17 December 2010
Hillary Clinton has called WikiLeaks “an attack on the international community”. Coming from her, we must assume that is meant in all seriousness. We must compare it to what we saw on our screens on 9/11: “America under attack”.
When a Secretary of State announces that we are ‘under attack’, it follows without saying that we can expect some kind of response to that attack. Indeed, the word ‘attack’ is more or less reserved for occasions where a response is planned. Otherwise the statement would be interpreted as reflecting weakness and impotence.
When America was ‘under attack’, we got the Patriot Act domestically, and never-ending war internationally – the Constitution was shredded along with international law. That was a very big response. What kind of response can we expect when the ‘international community’ is declared to be ‘under attack’, because a website has revealed a few relatively harmless secrets?
If the State Department really felt that the WikiLeaks operation was a serious threat to national security, or even a serious embarrassment politically, they could have shut it down at any time. They have their ways. And they could have ‘gotten to’ Assange in one way or another, as they got to David Kelly, who really was a threat, with his testimony that WMDs [in Iraq] did not exist, testimony that was never heard about again, after he ‘committed suicide’.
Instead, with WikiLeaks, we have Assange at large flaunting it, and we see the leaks being published in the mainstream media, both in print and online, conveniently indexed. What’s wrong with this picture? If the leaks are harmful, why are they doing everything they can to make sure everyone, including any ‘potential terrorists’, sees them?
The WikiLeaks affair has become a major dramatic story line on the stage of the global mass media. It’s very much like the launch of a new television series. We’ve got a dramatic personality at the center, seen by some as a super hero and others as a super demon, who is able to reveal a million secrets at a single bound. We’ve got increasing dramatic tension, as the attack alarms ring, the secrets keep coming out, and … nothing decisive is being done. Something must be done! That’s clearly where this story line is leading.
By doing nothing decisive, and with Assange out on bail, the message between the lines is that new legislation is needed. Perhaps new legislation is already being discussed; I haven’t been following that part of the story. But as the dramatic tension mounts in the media, so that it becomes ‘obvious’ that something must be done, we can be sure we will end up with a draconian Cyber Terrorism Act, akin to the Domestic Terrorism Act.
Clearly, the provisions of this act will be very far-reaching. That has been the consistent pattern with each of our various ‘terrorism’ acts. Currently, anyone can be arbitrarily declared a domestic terrorist, and be locked up forever incommunicado. That hasn’t been happening on any significant scale yet, but the provisions are that far reaching.
Similarly, in a Cyber Terrorism Act, we’ll get a provision that any website can be arbitrarily declared ‘in aid of terrorism’, closed down, and anyone involved with it can be treated as a domestic terrorist. The Act will be that far-reaching, but we probably won’t see a lot of such closures happening. Instead, we’ll get hit in more subtle ways. Websites will simply be seized, without fanfare, and that’s already been happening, under the logo of Homeland Security.
I think we can take a clue from the TSA experience at airports, as regards what we can expect at ‘net ports’. Consider, for example, the ‘no fly’ list. If you’re on the list, you can’t fly, they don’t give you any reasons, and they even seem to flaunt how arbitrary the list is. They are arbitrarily restricting your ability to connect with people face to face.
Similarly, from what might be called the Communications Security Administration (CSA), we can expect a ‘no send’ list. If you’re on the list, you can’t send or post messages, and no reasons will be given. They will be arbitrarily restricting your ability to connect with people remotely. Already, I’ve been encountering problems with sending, where my IP address has been mysteriously tagged as a spam source, and my ISP claimed to have no explanation.
Consider also the invasive screening process at airports. Everyone is treated as a potential terrorist, until they pass the invasive screening process. Similarly, every message anyone tries to send will be treated as a ‘potential cyber threat’, until it passes an invasive ‘threat filter’. Google is already deploying such a filter, and calling it a spam filter. Currently, with manual intervention, you can rescue a message from the filter. The CSA’s filter will simply delete your message, end of story, before it even gets to your ISP.
Air travel and the Internet have been the ‘great global connectors’, of people and of ideas. The thrust of ‘security’ measures has had little to do with terrorism, and everything to do with making ‘connection’ more and more difficult. Same story when you try to cross a border in your car.
WikiLeaks is indeed the 9/11 of the Internet. The leaks themselves are an inside job, just like the Twin Towers, with the leaks carefully selected to avoid anything really damaging, or anything embarrassing to Israel. And just as they didn’t scramble the interceptors, they didn’t close down the WikiLeaks site. They let both events play out, down on Highway 61, and then they splashed them all over the media. Such things are always done for a purpose.
WAR IS CRIME comment: Such things are prepared long in advance. See our post “Rockefeller Declares War on Free Internet” of 24 March 2009.