by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
ipatriot act, laws, overhype, wikileaks


Is The US Response To Wikileaks Really About Overhyping Online Threats To Pass New Laws?

from the the-cynical-view dept

Okay, this post is going to take the extreme cynical view, which I don't believe is true, but since it's being suggested, we might as well flesh it out. In my post about how the US government's response to Wikileaks has caused more harm than anything actually in the leaks so far, one of the commenters pointed to a Larry Lessig talk from a few years back, where he mentioned a conversation with Richard Clarke -- the former anti-terrorism government official, who, more recently, has been selling his book on "Cyberwar" -- where he said that the US government has had an "iPatriot Act" sitting in a drawer, ready to go at a moment's notice whenever there was "an i-9/11 event."

Except there's been no such event.

Yet, in the last year or so, we keep hearing about folks trying to sell the public on the idea that we're facing a "cyberwar," which is always stated without any proof. In fact, it seems that the only thing that the whole "cyberwar" concept has been good for is to (a) make money for government contractors and (b) to give the government a reason to take away more online privacy.

As we've seen, there have been rumors over the past few months that the feds have been working on new legislation that would require backdoors in all internet communications -- which sounds sort of like a version of that iPatriot Act. But, of course, in order to get people to actually accept that kind of thing, the government would need to convince people that it's really for their own safety... But that's a lot tougher without any evidence of a real cyberwar. So... along comes Wikileaks (and, to a lesser extent, Operation Payback), and voila, suddenly the press is bubbling on and on about how this is a cyberwar.

Now, when this new wiretapping law is put forth, the government can claim that it's designed to stop things like having classified cables leaked to enemies of the US -- even though it would have absolutely no impact on such things. Of course, if Wikileaks is a "cyberwar" then what the hell were the Pentagon Papers? A wood pulp war? Whistleblowing and leaking documents, online or off, is not a "war." While I don't doubt some in the US government will try to use this to their advantage, I still really doubt that this is the main reason for the current reaction. I'd chalk it up to pure incompetence first.

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  1. identicon
    ignorant_s, 14 Dec 2010 @ 12:01pm


    The "cyberwar" issue has been talked about for quite sometime, however, "cyberwar" isn't really relevent to the legislation. Its a smokescreen.

    The legislation Leiberman has introduced -the SHIELD Act on December 2, 2010, was in no doubt created (and Leiberman admits this) to fix the so-called "loopholes" in the Espionage Act...you know...the constitutional "loopholes" that keep the US from being able to put Assange in jail.

    It is a five page bill (so far), amending the Espionage Act to include criminal penalties for well, just the type of stuff Assange happened to have done. They could have written this thing in a day. This bill was carefully designed to make sure next time they can throw people like Assange in jail.

    See we are supposed to forget the constitutional questions....Sure, the Government is creating hysteria so they can quietly pass some legislation that would further constrain free speech, and the people will support it because "lives are in danger!!!". Smoke and mirrors.

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