one of them eventually picks it up out of necessity, or they can get in on it as soon as possible because they figure they’ll have to in the end anyway.

When you take away that “we’ll publish it anyway” part, you lose that. They’ll get to pick and choose what parts they want to publish and be able to completely bury the rest, and we’ll basically be back where we were before wikileaks even appeared.

Make no mistake about wikileaks; it hasn’t done anything that was impossible before. All of the leakers, informants, whistleblowers, whatever you want to call them, all of those people were there before wikileaks, but the media simply wasn’t interested. Wikileaks *made* them interested by forcing the issue.

Openleaks is just a step backwards.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think that the simple concept of “make wikileaks go away” isn’t really going to change anything. Having Assange locked up for the rest of his natural life will. It’s all fun and games until someone actually has to pay the piper with their true freedom. Assange is involved more than enough to merit a very long prison sentence, if the US can ever get their hands on him.

Right now most people are not considering the legal implications of “leaking”. One case, and all of that changes.

BigKeithO (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He didn’t do the leaking, he did the publishing. If you want to charge someone for leaking go after Bradley Manning. Oh wait, you already have.

Guess you’re going to have to charge all of the reporters and newspaper editors who are publishing the stories as well?

Just because you don’t like what Assange has done doesn’t make it illegal.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Just because you don’t like what Assange has done doesn’t make it illegal.”

Just because it’s not illegal, doesn’t mean Assange won’t spend the rest of his life in jail.

House members were meeting yesterday to “find a way to charge him”. “Find a way?” Did he break a law or not? In a rule of law democracy, you don’t “Find a way” to charge people. That’s reserved for totalitarian states.

Josh (profile) says:

Whistle blowing VS, Leaking

Maybe it’s subtle, but I think there is a difference. “Leaking” classified documents for the plain and simple fact that they are classified is wrong. It’s not far removed from gossip at a hair salon. Releasing classified documents that are found to prove a cover-up or other form of illegal activity that would have otherwise gone unpunished would be “whistle blowing” and could have a motive based in morality.

-josh

Rich Kulawiec says:

Re: Whistle blowing VS, Leaking

“Leaking” classified documents for the plain and simple fact that they are classified is wrong.

1. I don’t agree. It may be frivolous, or ill-advised, or noble, or careless, or any number of other things, but I don’t think it’s intrinsically right or wrong.

2. But let’s suppose that the documents aren’t ours, but theirs, for a value of they that equates to “enemy”. Still think it’s wrong?

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Whistle blowing VS, Leaking

“”Leaking” classified documents for the plain and simple fact that they are classified is wrong. It’s not far removed from gossip at a hair salon.”

The problem with that statement is that these released documents contain recorded facts of actual events and involve government entities doing things they legally/morally shouldn’t be doing, rather than doing something the girls in curlers don’t like!

Joe Dirt says:

While I get the philosophy behind a truly open society, no secrets, everyone says exactly what they think and tells the complete truth without repercussion. I think it is naive to think it will work in practice. The easiest analogy I can think of – family and friend relations. Do you always tell your close friends and family an entire truth about something that may be hurtful or do you maybe not tell them some of the details to save their feelings and maintain a good relationship? Does a current wife or girlfriend really need to know every detail about a past lover? Given that we often tell small untruths, or at a minimum withohold information, to maintain harmony with our close friends and family, how can we expect our governments to do otherwise?

Hmmm says:

Re: Re:

The difference between your analogy of a family/personal secrets and what wikileaks is doing, is that you (and each member of your family) don’t represent the interests of millions of voters.

That’s the core difference here. It’s not simply “exposing personal secrets” or anything similar to that. US foreign policy has an effect on *billions* of people, and it’s being carried out in total secrecy.

If wikileaks were releasing things like “Obama ruined his first relationship by trying to pressure his gf into sex before she was ready”, I’d agree with your point. But that’s not what they’re releasing. They’re releasing things like “US embassy in Spain exerts pressure on Spanish courts to inhibit investigation into death of Spanish journalist by US forces” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/09/wikileaks-cables-huge-impact-spain).

You simply can’t compare international diplomacy to domestic relationships. The analogy just doesn’t work.

Joe Dirt says:

Re: Re: Re:

Isn’t international diplomacy just a relationship between Nations for a mutual benefit? If you don’t like that one, then how about this one… Isn’t the U.S. supposed to be a nation “of, the People, by the People, and for the People”? If we as individuals cannot refrain from witholding information, how can we expect a nation like the U.S. to do otherwise? It is, like all nations, made up of individuals who cannot refrain from lying or generally withholding information for one reason or another. And contrary to popular belief, with respect to government, the whole is NOT greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Hmmm says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But, again, the keeping of secrets in personal relationships leads to, say, an affair being covered up or true feelings of people being hidden to keep a social group together. By contrast, the keeping of secrets in international diplomacy is leading, directly, to deaths, mistreatment of prisoners, and overall corruption.

Yes, the world would run a lot “smoother” if these leaks weren’t happening, but there’d also be a lot more horrible stuff going on behind the scenes. Thanks to these leaks, we now *know* that the US has been lying and pressuring other countries into doing their bidding, all of which is resulting in the deaths and unethical treatment of people.

Frankly, if that’s the smooth operation of international diplomacy, it *needs* to be shaken up.

ctromley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“By contrast, the keeping of secrets in international diplomacy is leading, directly, to deaths, mistreatment of prisoners, and overall corruption.”

Why do so many insist on adhering to this ridiculous oversimplification? Secrets can serve evil. They can also serve good. Secrets are not inherently good or evil on their own. It all depends on how you use them.

You’ve heard the saying about never wrestling with a pig because you’ll both get dirty and the pig likes it? Take it a step further. If the pig means you harm, sometimes there is no choice but to get dirty and wrestle with the pig to defend yourself.

Pristine concepts are wonderful as an ideal. But the real world is not pristine. It never will be. Ideals must ALWAYS be adjusted to fit the real world. It is possible to keep secrets and do the right thing. In some (probably few) ways keeping secrets is *absolutely necessary* to to do the right thing.

Hmmm says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I did not say “*only* leads to bad things”. I said that it is.

Using the example I provided, again, I really can’t see how anyone can defend a policy of exerting government pressure in a foreign country to cover up the murder of a journalist is a good thing, in any way at all.

To say that “Yeah but good things are also done in secret” is to effectively condone these coverups, because that is exactly the excuse used to make them secret in the first place. “We need secrecy to do good work!”

And yeah, I’m willing to buy that. But I’m also very aware that this same secrecy is resulting in some very, very bad things. I’m a believer in the “rather a guilty man go free than an innocent man lose his freedom” concept, and that applies to this situation too. If some good deeds are undone, if some international good will is trashed, it is *worth it* if such corruption is unearthed and aired in front of the public.

ctromley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“I really can’t see how anyone can defend a policy of exerting government pressure in a foreign country to cover up the murder of a journalist is a good thing, in any way at all.”

Of course no one condones that. Murder is bad. We get it. That stuff should definitely be exposed.

“If some good deeds are undone, if some international good will is trashed, it is *worth it* if such corruption is unearthed and aired in front of the public.”

Is it “worth it” even if someone dies trying to do the right thing? Hypothetical case: Let’s say the DEA, CIA and State Dept. collaborate with the Bolivian government to finally take down a large drug cartel. Maybe some official had to be bribed to make it happen. Are you saying it’s OK to leak those secrets and put our best special ops guys in jeopardy? To allow the flow of drugs to continue, with all the destruction that causes just because soemone took a bribe and all secrets must be bad?

Do you really think the leakers know enough of any story to be certain they aren’t causing more harm than they know?

All I’m saying is that openness is truly a good thing – but you’d better be damn sure you aren’t hurting anyone when you leak secrets. Wikileaks seems pretty casual about it. Those who advocate a secretless society had better step up and take responsibility when it turns bad. But that’s not likely to happen when people are so wrapped up in their own self-righteousness.

Has anyone thought to get someone experienced in international diplomacy to weigh in on this? Seems like there are a lot of keyboard-pounders opining on it, but no one with real field experience. I wonder how many cases there are of real diplomatic progress being trashed by leaks.

Hmmm says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Casual about it? Wikileaks thoroughly vets every single document it leaks to make sure that no one is put in any danger.

Every time they’ve leaked *anything*, the government and press has ranted about how it’s putting informants and agents in danger. Then a few months later they admit that, actually no, no one was put in danger.

Not a single person has been harmed thanks to the information released by wikileaks. Not a single person has been *threatened* with harm thanks to the information released by wikilinks (except, ironically, Julian Assange himself). Even the US government has, eventually, had to admit this.

And yes, frankly if a government official needs to be bribed to take down a criminal organisation, then that needs to be made public because something is extraordinarily wrong there.

Joe Dirt says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

“Wikileaks thoroughly vets every single document it leaks to make sure that no one is put in any danger.”

What about the document that had detailed list of sites ‘vital to US national security’? (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/wikileaks-releases-list-of-sites-vital-to-us-national-security-2153030.html)

This information is a roadmap for anyone wishing harm to the U.S. “While many of the diplomatic documents previously published by the whistle-blowing website were merely embarrassing or inconvenient to the US, the State Department list ? designed “to strengthen national preparedness, timely response and rapid recovery in the event of an attack, natural disaster or other emergency” ? contains the sort of information considered vital to militant groups.”

please make sure your are fully educated on the material before making broad claims.

Hmmm says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Except that the “list of sites vital to US national security” wasn’t secret, and at most wikileaks could be accused of “putting it in one place”.

And wikileaks *does* vet it’s releases. Hell, of the “250,000 cables” it has access to it’s released a tiny fraction of them because it wants to reduce the harm of them, and vetting them takes a long time. It even contacted the US embassy in the UK to ask for help/advice on exactly what they should remove to keep people safe. http://www.salon.com/news/wikileaks/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2010/12/07/wikileaks
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i0Vruimmvy8loGklsz34QyGDKMDA?docId=120c7bf5d3a34dbaadf1280dace2e456

Migzy says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Ooh ooh the sites vital to US National interests… Let’s see the sites listed for Canada were oil pipelines, tar sands, power generation facilities, power grid, bridges across the border, etc… Anybody with half a brain could have guessed that those are important to the US.

Similarly around the world, large shipping ports, airports, companies that provide medicine and medical equipment, military bases, oil refining facilities, oil production facilities, etc were listed. Oh golly gee whiz, I had no idea these were vital to US interests until this list was published… I doubt you could name anything on that list that anybody with a computer and internet connection couldn’t figure out on their own…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

The point is, why does Julian get to decide what is and isn’t safe to be put out there? Did you elect him? Did he run on his record? Did the majority of Americans vote him into office to release the stuff?

No. He is a frustrated anarchist from Australia, living between countries to avoid taxation and legal issues, deciding for the rest of us what is right or not right for the US government.

If you can’t see what is wrong with that then you need to send your moral compass to the shop for repairs.

Richard Kulawiec says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

What about the document that had detailed list of sites ‘vital to US national security’?

I commented on that here the other day. A visit to dhs.gov combined with a little bit of Googling would be sufficient for anyone with a clue to construct most of that list in a couple of hours. (DHS published the full methodology on their site. While it’s bloated to the point of absurdity with bureaucratic bullshit, it does at least neatly lay out all the criteria.)

C’mon, it’s just not hard to work out that large power generation/transmission facilities or major suppliers of important medications are probably considered critical infrastructure, and that Joe’s Fill Dirt probably isn’t.

This is just another case where people are naive enough to presume that every potential enemy — just because they’re someone we don’t like (at the moment) — is stupid. They’re not. In many cases they’ve demonstrated superior intelligence and remarkable ingenuity.

ctromley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

“Casual about it? Wikileaks thoroughly vets every single document it leaks to make sure that no one is put in any danger.”

Others seem to disagree on whether they’re thorough enough, or even if it matters. This story seems to indicate people are getting hurt as a direct result of the leaks:

http://hotair.com/archives/2010/08/02/report-taliban-seeking-revenge-against-informants-after-wikileaks-doc-dump/

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

Re: submit

submit? The avideo i posted never made google indexing. The comments and refs to it have, but not the video itself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R_wO6YN-Q8

i gotta play with tis and see if my tinfoil hat needs an upgrade.

blocked, censored, filtered. me? HAR HAR
man, these security types REALLY need to get a life.
hopefully a REAL one and not a social one.

packrat

Any comment on twitter being used to org the DDOS attacks?

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a challenge for the techdirt people who write here.

Start a blog. On that blog, you have to post up everything you say, everything you do, all the content of all of your conversations, every one of your bills, all of your email, everything.

Do it for 90 days. Make sure you link it for all your friends, make sure you tell everyone to go and read it.

Now tell me how you feel. More importantly, tell me how the people you are dealing with feel. You know those negotiations for a business deal that is hush-hush? Not now. Everyone will know. You know that joke you said about the guy that runs the coffee place you go to each morning? Everyone knows, including him.

Don’t forget to post up all your bank account numbers, balances, and other relevant personal information. After, information wants to be free!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The analogy holds just fine. Soldiers in the field are there 24 hours per day. People working in embassies are there 24hours per day. These aren’t “governments”, these are people. Wikileaks isn’t leaking just “government” documents, but these people’s personal opinions, feelings, and so on.

So come on, man up. Put your whole life out there for people to see for a while, and see how it feels to be entirely totally violated. At that point, you may reconsider your leakfetish.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Some questions

These are honest questions and meant to provoke thought.

Are you only releasing to major publishers? and IF so, what of independent media?

Is there an option to request such information as an independent newsgroup?

And probably most importantly if your only releasing to publishers what about historians? They who control the information control the history.

Frankly the gatekeeper model has major issues. How do they plan to alleviate the issues raised being a gatekeeper rather then an “open” leak?

All this doesn’t pass the smell test.

Capitan Obvious says:

That’s not going to work at all. The mainstream media covering is wikileaks material only because wikileaks will dump it on the INTERNET whether they will cover it or not. Better to cover the cables, then to look like a bunch of corporate lickspits. If Openleaks just forwards classified documents to the mainstream media they’ll just sit on it. The apache helicopter video is a case point, Washington Post sat on it for years.

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