Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cyber attacks in support of WikiLeaks morph into story writing

PLTA: December 15, 2010:


(After some articles are put to bed at FilterBlogs they get a "Posthumous Long Tail Aperitif" (PLTA): links to related articles published after my original post - or before, but I wasn't aware.)


"..the 'WikiLeaked' documents are nothing unless writers sit down, dig through the massive amounts of information, and write entertaining and informative stories about what they've found!"

This morning I began the daunting task of writing an original story using the leaked US Diplomatic Cables as a source. It is my better tactic to help WikiLeaks withstand attacks by the US Government that over the last fortnight have ranged from the arrest of Julian Assange on trumped up charges, to Cyber-attacks by the Pentagon on WikiLeaks funding streams. The US government is using every agency at it's disposal to prevent the continuing release of classified cables (as of this writing, 1,295 of 251,287 US Diplomatic cables have been released).

This week a network of coders known as "Anonymous" (see BoingBoing article) attacked businesses who, under pressure from the US Government, used legal language in their terms of service agreements to suspend services they had earlier agreed to provide Wikileaks. Anonymous volunteers used DDOS attacks (a flood of information requests) to shut down PayPal, MasterCard, Amazon and Visa sites for a short periods. The attack was a mirror of what the Cyber-Warfare division of the Pentagon did to WikiLeaks the week before (a much larger and sustained attack - that worked - WikiLeaks had to change their address and server arrangements).

To me the tactic seemed hedonistic and in the end, a waste of time. More importantly it is a tactic that would quickly evaporate the public good will WikiLeaks has accrued over the years. The tactic shut down portals for short periods but did not affect using your credit card in the market place. The MasterCard, PayPal and Visa sites were marketing and customer serve portals - which I expect royally pissed off people who were having trouble with their cards - people who when they got they're cards working finally would be a lot less inclined to give some of that money to WikiLeaks. People's lives are hectic enough, hitting people with crossfire in a cyber war is not a way to win friends.

My better tactic was thought of by some people in the "Anonymous" network as well, BoingBoing Article). Someone posted the leaflet below on Thursday or Friday (it must be someone in the hacker network because of the exclusionary language, eh boyz?):

The Guardian UK has assigned a lot of resources to the WikiLeaks story, and it made me realize that the 'WikiLeaked' documents are nothing unless writers sit down, dig through the massive amounts of information, and write entertaining and informative stories about what they've found!

So this morning I clicked on my WikiLeaks bookmark ( and started reading. It's really quite easy to get at the documents, in the last batch of documents the Afghan War Diary the interfaces were new and not so friendly, this time WikiLeaks has the data nicely organized. From the main page I clicked on:

Cablegate: 250,000 US Embassy Diplomatic Cables

This took me to the WikiLeaks "Cable Viewer" page. In the side bar (pictured on the left) there are several widgets that with a click of your mouse, you can browse by several different metrics:

Browse latest releases
Browse by creation date
Browse by origin
Browse by tag
Browse by classification

There's a handy graphic which shows if there are any cables in the data base between the US Embassy in your country and The US Department of State.

(click for larger image)

I checked the graphic for Canada which, today is listed on the far right, 6th from the end under "Embassy Ottawa". I took that information and checked the "Browse by origin" widget in the sidebar which has an alphabet list, and clicked on 'O' for Ottawa.

Today at this page, links to five documents come up.

I clicked on the top link which is a cable from the US Ambassador to Canada in 2004, Paul Cellucci to the US Department of State under Condoleezza Rice, a "scene setter" note in advance of a Bush visit to Ottawa just after his second term election. I read down and found in the summary section, in the third paragraph, something about which I knew nothing.

(my emphasis)

"3. (C/NF) Several themes about the future would also be
helpful for your private meetings. You should note the
substantial Canadian support to date for Iraq
and encourage Canada to play a larger role
in the development of political and security institutions
there. You should promise continued close cooperation in
places such as Sudan, Afghanistan, and Haiti, and solicit
PM Martin,s views on how to best synergize our efforts.
And finally, you should commit to focus on settling our
trade and environmental disputes. End Summary"

Apparently Canada has spent about 125 Million dollars on Iraqi reconstruction through the "World Bank Iraq Trust Fund" and "United Nations Development Group Iraq Trust Fund".

I did not know that.

I Googled the phrase from the cable - "Canadian support to date for Iraq reconstruction" - to see if anyone else had written anything on this, or if it was in evidence anywhere else on the web. Turns out it is public knowledge.

(Canada's Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien did us the Great deed of not cowering to the war hysteria, lies and engineered disinformation that the Bush Administration was producing in 2002-2003 - and luckily we stayed out of the Iraq War --- but in keeping with the stated aims of the over all NATO strategy in the new world order of preventing "failed states", we continue to donate money to Iraq reconstruction - because after the bombing, and the invasion, and the counter insurgency - well, Iraq is now a failed state - so good for us for helping now to prevent it! ;)

The Google search also brought up an article in the Toronto Star which is interesting; it's the cable, published by the Toronto Star, standing alone, with no link back to an article:

Using Google search I found the article: Toronto Star, Wednesday, December 1st 2010, Canada chagrined after cut from intelligence loop on Iraq: WikiLeaks.

I applaud The Toronto Star for testing the limits of freedom of the press and especially for allocating resources to study the cables - and for writing these stories:

CableGate articles published so far at The Toronto Star

The 'Canada chagrined...' article has this at the end of it:
"WikiLeaks says there will be as many as 2,648 documents mentioning Canada among the quarter-million it plans to release in coming days."

Unlike the Toronto Star, The New York Times has recently wimped out on publishing the full text of the leaked cables, although they have written a number of stories using the cables as sources (some of which they hadn't received from WikiLeaks but had to ask The Guardian UK to show them). They must be getting advice from their Laywers that is taking them in this direction ( imho, economic and branding considerations will soon trump those legal fetters.

WikiLeaks has given The Guardian much more data from the Cable Leak than The New York Times - possibly because the Guardian agreed to a set of stipulations designed by WikiLeaks to get news stories published - while The NYT would not agree to such stipulations. To me though, I think The Guardian had already decided to put a lot of resources into the story, before they agreed to WikiLeaks conditions. They didn't need to promise anything they weren't already going to do anyway. They would use the information as few papers had (with regard to the previous big leak, The War Diaries).

After the last weeks events The Guardian UK has now positioned themselves as the Global go-to resource for WikiLeaks related news - in the English language at any rate. In doing so they show the way, the strategy is sound business, and the Gaurdian model thus empowers editors at other papers to take the case to ownership that the legal departments objections are mute - the newspapers survival as a leading news organization must use the leaked data going forward - they must fight the government in court if necessary or shut down their presses and go home.

CableGate is the biggest single source of news stories since the Pentagon Papers (which was front page news for 3 months) Stories based on this on-going release from WikiLeaks could be creating stories for a year; and then the next leak.

WikiLeaks is a game changer and The New York Times must be realizing that by now.

So that's the mechanics of a better than DDOS attacks tactic. Now I'll head back into WikiLeaks for some serious reading and see if I can find a story which will encourage other bloggers to do the hard work of parsing this monstrously large data set - and in doing so canonize WikiLeaks in the 4th Estate.

WikiLeaks articles here are linked via a "WikiLeaks" label.

Related Titles here at FilterBlogs:

December 7, 2010 WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange Arrested in London on fake Swedish Rape charge, Denied Bail

December 6, 2010 US systematically shutting down WikiLeaks revenue vectors - here's ways around

December 5, 2010 Secretary of State Clinton Codifies WikiLeaks does the hard slogging - creates daily 'WikiLeaks' headlines around the globe

December 4, 2010 A New England down for the count - needs help

August 4, 2010 CBC's 'WikiLeaks Release' search-able database of Canadian mentions


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