The Wikileaks Case

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April 24

In this class, we will address many of the issues surrounding the Wikileaks case. We will explore the technical, legal, regulatory, ethical and normative elements of the events leading up to and following the massive leak of US government documents made available via Wikileaks. The case touches upon and exemplifies many of the concepts and questions that are presented in the course and will offers us the opportunity to reflect, refine and consolidate the changes and challenges of digital media.


Additional Resources

Class Discussion

April 24: The Wikileaks Case Just Johnny 17:13, 15 February 2012 (UTC)

I have enjoyed reading this case. I did not know about the all thing,letters,etc. It is interesting to queston abouut which model is the best perfect free information or controlled or totally kept secret. For Assange, the only limit seems to be the life of people involved. However, the question further : in what are they involved. Is the cause fair? And then comes a moral judgement, non objective and maybe dangerous.

The other question is: Is the disclosure very interesting for most of the human being on earth? Does that really matter?

--Sab 15:38, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

Fascinating reading, really looking forward to our discussion in class. Also great to see a step-by-step description of the chain of events that took place and tying in Anonymous' efforts of pro-wikileaks internet activism especially in the case of Aaron Barr/HB Gary Federal. Brutal! On a side note, noticed Anonymous publicly posting a decompiled research copy of the Stuxnet virus was discussed. I'm sure many of you might have already seen/heard of the following story on 60 Minutes however, thought it was quite intriguing and will post here for you all to review [Stuxnet: Computer Worm Opens New Era of Warfare]JennLopez 12:19, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

The WikiLeaks case gained my immediate attention the day it started publishing secret material and therefore reading about it again is still fascinating in my opinion. I choose to look at the WIkiLeaks case in two different ways: on one side it is amazing how so much top secret information concerning the entire world was able to be publicly shared, and the entire legal process with its jurisdictional problems following the release of such information, and on the other side the incompetence on America’s part in giving access to top secret information to a clearly mentally ill soldier and then not being able to track the source until a convicted hacker in touch with Manning reported the information to the FBI. What I found to be really interesting and positive of the whole scandal was the part concerning the democratic rebellions following the leak of sensitive information concerning Arab countries. Its only thanks to public information that citizens of Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Libya etc. were able to understand that it was time to change the way they were ruled and overturn the tyrannical regimes. Information is indeed the future and the same Assange stated that the reason for releasing the information on his part was because “a race commenced between the governments who need to be reformed and the people who can reform them using the material.” Emanuele 12:10, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

@JennLopez I completely agree, I thought the organization and explanation of the Wikileaks case was great. I particularly enjoyed the letters between Julian Assange and the Department of State. @Emanuele I also agree that the section about the Arab countries was interesting- to think that Assange in some way helped start the Arab Spring is incredible. Looking forward listening to the class discussion as well.--Szakuto 12:39, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

The Wikileaks case poses the interesting question of reporting versus national security, a question that I doubt would have been nearly as incendiary prior to 9/11. While reporters of the past have committed themselves to providing the public with all information they learn of (and therefore it is no mystery that Assange likens himself as a reporter), the turbulent nature of foreign policy (particularly in the Middle East) does raise ethical questions on what content should be published, and whether the consequences of publishing such information will lead to innocents or government officials being harmed. What was particularly problematic is that there was anecdotal evidence that Assange had originally decided on publishing the Manning files without redactions, and that his co-workers had to convince him otherwise. For a single man to have that much power to affect the lives of many agents in the field is disconcerting.

Furthermore, the “insurance file” that Assange had, and which he would publish if he was the subject of an investigation, added a new wrinkle to the concept of reporters relying on the dissemination of information rather than using information as legal protection that could jeopardize national security.

In terms of moral responsibility and security implications, Wikileaks reminds me of the photos that were taken a couple years ago of American soldiers photographing the body parts of dead Afghan soldiers. Given the hostile reaction to the Koran book-burning scandal, the news outlet who released these pictures almost certainly would have expected that additional American soldiers would be killed from outrage and reprisal and that those soldiers may otherwise have been spared had those photos not been released. These ethical problems are why wikileaks and Assange continue to be controversial.--Jimmyh 12:44, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

What a great summary of the Wikileaks events, really interesting. Assange's devotion to his own personal power/personality definitely made the supposedly altruistic nature of his releases a lot more suspect and worrisome. Reading through these events again I was reminded how impressed I was with the NYTimes, the Guardian, and the other major papers in how they handled this. They really seem to have done the best they could at thinking through an extremely difficult situation and attempting to both honor their responsibilities as journalists and maintain a sense of responsibility for the results of their actions. This is definitely something we lose when the anonymous internet becomes the method of disseminating controversial information or news; no specially trained journalists are thinking through the implications of releasing each part of a story. That lack of filter can have serious consequences. AlexLE 13:05, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

Interesting study on the Wikileaks events. I wonder what Assange's intent truly was with the letter to the State Department? Would he really remove per their request? Was it maneuvering for the U.S. to mistakenly give up the rest of the information. I'm guessing Saudi intentions to bomb Iran put people in harm's way on a more national scale --- more than just individual people. Brendanlong 13:33, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

It just amazes me how vulnerable and insecure data can be, as evidenced by Anonymous’s hacking and humiliation of HBGary Federal and Aaron Barr. The incident also proved to be embarrassing to the US government as well, as it was clearly ill-equipped to stop WikiLeaks, hacktivists, and jounals from publicizing sensitive data. Is this the way it must be to have open information and transparent government? @ Emanuele I also find it interesting that WikiLeaks allowed for revolutions to occur in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Qdang 14:01, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

Great article summarizing the WikiLeaks timeline of events. As someone with a Top Secret clearance I found the information on Manning’s background really disturbing. The military has an obligation to monitor those with access to classified material. The reading also magnified the discontent between an editor-in-chief for a newspaper vs. online journalism in regards to releasing sensitive information that could potentially cause harm to individuals. Do online journalists have less of an obligation to protect sources? Looking forward to our discussion in class tonight. I also saw this article on CNN: Manning switches lawyers --Hds5 14:04, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

@Qdang I agree, data is extremely vulnerable. The Government has to take into account retaliation from hackers when trying to impose rules and regulations.--Hds5 14:34, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

Great "step-by-step" breakdown of events. I found the part on the use of ECPA important, and wonder if the law will be changed. The power struggles surrounding Assange, as well as his personality in general, helped to cast doubt on his intentions (as @AlexLE mentioned).

@Hds5 -- I think that online journalists don't necessarily hold themselves to the same "rules" as print journalists. Perhaps it's something to do with legal ambiguity of the web. Aberg 16:02, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

Very interesting case study. It is great to have the players, timeline and full summary of events in one place to truly see the imapact of this event. Of greatest interest to me (like Qdang mentioned above) is the fact that WikiLeaks appears to have helped set the stage for revolutions to occur in northern Africa and the Middle East. I look forward to the discussion. Cfleming27 14:45, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

Great article and great summary of events as they occurred. While I was aware of many things that occurred that time, I wasn't aware of few aspects on Wiki until now. Also, I am surprised how easy Top Secret information like that can be leaked and hacked into, which raises questions of how secure data like that is. I was also surprised that that out of all these websites including government ones, Amazon was the only one that could not be hacked. This also raises questions why US government websites can be so easily hacked when compared to Amazon. Shouldn't it be the other way round? While the material did spread, I think US government did a decent job at suppressing that information from going all out. The article also showed great difference between paper journalism and internet journalism. Given that many Wikileaks employees didn't like Assange's stand of releasing such information, it seems that Assange was doing everything possible to get as much media attention as possible even if it meant his own downfall. Great article, and looking forward to class discussions. Erzhik 15:23, 24 April 2012 (EDT)

Besides the very good explanation of the facts in a brief and concise way in this article, what I most like from the Wikileaks case is that it covers many topics we have been discussing in class. We saw the importance of redacting online when we addressed regulation speech online. I agree when the article explains that The New York Times and The Guardian newspapers blamed Wikileaks for releasing the cables without revising how they should be written, putting at risk several people, including the US forces. This was the reason Jester did hacktivism for good, in order to support the privacy of the people. Also we can see how important normativity is on the Internet, and in this case we see another example of these regulations: the ECPA Subpoenas the government has used to access the accounts of important implicated persons in the Wikileaks problem. Finally, we covered collective decision and democracy in past classes, and what more impressed me from the case was that the Tunisia protests began due to some of the Wikileaks’ cables about the Tunisian government. Therefore, as it is stated in the article, part of the Arab Spring was triggered by the information spread through the cables of Wikileaks. Unbelievable! Looking forward to discussing this caseFabiancelisj 15:58, 24 April 2012 (EDT)