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WikiLeaks Isn’t Whistleblowing

Mass data releases, like the Podesta emails, conflate things that the public has a right to know with things we have no business knowing, with a lot of material in the middle about things we may be curious about and may be of some historical interest, but should not be released in this manner.

All campaigns need to have internal discussions. Taking one campaign manager’s email account and releasing it with zero curation in the last month of an election needs to be treated as what it is: political sabotage, not whistle-blowing.

These hacks also function as a form of censorship. Once, censorship worked by blocking crucial pieces of information. In this era of information overload, censorship works by drowning us in too much undifferentiated information, crippling our ability to focus. These dumps, combined with the news media’s obsession with campaign trivia and gossip, have resulted in whistle-drowning, rather than whistle-blowing: In a sea of so many whistles blowing so loud, we cannot hear a single one.

This is one of the best arguments against the recent activities of Wikileaks. Not because Wikileaks is operating as a front for Russia. Not because the contents of the recent leaks aren’t newsworthy. Not because the public doesn’t find the revelations to be interesting and fun.

No, the core issue with the latest rafts of leaks is that they were not sufficiently currated, with the impact being that obstensibly private information is taken and circulated and mischaracterized. This has the effect of stunting the electoral process while, simultaneously, reconfirming to persons in power that they need to adopt a culture of oral communications and decisions. This is not a governance direction that is in the public’s best interests.

However, it’s important to also situate Wikileaks’ activities in some context. Wikileaks is designed to clog up the machinery of government states and bureaucracies. Part of its mission is to scare organizations with the threat of leaks in an effort to hinder what Julian Assange/Wikileaks regards as harmful or objectional activities. So the leaks associated with the DNC and staff affiliated with Clinton are perfectly aligned with Wikileaks’ raison d’être. In the past such activities may have been regarded are more legitimate – the organization was principally focused on state level activities – but it is now focused on deliberately releasing information at core points in an electoral cycle. Doing so may have affected the unfolding of the election but it’s important to acknowledge that Wikileaks’ intent was not driven by Russia (presuming that was a source of at least some of the leaked information): instead, this was a case where Russian and Wikileaks just happened to have directly overlapping objectives.

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Chelsea Manning Could Face Additional Punishment for Her Suicide Attempt

Chelsea Manning Could Face Additional Punishment for Her Suicide Attempt:

U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning tried to kill herself on July 5 in her cell at Fort Leavenworth military prison. Now, military officials are considering filing charges in connection to the suicide attempt that could make the terms of her imprisonment much more punitive — including indefinite solitary confinement — while possibly denying her any chance of receiving parole.

According to a charge sheet posted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Manning was informed by military officials on Thursday that she is under investigation for “resisting the force cell move team,” “prohibited property,” and “conduct which threatens.”

After engaging in the equivalent of torture, the US government considers doubling down and to make Manning’s live even more unbearable after driving her to suicide. A ‘just’ state indeed.

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On weaponized transparency

On weaponized transparency:

Over the longer term, it’s likely that personal or sensitive data will continue to be hacked and released, and often for political purposes. This in turn raises a set of questions that we should all consider, related to all the traditional questions of openness and accountability. Weaponized transparency of private data of people in democratic institutions by unaccountable entities is destructive to our political norms, and to an open, discursive politics.

Weaponized transparency, especially when it affects the lives of ordinary persons who take an interest in the political process, is dangerous for a range of reasons. And responsible journalists – to say nothing of publishers such as Wikileaks – ought to be condemned when they fail to adequately protect the private interests of such ordinary persons.

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The issue here is not whether Anonymous activists can be rightfully prosecuted: acts of civil disobedience, by definition, are violations of the law designed to protest or create a cost for injustices. The issue is how selectively these cyber-attack laws are enforced: massive cyber-attacks aimed at a group critical of US policy (WikiLeaks) were either perpetrated by the US government or retroactively sanctioned by it, while relatively trivial, largely symbolic attacks in defense of the group were punished with the harshest possible application of law enforcement resources and threats of criminal punishment.

That the US government largely succeeded in using extra-legal and extra-judicial means to cripple an adverse journalistic outlet is a truly consequential episode: nobody, regardless of one’s views on WikiLeaks, should want any government to have that power. But the manifestly overzealous prosecutions of Anonymous activists, in stark contrast to the (at best) indifference to the attacks on WikiLeaks, makes all of that even worse. In line with its unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers generally, this is yet another case of the US government exploiting the force of law to entrench its own power and shield its actions from scrutiny.