Overhype

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
leaks, state department cables, wikileaks

Companies:
wikileaks



Wasn't The Real Security Problem The Initial Leak Of State Dept. Cables Rather Than The Latest Leak Of Those Same Cables?

from the playing-the-blame-game dept

One of the myths around Wikileaks' original release of State Department cables was that the organization simply dumped all the cables unredacted and let everyone sort it out. That's simply not true. Wikileaks released only small batches of documents at a time, mostly in conjunction with newspaper reporters, and redacted sensitive info. While Wikileaks just did a big dump of additional cables, the big news that people are focused on is how a German newspaper found an encrypted file of all the cables that apparently has no redactions at all, and has a password that is easy to find. While the details aren't entirely clear, most of the evidence seems to suggest some sort of human error, in placing the encrypted file online and then, later, accidentally releasing the password to the file.

While it does seem like there's a fair bit of bad security and bad process on the part of Wikileaks, it does seem to be a little odd to pin the full blame on Wikileaks and various hacker groups as Paul Carr does here in his story on the new file:
In truth, it almost doesn’t matter who is responsible: the eventual release of the unredacted cables was inevitable. The message of Wikileaks — and the amoral cult of leaking for lulz that came in its wake — has always been one of callous contempt for the human cost of “free information”. From Assange’s well-publicised remarks to Guardian reporters that “if [informants] get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.”, to LulSec [sic] and Anonymous’ willingness to publish the personal details of anyone even tangentially associated with their ‘enemies’, what we see time and time again from mass-leakers is a sociopath’s disregard for individuals, combined with a Hollywood serial killer’s hunger for attention. Sooner of later — for attention, to make some misguided political point, for the lulz — someone was bound to obtain and leak the raw documents.
But all of this ignores where these documents came from originally. These cables were apparently available to hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of people within the government if they wanted to look at them. At that level of accessibility, it's not hard to realize that lots of people had these documents, and there's a fair likelihood that those working for foreign interests were able to get their hands on these documents long ago. The only folks who didn't have them were the public.

Now, I do disagree with the tactics that Anonymous and LulzSec tend to take (and, honestly, am still surprised that their attacks have been so effective). But, that's mainly because I just don't think such things legitimately move issues forward. Instead, they focus the discussion on the hacks, rather than the content of the hacks, and get people focused on what they believe to be a bunch of script kiddies (whether it's true or not).

But I think it's a bit silly to blame their attitude and hackings for this release. The documents and their details were almost certainly "available" to various foreign parties long before anyone leaked them to Wikleaks. While this latest release certainly shows some serious process problems with Wikileaks (no surprise there), it's kind of amazing that people aren't pointing out that the much bigger security/process problem was at the beginning of the chain, in which the documents were available to so many different people without much security or protection in the first place.

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  1. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Aug 2011 @ 11:07pm

    Re:

    "The latest controversy just further demonstrates that some really shouldn't have access to information if they cannot use it responsibly."

    Like the FBI agents who used record requests to get dirt on ex's? Or the police who did it. Or the IRS employees who did it. Or the hospital employees.

    You do understand that Manning was covertly gathering the information after he saw more than enough hypocrisy in how our leaders spoke to the people and the backroom activities that they did.

    He did not have this data for an extended period to go through and sift out only the "good juicy" things that would make the frontpage. Part of the reason to dump everything is to keep the context of what your seeing. 1 scandalous cable is just 1 cable, being able to show that there is a pattern of behavior is more damning.

    Please show me where exactly Manning talks about how he disregarded the effect on others. Other than a bunch of politicians screaming he would have blood on his hands, how much factual backing to this is there? Other than a "former" hacker and his writing partner we have very few people who can shed any light on Mannings motives, and Lamo and whats his lying name covered up a bunch of the chat logs that showed they were lying about how they reported it. Frontline did a hatchet piece on Manning based on speculation and a distaste for Assange.

    The failure at Wikileaks is "questionable" in nature, simply because of the current Wiki/Open Leaks pissing contest. Many of the people who left Wikileaks on bad terms, were people who had access enough to set this in motion. One of the "trusted" papers with access to the cable archive had the access to screw this up.

    We are often denied the truth of things because we can't understand it in the right "context". I would rather have my Government stop lying to me, stop condemning dictators for taking the same actions my Government has taken on my behalf secretly.

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