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
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2010 @ 6:32pm

    "Heh, technology. If the shit ever hits the fan, we are going for nuclear annihilation. No technology is ever going to save our planet. But, even if we don't go for the extinction event, an M16 (which is probably older than you are) gets the job done, and doesn't need batteries."

    OK, so China owns our technology, what does that mean? It means our GPS doesn't work, so our jets don't know where to go. When the daylight savings change happened, there was a fighter out on patrol, its GPS went out and they had to send a tanker out to it because they couldn't get back. So our Preditors don't work, which isn't that bad, except they are good for intel too. Our Sats. don't work so we can't see the battlefield.

    So that M16 (which I once carried) isn't all that good because if your enemy knows more of the battlefield than you do, you are toast.

    So yeah, technology is a big deal.

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