Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some more thoughts about Wikileaks

Following up on my previous 'random thoughts' about Wikileaks and Assange, I want to share with you some tentative conclusions to which I have come about the Wikileaks & Assange topic.

First, and most importantly, I have come to the conclusion that these are real leaks, not some kind of disinformation, strategic psyop, or propaganda operation.  As of this moment, 1095 documents have been released and, to paraphrase Hegel, this quantitative change has resulted in a real qualitative change.  Looking at the scope and nature of some of these documents, I have to conclude that they are absolutely genuine and that they do significantly and negatively affect the US Empire's interests.  Some will no doubt fault me for being slow to come to that conclusion, while other will fault me for coming to the wrong conclusion.  To the first ones I will just say that rather than immediately jump to conclusion, I rather wait to get the minimal amount of data to form an opinion.  To the second ones I will say that in a choice between opinion and facts, the latter should prevail.

Second, it appears that Assange and the rest of the Wikileaks folks have severely underestimated the arrogant, brazen and wholly illegal way in which the Empire would hunt them down.  The minor problem is that Assange should have stayed in Iceland where he seems to enjoy some degree of protection, instead he chose to say in the UK in the mistaken hope that he would be granted bail.  A far worse miscalculation was to believe that major corporations like Visa, Amazon or PayPal would not immediately obey any instruction coming from Uncle Sam.  The only fact mitigating this disaster is that Wikileaks does not need lots of money to continue operating.  I am confident that it will be very easy to find money to cover Wikileaks' and Assange's legal costs.  Ditto for hosting costs.

Third, the next logical step would be to arrest the people currently doing the release of the documents.  Frankly, the idea that these folks are working from some 'hidden location' is absolutely preposterous.  If an agency like the NSA (and the rest of the Echelon nations) set its mind to find out where these so-called 'secret locations' are, it will easily do so, even if this is a decentralized effort.  In other worse, Wikileakers should now fully be prepared to be arrested at minute and be ready to have their servers seized.

Fourth, the idea of the 'insurance file' is not nearly as brilliant as some think.  The problem with this "thermonuclear option", to use the same expression as Assange's lawyer, is the problem inherent to any thermonuclear device: its a very bad negotiations tool.  Think about it, if the passphrase is released, then that's it, Assange and Wikileaks have nothing else to negotiate with.  And if they do no release it and keep it only as a threat, the credibility of this threat will erode with time.  Or think about it this one: one side gradually escalates step by step, while the other side only has one big "boom" option.  How credible is that?  There is a reason why strategists speak of 'flexible response' or 'full-spectrum dominance": you cannot effectively deter with a mega-weapon.

Fifth, even though I do now believe that the leaks are real, I still believe that there is something much, much bigger at stake: the future of the entire Internet.  What this Wikileaks confrontation has triggered is nothing less than a battle for the future of the Internet who is now facing a stark choice: to become Joe Lieberman's latest propaganda tool, or to remain a mostly free medium of expression.  It is far too early to call this one, as the resolution of this conflict will involve many countries, technologies, courts, police and intelligence forces, political actors and millions of people.  I would only add that savvy observers did see this one coming for years and I personally think that it's a good thing that this confrontation is finally coming out in the open.

Sixth, yes, the US Empire is clearly and irrevocably in decline.  But it would be a grievous mistake to assume that being in decline means becoming weaker.  On the contrary, we should expect a significant escalation in the Empire's use of force, pressure, arrogant demands and outright violence, even of a 'kinetic' type.  Guys, the folks running this empire are not going to gently retire and accept the loss of their current status, power and privileges.  No, they will fight with everything they have, baring their fangs much more openly than in the past, and showing their Empire's true face.  This is true for the actions of the Empire's actions both inside its 'homeland' (got to love that expression!) and outside.  The folks at Wikileaks should expect the worst, no matter how obscene, illegal or stupid.  The fact that the Empire is in decline makes it far more dangerous than in the past.

On a personal note, I will be very busy for the next couple of days, so please excuse me if I do not answer emails or comments.  Things should return to normal on Monday.

The Saker