WikiLeaks vs. The Law of Unintended Consequences


(Oh no he didn’t) (Oh yes he did)
The Atlantic:

How WikiLeaks Just Set Back Democracy in Zimbabwe

Last year, early on Christmas Eve morning, representatives from the U.S., United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the European Union arrived for a meeting with Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Appointed prime minister earlier that year as part of a power-sharing agreement after the fraud- and violence-ridden 2008 presidential election, Tsvangirai and his political party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are considered Zimbabwe’s greatest hopes for unseating the country’s long-time de facto dictator Robert Mugabe and bringing democratic reforms to the country.

The topic of the meeting was the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by a collection of western countries, including the U.S. and E.U. Tsvangirai told the western officials that, while there had been some progress in the last year, Mugabe and his supporters were dragging their feet on delivering political reforms. To overcome this, he said that the sanctions on Zimbabwe “must be kept in place” to induce Mugabe into giving up some political power. The prime minister openly admitted the incongruity between his private support for the sanctions and his public statements in opposition. If his political adversaries knew Tsvangirai secretly supported the sanctions, deeply unpopular with Zimbabweans, they would have a powerful weapon to attack and discredit the democratic reformer.

Later that day, the U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe dutifully reported the details of the meeting to Washington in a confidential U.S. State Department diplomatic cable. And slightly less than one year later, WikiLeaks released it to the world.

The reaction in Zimbabwe was swift. Zimbabwe’s Mugabe-appointed attorney general announced he was investigating the Prime Minister on treason charges based exclusively on the contents of the leaked cable. While it’s unlikely Tsvangirai could be convicted on the contents of the cable alone, the political damage has already been done. The cable provides Mugabe the opportunity to portray Tsvangirai as an agent of foreign governments working against the people of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, it could provide Mugabe with the pretense to abandon the coalition government that allowed Tsvangirai to become prime minister in 2009.

The Guardian:

Assange defended one of WikiLeaks’ collaborators, Israel Shamir, following claims Shamir passed sensitive cables to Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko has arrested 600 opposition supporters and journalists since Sunday’s presidential election. The whereabouts and fate of several of the president’s high-profile opponents are unknown.

Of Shamir, Assange said: “WikiLeaks works with hundreds of journalists from different regions of the world. All are required to sign non-disclosure agreements and are generally only given limited review access to material relating to their region. We have no reason to believe these rumours in relation to Belarus are true.”


If people die as a result of WikiLeaks’ disclosure of classified information, do we just write them off as collateral damage? What liability, if any, should WikiLeaks and the original leakers (if they can be identified) have for those deaths?

Back to The Atlantic for this piece by Jaron Lanier:

The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks

[...]

Openness in itself, as the prime driver of events, doesn’t lead to achievement or creativity.

One problem is that information in oceanic magnitudes can confuse and confound as easily as it can clarify and empower, even when the information is correct. There is vastly more financial data set down in the world’s computers than there ever has been before, including publically accessible data, and yet the economy is a mess. How can this be, if information is the solution?

A sufficiently copious flood of data creates an illusion of omniscience, and that illusion can make you stupid. Another way to put this is that a lot of information made available over the internet encourages players to think as if they had a God’s eye view, looking down on the whole system.

A financier, for instance, might not be able to resist the temptations of access to seemingly endless data. If you can really look down on the whole market from on high, then you ought to be able to just pluck money out of it without risk, which leads to the notion of a highly computerized, data intensive, brobdingnagian hedge fund. This is fine, for a while, until other people start similar funds and the whole market becomes distorted.

The interesting similarity between Mr. Assange and a typical financier who overdid it is that both attempted to align themselves with a perceived God-like perspective and method made possible by the flow of vast information on the Internet, while both actually got crazy and absurd. Wikileaks and similar efforts could do for politics approximately what access to a lot of data did for finance in the run up to the recession.


There is an old legal trick that is sometimes called “the needle in a haystack.” In response to discovery requests or subpoenas you give them everything including the kitchen sink. You bury the other side in paperwork and hope they won’t find the one or two key documents. (You also run up their legal fees because somebody has to go through all that stuff.)


(h/t Lambert for the Lanier piece)


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102 Responses

  1. Wonkette:

    There will always be government secrets that the public needs to know. And we will always depend on the bravery of the people who work for the government to blow the whistle and face the consequences. But releasing a whole cache of documents, without regard to their purpose or the potential damage of what secrets they contain, winds up in stuff like this. (And also it winds up in stuff like Julian Assange hooking up with the hott Swedish laaaaaaadies who suddenly love him. And then him being gross and weird.)

    This is the first time I quoted Wonkette since the Wonktard War of ’09

  2. Whatever the source, I find the analogy between wikiweewee and the subprimersinorbit rather appropriate.

  3. Set back democracy in Zimbabwe? RU fucking joking? If you need to bolster your criticism of wikileaks try using a more reputable source than the fucking Atlantic for Christ’s sake. They employ McCardle and Sulivan!!!11!1 WTF!

      • Well just go ahead and stop a fun argument. Party pooper.

      • Mugabe’s wife, Grace, has filed a $15m (£9.5m) lawsuit against a newspaper that reproduced a WikiLeaks report saying she had been involved in underhand sales of diamonds from the controversial Marange mines. The MDC has called for the government to investigate charges against Mugabe’s wife and other senior officials implicated in the US cables.

        Interesting…

        • Mugabe, et al, are scum. They should not be given any pass on this whole thing. This is so out of control – the discounting of the Wikileaks – as if Mugabe is OK.

          HE IS A MONSTER AND HAS DESTROYED ZIMBABWE.

          • I don’t recall anyone claiming Mugabe is ok.

            Quite the opposite.

            In fact, the post says:

            How WikiLeaks Just Set Back Democracy in Zimbabwe

            Last year, early on Christmas Eve morning, representatives from the U.S., United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the European Union arrived for a meeting with Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Appointed prime minister earlier that year as part of a power-sharing agreement after the fraud- and violence-ridden 2008 presidential election, Tsvangirai and his political party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), are considered Zimbabwe’s greatest hopes for unseating the country’s long-time de facto dictator Robert Mugabe and bringing democratic reforms to the country.

    • did you read the diary? Do you have any problem at all with Wikileaks endangering the lives of innocent people?

      • I’m sure you meant this as a rhetorical question, but obviously par4 didn’t read anything but the WikiLeaks talking points memo sent out to the faithful.

  4. “If people die as a result of WikiLeaks’ disclosure of classified information, do we just write them off as collateral damage?”

    I think that might be how Julian Assange sees it, as he has stated that:

    We would have had to release all this material without separating out any of it, or release none. The value, the extraordinary value of this historic record to the progress of that war and its potential to save lives outweighs the danger to innocents.

    But he has also said:

    What annoyes me the most, is when people abuse their power and harm innocents – and they actually didn’t need to do it.

    Somewhat contradictory, no?

  5. Internet neutrality rules by FCC recently is whitewash not real net protection.

    Somewhere, I saw mention of a one hour boycott of the net where everyone logs off and shuts down. Sunday , I think. maybe 3PM EST.
    Anyone see anything?
    That could be interesting.

    Would anyone notice ?

  6. 3pm est—you have to be kidding! That’s more like when we set are clocks back and have our online banking “temporarily unavailable for routine maintenance”. Only the nerdiest of nerds would call a revolutionary attack when no one is watching.

  7. I suggest you all read Baudrilard on Simulations.

  8. “… people die…”

    So what’s the net? Sorry to be bring the realpolitik, but in public policy discussions, people always die. In some cases, the net is clear cut: Iraq; Afghanistan; single payer. Or, for that matter, World War II.

    It’s not clear to me that wikileaks falls into that category. If you grant that secrecy is an essential tool of the empire, well, the empire kills an awful lot of people (Iraq; Afghanistan). So how is the balance struck, here? What’s the methodology?

    Now, one could make the argument that it’s up to the appointed representatives of our elected and extremely legitimate government to strike that balance. To which I’d respond, yeah, it would be great if we had a government like that….

    • Good point. And whistle blowing even if there are some bad consequences may still be the right thing for the greater good. But then again, it might not. So perhaps some due diligence on the part of journalists and on the leaker themselves is a good thing. Sometimes leaking later is good. But of course sometimes something needs to come out now.

      What seems to be interesting here though is that this leak vehicle (not a Wiki by the way) doesn’t try to filter or take time or care to see what’s worthwhile or not. So they appear to leak for its own sake. No matter the value or consequences. Sort of like a teenager rebelling for its own sake.

      Looking at this, the consequences, motivations, and the secrets behind the operation is just as valid of course since they are an organization with power of a sort themselves. If the main meat of what’s leaked and the most likely consequences are all about Iran and lead to war with Iran, so far the most likely outcome, I’d like to know what’s really going on.

      • Politics in the real world isn’t a graduate seminar. One can discuss Wikileaks to death, go round and round, this point of view, that point of view, what you’re saying connects with what I’m saying, until you’re blue in the face.

        Meanwhile empires carry on with the business of killing and keeping secrets from the citizens that pay for the killing.

      • There are something like 250,000 cables and only around 3000 have been released. So, clearly some sort of filtering was going on, even if the filtering algorithm was random.

        And given the low percentage of cables actually released, I don’t see how we can reason about what the ultimate consequences of the leaks will be.

        I also question whether one can reason directly from “consequence” to “intended consequence.” With a long track record and model you can (it seems reasonable to me, for example, that the consequences of the Obama administration for homeowners and the unemployed are intended) but I don’t think we have that in this case; I don’t see “teenage rebellion” as a model; for most definitely good and most definitely ill, Assange (who is not the organization) is a more complex figure than your average teenager.

        I fall back on the question, “Has wikileaks made the empire harder to run?” and I think the answer to that is yes. So to me, for know, and with heavy, heavy caveats, the net is positive.

        • You have a point about the number of cables. I fear it’s just random though, but who knows.

          About making “the empire” harder to run as a good thing, really? It’s good if we slow down or shut down our system of government? Of course it’s heavily flawed and there are nasty things happening and have always happened. It’s big and powerful. But I’m for whistle blowing where it matters and counts and for shining a light and holding people accountable. But I don’t want the system to be harder to run. I think when this system bogs down and gets harder to run, then we’re really screwed.

          • So — assuming for a moment that I accept the frame that arbitrary financial ratios are important, which I don’t — you’d rather fund the empire than Social Security and Medicare? Because, over the next year, that’s going to be the choice on offer.

          • I’m assuming by empire you mean the US. That would include Social Security, etc. Maybe you mean something else like the military industrial complex. If that’s the case, then I’m all on board with that slow down.

          • Exactly, DT. And, I’d like to point out one more time, we wouldn’t need a big redonkulous behemoth of capricious radicalism like Wikileaks if we had a responsible media. Instead of trying to destroy the entire “system” maybe we could try to fix it. Crazy idea, I know. Why work towards reasonable progress when you can get your nightie in a knot and push for total anarchy instead?

    • The whole story about Zimbabwe is suspicious to me.

      I don’t believe newspapers should be in the business of deciding what’s injurious to divulge and what is not. The U.S. government had plenty of time to inform people at risk about the release of the cables. The U.S. government knew for days that the cables would be released. If someone is to be blamed, blame the U.S. government for doing nothing.

    • Just because we can’t trust government doesn’t mean we can trust WikiLeaks.

      I have a problem with the general break-down of opinion on WL too. It’s very tribal.

      On the rightwing, WL is evil, Assange is a terrorist and Manning is a traitor. On the left WL is pure goodness and Assange and Manning are noble heroes. There are also elements of cult of personality.

      As usual the truth lies somewhere in between.

      I’d like to see people do more thinking and less believing.

  9. Wikileaks release Museveni cables

    • Mugabe hints at Zimbabwe election date (early 2011), Wikileaks cables & Grace
      17 December 2010

      Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has hinted that elections could be held in the first three months of 2011, even though the referendum on a new constitution is yet to be finalised.

      His Zanu-PF party is holding its annual conference in Mutare, with its campaign strategy likely to be high on the agenda.

      Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is demanding that the elections be closely monitored by an independent body – six months before and after the event.

      Karen Allen reports from Zimbabwe.

  10. Remember back in 2003 when Geraldo got kicked out of Iraq? It’s one thing to want to get the truth about what is going on into people’s hands, but it’s a whole other matter to disclose sensitive info about the position and movement of troops.

    There’s also the Valerie Plame incident. Leaks don’t always expose information for the good of the people, sometimes leaks are about bad intentions.

  11. OPEN LETTER
    Submitted by Peter Kemp on Tue, 12/28/2010 – 04:58

    OPEN LETTER

    TO:

    THOSE INCITING MURDER UPON JULIAN ASSANGE AND/OR MEMBERS OF HIS FAMILY.

    We, among many law abiding citizens of the world deplore and condemn, as applicable, your utterances and writings calling for the extra judicial ie unlawful: kidnapping/assassination/murder/physical harm of Julian Assange, his supporters, Wikileaks workers or members of Assange’s family.

    We remind you of the laws in your country and others against incitement, inter alia:

    Common law:

    In English criminal law, incitement was an anticipatory common law offence and was the act of persuading, encouraging, instigating, pressuring, or threatening so as to cause another to commit a crime….The inciter must intend the others to engage in the behaviour constituting the offence, including any consequences which may result, and must know or believe (or possibly suspect) that those others will have the relevant mens rea.”

    Codified Incitement Law:
    (1) Australian Commonwealth
    11.4 Incitement
    (1) A person who urges the commission of an offence is guilty of the offence of incitement.
    (2) For the person to be guilty, the person must intend that the offence incited be committed.

    (2) Canada
    464. Except where otherwise expressly provided by law, the following provisions apply in respect of persons who counsel other persons to commit offences, namely,(a) every one who counsels another person to commit an indictable offence is, if the offence is not committed, guilty of an indictable offence and liable to the same punishment to which a person who attempts to commit that offence is liable; and

    (3) United Kingdom
    (1)A person commits an offence if—
    (a)he does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence; and
    (b)he intends to encourage or assist its commission.

    (4)USA
    There is no automatic 1st Amendment protection per
    Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969):
    Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action

    We remind you that while such prima facie incitement by way of utterances and writings may go unpunished in your country, they will not necessarily go unpunished in others, and especially so should you have the courage of your convictions to repeat them in those other jurisdictions.

    We ask you respectfully, to contemplate this writing of Mahatma Ghandi:

    An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.

    And that truth is that Julian Assange is no terrorist; he is not a war defined “belligerent” acting against the United States; he cannot ever be a “traitor”to the USA since by definition he is not a citizen of the United States.

    And lastly as Ron Paul put it so well:
    In a society where truth becomes treason, however, we are in big trouble. The truth is that our foreign spying, meddling and outright military intervention in the post-World War 2 era has made us less secure, not more, and we have lost countless lives and spent trillions of dollars for our trouble. Too often it’s the official government lies that have given us endless and illegal wars resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and casualties.

    Yours Faithfully
    Peter H Kemp
    The Wikileaks Central Crew
    And I believe, so many others all over the world.
    http://wlcentral.org/node/725

    Peter Kemp, Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales
    …………..

    He makes some pretty interesting points, via many laws in the Western world, that call themselves Democracies and believe in a Free Press.

    • Don’t get me wrong, I think threatening to kill someone is ridiculous, but does Mr. Kemp really need to explain that murder is wrong & illegal? Forget how the fact that murder is wrong & illegal makes not an iota of difference to a lunatic who would actually kill Julian Assange, just how stupid does Mr. Kemp think people are?

      • Progressive Hunter (Glen Beck’s viewer was that STUPID, and many have said Julian Assange and his staff should be harmed, even recognizing that it is illegal. So, I guess that is Mr. Kemp has made his points.)

        • My point is, someone who is crazy enough to actually threaten to kill someone else & follow through with it isn’t going to be deterred by the fact that murder is wrong & illegal (and look at that — it is wrong & illegal everywhere!/snark font). You can’t reason with crazy. So, Kemp is preaching to the choir — i.e., people who know it is wrong & illegal to commit murder, so he comes off as a sop, imo.

        • PS — and, btw, there are always nuts threatening to kill all kinds of people. When Ellen cried on her show about some dog that was taken back by the rescue place she got it from when she gave it to her hairdresser, the owner of the rescue place got death threats. People were threatening to kill Bristol Palin on DWTS. So, I think Mr, Kemp is making an issue about these death threats to make Assange look like a victim & take the heat off of him re: the leaks themselves & the rape accusations. So, I’m not buying into it. I know a distraction when I see one and, as I said: you can’t reason with crazy. Someone who actually wants to harm Assange isn’t going to deterred by a summary of the law on murder from Mr. Kemp.

  12. My main problem with Wikileaks is that Julian Assange is basically an a–hole. And I’m not talking about the rape charges — he’s an egomaniac & an elitist & a jackoff, plain & simple. The Greeks have a word for a guy like him: Malakas. Literal translation is a guy who is such a loser he can’t get a woman so he jerk’s off all day but a better translation is total a–hole who is in love with himself. That pretty much sums up Julian, imo.

  13. I’m torn – should I watch “Beerfest” or “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

    • You already are living Beerfest, so go with Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader — you might learn something.

    • It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter.

    • You’ll be disappointed with either choice. :)

      • Them 5th graders on the show are really midget geniuses.

      • 4th grade math:

        “The angle opposite the hypotenuse in a right triangle has how many degrees?”

        WTF?

        When I was in 4th grade I had to take my shoes off for math tests.

        • Dude, the hypotenuse in a right triangle is always opposite the right angle (90′) everyone knows THAT.

        • 90 degrees because it’s the two legs that make the right angle.

          • No — the hypotenuse is the longest leg of a right triangle, not the 2 legs that make the right angle. The hypotenuse is always opposite the right angle. You calculate the area of the hypotenuse by squaring the two sides that form the right angle (Pythagorean theorem — a2+ b2 = c2) so maybe that’s where you got confused.

            *the “2″ are signs for the square, not multiply 2.

          • The Hypotenuse is the long leg of a right triangle, which unites the two legs that form the right angle, hence it’s opposite the right angle, or 90 degrees. The square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the other two legs of a right triangle (Pythagoras theorem). You can do lots with that theorem.

          • Dario — seriously? That is WHAT I JUST SAID — you are the one who said upthread, and I quote: “it’s the two legs that make the right angle.” You messed up — it’s ok, you aren’t being graded here. But don’t try to say that you initially said the hypotenuse was the leg opposite the right angle by basically regurgitating what I just said to try to make me think I’m the crazy one.

            And pray tell, what else can you do among the “many things you can do” with Pythagorean theorem other than calculating the area & length of right triangles? Because there isn’t any.

          • Au contraire – you can win money on game shows with it.

            :p

          • @ myiq — LOL — God I’ve missed you! :-)

          • Angiec,
            Whatever. I see what you mean. I wasn’t answering what the hypotenuse was. I was only concerned with the answer to the question, which is 90 degrees. That angle is opposite of the hypotenuse. The angle formed by the two smaller legs, and I should have made that point.

          • Dario — yeah, whatever. We all know that I’m right. :-)

          • Yes, we all know you are right.

          • Aw, thank you Dario for admitting it! It just warms my heart! I can’t tell you! :-)

          • Yup. Now you can say that everyone recognized you were right. The first time in your life you are right is worth noting. Your first notch. How about that. Everyone give Angienc a big applause!

          • Poor Dario — wrong again. I’m ALWAYS right — and if you would just keep that in your head as a given, we could have saved a lot of time.

            And for the record — I was being playful. If you want to be a jerk, you can f*ck off.

          • Dario kisses the infallible Pope Angienc’s ring.

          • Would get on my knees if I were you.

          • Dario — I’m Eastern Orthodox — I know for a fact that the Pope isn’t infallible.

            I understand I hurt your feelings by pointing out your mistake, but you need to lighten up. At this point you should just let it go & stop embarrassing yourself.

            Don’t make me have to tell you to f*ck off again.

          • Three Wickets, you are right. :)
            Dario gets gets on knees and begs forgiveness from infallible Angienc.

            Dario fücks off. :)

          • I have always wondered how exactly one f*cks off. Diagrams please.

          • I think this flame war has gone far enough. Don’t make me call Katiebird.

            I can’t believe people are arguing over algebra.

  14. U.S. Anti-Israel Activity

    Conspiracy Theories Linking Israel to WikiLeaks Circulate on the Internet

    Posted: December 23, 2010

    As the story about WikiLeaks’s release of U.S. diplomatic cables gained media attention around the world, a number of Web sites across the ideological spectrum began to circulate conspiracy theories alleging that Israel was secretly involved in the publication of the cables.

    Although the theory that Israel orchestrated the WikiLeaks’ affair is circulating on a relatively small number of Web sites, it has gained traction with those catering to the far right and the left, as well as on some Arab and Islamic sites, and others dedicated to spreading “anti-Zionist” messages like Islam Times and Hezbollah’s Al-Manar Web site.

    To date, these sources have promoted two major claims regarding WikiLeaks’s relationship to Israel. One claim is that WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange “struck a deal” with Israel to withhold the cables that were “embarrassing” to Israel. This narrative about Israel negotiating with Assange may have first surfaced in Al Haqiqa, an online publication affiliated with a Syrian opposition group, which was cited as a source by other articles posted in Arabic and English, as well as select press agencies. Others furthered this claim by alleging that Israel’s “deal” with Assange either aimed to undermine the United States or sought to create an opening to attack Iran.

    Another theory circulating online is that Assange actually works for Israel as a “spy,” with the alleged evidence being the scarcity of cables related to Israel in the materials that were leaked to the public and the press.
    http://www.adl.org/main_Anti_Israel/conspiracy_theories_wikileaks.htm

    OK, I am sure to land in Spammy’s hands, but this latest conspiracy is too predictable and some people are running with it.

  15. Beantown Globe:

    AMERICANS ARE entitled to be angry about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his anarchistic attitude toward the release of a quarter million US diplomatic documents. Assange’s belief that the value of exposure always exceeds that of secrecy is simply wrongheaded. But his desire to disrupt societies through widespread leaks can be viewed differently when aimed at a society hobbled by widespread corruption.

    Russia’s foremost independent daily, Novaya Gazeta, has said it will publish WikiLeaks documents that purportedly disclose corruption and ties to organized crime at the highest echelons of the country’s power elite. Novaya Gazeta promises to use the WikiLeaks documents as source material, and seek to verify and expand on any revelations. If it does, the same people who’ve rightly attacked Assange for his undisciplined release of State Department documents — some intriguing, some embarrassing, some potentially harmful to America — should stand behind Novaya Gazeta and, if necessary, Assange.

    If that sounds like a double standard, consider the Russian government’s often-bloody attempts to avoid this type of scrutiny. In the past, Russian reporters delving into corruption have been beaten and sometimes killed. Newspapers have been targeted on charges of “extremism,’’ for which they can be closed down. Then there was the former Russian security official Alexander Litvinenko who openly accused his superiors of ordering the assassination of billionaire Boris Berezovsky. He later claimed Russian Premier Vladimir Putin had ordered the murder of an investigative reporter and even staged terrorist events to help his rise to power. Litvinenko himself was mysteriously poisoned to death in London in 2006. In Russia, secrecy is synonymous with repression.

    • What? I am SHOCKED. Some people would like to condemn anarchic and childish attempts to distribute sensitive information in a puerile attempt to encourage transparency without any kind of responsibility or foresight, and yet would applaud, say, actual investigative journalism? What a fucking concept.

  16. We don’t know it was “unintended”.

  17. Snuggling With the Enemy by “An American Embedded in Sweden”.

    [Warning (especially to Canadians!): Sarcasm-filled content!]

    • The truth is that Canada is a huge, awesome country that goes largely unnoticed internationally. And because they’re so cozy with America, nobody’s gonna start any shit with Canada. The scam artists with guns below their unsecured southern borders are the best thing that ever happened to the Great White North (John Candy notwithstanding). The cost of securing their gigantic borders and maintaining an army proportionally sized to Canada’s population and land mass is essentially unnecessary.

      Besides, Canada’s secret existence makes it easier for American travelers around the world when things like George W. Bush come along. Just slap some red maple leaf flags on your luggage and no Europeans will lecture you about American foreign policy.

  18. [...] WikiLeaks vs. The Law of Unintended Consequences “ The Confluence By myiq2xu Assange defended one of WikiLeaks’ collaborators, Israel Shamir, following claims Shamir passed sensitive cables to Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko has arrested 600 opposition supporters and journalists since … riverdaughter.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/wikileaks-vs-the-law-of-unintended-consequences/ [...]

  19. Actually, since it was the New York Times that decided to publish that cable, your post and headline should say “NY Times sets back democracy in Zimbabwe.”

    Anyway, the MSM has good reason to hyperventilate about everything potentially scary and bad that a leak can cause…if it’s WikiLeaks doing it that is. The MSM “journalists” have been caught out as the lazy scribes they are, and WikiLeaks is showing them up. So they have a vested interest in continuing the “bad terrorist” meme.

    If we’re going to get all bent out of shape about this, then where are the cries for the heads of Dana Priest and Bob Woodward and other investigative journalists who regularly publish classified documents in newspaper reports? Are they endangering us or anybody else? The neocons certainly think so, and you’ll recall that it was the Bush administration who wanted to criminalize these revelations (again, it is NOT illegal to publish classified information..and good reporters do it all the time).

    Last time this subject came up I used the example of the Toledo Blade’s Pulitzer-winning expose’ of the Tiger Force commandos in Vietnam. I still think it’s the best example because that reporting was based almost entirely on the use of classified government documents. And there too, a lot of people wanted that stuff hushed up and went to great lengths to keep it under wraps–so great that even historians of Vietnam had no idea about the existence of Tiger Force.

    So my question remains: If you are going to join the chorus of “WikiLeaks is bad!” are you also going to call for the heads of those reporters on a spike? Is what they did “irresponsible journalism”?

    And this, one hundred percent:

    I fall back on the question, “Has wikileaks made the empire harder to run?” and I think the answer to that is yes. So to me, for know, and with heavy, heavy caveats, the net is positive.

    I too remain neutral on Julian Assange and curious about his motivations and his agenda. It could well be that they come as a shocking surprise. I don’t discount that possibility. But in the meantime, WikiLeaks is performing a service of tremendous value and I don’t let my feelings about one individual color that value.

  20. As for the Boston Globe, they are basically saying “Leaks are OK if they are used against people we don’t like, like those nasty Russians. But God forbid the same treatment should be meted out to our own Exceptional and Great American Empire.”

    Piffle.

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