The New Revolutionaries Take to the Internet: The Tale of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

WikiLeaks raises some of the most poignant questions of our time about the power of cyber warfare, the role of hackers, and the future of the Internet. It is not a coincidence that Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has created a whole new effort to explore and fight cyber terrorism. In fact, WikiLeaks and Assange may represent the first of the wholesale anarchists using today’s information highway to do battle. Consider that instead of taking to the streets in protest, this generation may take to the Internet to wage their battles and carry their message. We are living a time represented by the power of Facebook that links over 500 million people together. And if this is true, we may have unleashed a whole new generation of cyber warlords on the world’s information centers.
Many of our brethren are writing about democracy, liberty and the freedom of information pivoting off what they believe WikiLeaks stands for. Julian Assange has been elevated to the “Man of the People” as filmmaker Michael Moore contributes to his bail fund, and the Huffington Post sets up a whole section devoted to whistleblower Fantasy Land. You know, we all need something valiant to believe in during the difficult days of Obama. The obnoxious wealthy are dancing on the heads of US lawmakers. The banks are still doing the Texas two-step, and the Middle Class continues to suffer in silence with simmering rage. There are two deeply divisive wars. China is rising and scaring the heck out of us. The liberals of the Democratic Party continue to act like toddlers, and Sarah Palin is making hay laughing all the way to her off-shore accounts. So Julian Assange, or whoever is backing him, could not have picked a better moment of discontent. They are evoking new archetypes of good and bad in a world that is increasing grey.
Assange is the anti-hero. He has been personified as a man with no country who is a metrosexual kind of guy willing to risk it all to uncover the truth. Yet, we don’t really know much about this man, or what makes him tick. Is he really the wizard behind or the curtain, or there really someone or something else pulling the strings. Is he a hacker extraordinaire, or just a man that is a brilliant online community organizer? In fact and most importantly, what does it mean to be a hacker? Are hackers by definition anarchists, or is it just Julian that wants to topple the establishment at any cost. Or are there droves of these cyber-sleuths trolling the black lands of the Internet looking for back doors into silos of information? Remember Assange was a cryptologist of sorts which is the super duper folks that develop the ways to tunnel into software code. And it may be fair to assume that these same hackers were probably responsible for the DOS (Denial of Service) attacks on Visa, Master Card and others. And if this is true then who is really pulling the strings since these were very, targeted attacks on specific corporations that shut out the money flow for WikiLeaks? The bottom line is that we still don’t know how the WikiLeaks information is gathered and/or obtained. Does it come from this new breed of whistleblowers, such as Private Manning that had a rare blend of tech talents and access? If so; does this new breed even resemble our beloved archetypical whistleblowers circa Daniel Ellsberg, or even Erin Brockovich? And I ask again, have we grappled with the ramifications of an Internet that is locked down in response to WikiLeaks? Are we ready to usher in a new age of restrictions? This sadly will make the debate around net neutrality seem like child’s play if cyber war erupts.
Please note that this post appeared earlier in the day in the Huffington Post.

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Do We Still Have A Two-Tiered Justice System?

Earlier I commented on the case of Rep. Harman. Anyone else caught with this appearance of a crime would be investigated by the Justice Department, and maybe prosecuted if the investigation showed reason to do so. I can understand that the Bush admin, the way they operated, may have discovered an opportunity to exchange letting her off the hook for getting her help (also known as blackmail) but is the Obama Justice Dept. investigating these allegations against Harman? (As well as the allegation that the Bush Justice Dept didn’t?) If not, why not?
The other day the story in the press was that President decided not to let the Justice Dept. investigate and maybe prosecute people in the CIA. I hope this is not the case, because this would be inappropriate political interference with the Justice Dept. If a crime is committed it must be investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted – no matter who is involved and no matter whether the President likes it or not. That is how rule of law works.
It is my hope that we are returning to rule of law, and the Justice Dept is back to properly doing its job without political interference, and is investigating the allegations that the Bush admin tortured people, and is investigating whether to prosecute Rep. Harman.
If not, we have just swapped one politicized Justice Dept. for another. And we continue to have a country where some people are above the law and the rest of us are beneath it.

RealDVD and Movie Industry Again — And Bob Barr, Too

OK I’m back on the RealDVD thing again. And I can’t believe I’m going to quote Bob Barr.
Yesterday Bob Barr was in my local paper with, Movie industry’s shortsighted fight,

There is now unfolding in a federal court in San Francisco a lawsuit in which several major Hollywood movie studios are suing RealNetworks – a relatively small but successful company that develops and markets Internet communications technology – in an effort to prevent the company from selling a software product that simply enables consumers to copy their DVDs to their personal computers. If the studios are successful in this Goliath-against-David legal action, [Thomas] Edison’s lesson in hard work will have been effectively reduced to, “genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent permission.”

The movie industry is suing to keep RealDVD off the market, claiming it violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In my opinion the DMCA was a bought-and-paid-for law in the first place, requiring computer and other consumer electronics companies to implement hardware controls that keep you from being able to do all kinds of things with digital media. (It’s the law that lets RIAA sue kids and deceased grandmothers.) But, not satisfied with those restrictions, the movie industry is now trying to control technology that is clearly not covered by DMCA. RealDVD lets you copy a DVD onto your computer. You can’t even make a copy of that. It think maybe this is all about the movie industry wanting to force the company to pay them royalties.
I wrote before about copyright protections, “Of course within reason this is necessary and proper.” But that’s within reason, this isn’t. Barr writes, “the sky would not fall on the movie industry were it to back away from its unfortunate legal action against RealDVD.” Amen.

Error Found in Prop 8 Wording

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
An error was found in Proposition 8 that may have broad implications for many Californians. It is hoped that the error is corrected before this weekend’s full moon.
Read the story here: Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between ‘One Man And One Wolfman’,

Activists on both sides of the gay marriage debate were shocked this November, when a typographical error in California’s Proposition 8 changed the state constitution to restrict marriage to a union between “one man and one wolfman,” instantly nullifying every marriage except those comprised of an adult male and his lycanthrope partner. “The people of California made their voices heard today, and reaffirmed our age-old belief that the only union sanctioned in God’s eyes is the union between a man and another man possessed by an ungodly lupine curse,” state Sen. Tim McClintock said at a hastily organized rally celebrating passage of the new law.

This is from The Onion, but it makes about as much sense as what Proposition 8 really says. Prop 8 wasn’t a typo, it was one group of people deciding how another group of people they don’t even know should live.
Click through to Speak Out California.

Bush v Gore 2000

Looking back at the consequences of the 2000 Bush v Gore decision by the Supreme Court — 9/11 “on his watch”, Constitution shredded, end of rule of law, hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, world’s economy literally in ruins … you know what I’m saying — shouldn’t we be talking about impeaching the Justices who put Bush in office even though Gore won?
Update – I really, really hope that the Supreme Court DOES take up the “Obama birth certificate” case. Really. I mean, imagine them trying to say Obama can’t be President. HA! Talk about a trigger for rapid change in America, that would do it.

Cultivating Prejudice, Racism, Fear and Ugliness

At their rallies McCain and Palin have been encouraging the worst from the Republican base. Accusations of “palling around with terrorists” and causing the financial crisis, and you-name-it they’re accusing. Jack Turner says what needs to be said, at Jack & Jill Politics,

Everything we need to know about John McCain and Sarah Palin is summed up by their reaction to these incidents. Their positions on health care no longer matter. Their tax policies are irrelevant. Their talking points made moot. Not only do they bring out the worst in people, but they feed the worst in people. They are basing their campaign on painting Obama as a terrorist and monster. They are cultivating prejudice, racism, fear and ugliness.
America has been down this path before, and it is the exact opposite of what this country needs right now.
History awaits moments like these. We are on the brink. When a society’s pent up frustration and anger searches for an outlet, it is a leader’s job to step up and focus those wild emotions away from destruction and toward something productive. At least that is what a good leader would do. [emphasis added]

Go read the rest.

Harold Ford at Netroots Nation on FISA

Harold Ford and Markos held a discussion on stage at lunch here at Netroots Nation. I didn’t catch all of it, but at one point Ford was talking about FISA and telecom immunity, along the lines of “If you have a company, and the government comes to you and says ‘If you do this for us it will help national security’ then what can you say?”
I’ll tell you what you can say. You can say, “DO YOU HAVE A WARRANT?”
Duh!

Court Says Republican Presidents Can Detain ANYOne Indefinitely

Court Backs Bush on Military Detentions,

President Bush has the legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in a fractured 5-to-4 decision.
[. . .] All of the judges who would have denied Mr. Marri any relief — Judges Wilkinson, Karen J. Williams, Paul V. Niemeyer and Allyson K. Duncan — were appointed by Republican presidents; all who would have granted him full relief were appointed by Democrats. Judge Traxler [the swing vote] was appointed to the appeals court by President Bill Clinton. [emphasis added]

Naturally the Times gets it wrong, implying the last judge is a Democrat: “In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated Judge Traxler for a Federal trial judgeship, on the United States District Court for South Carolina.”

Obama’s FISA Screwup

“I no longer believe.”
The issue of our Congress giving the big telecom companies immunity from being sued for illegally enabling the Republican Party to listen to our calls and read our emails is a very, very big deal to non-Republicans. Republicans, of course, are happy as clams about it. (They are also happy as clams that America now tortures people.)
I have talked to a number of friends who were major Obama supporters during the primaries, and not one of them is happy today because of Obama’s reversal on telecom immunity in FISA. He had pledged, promised, sworn, committed to oppose telecom immunity — then after securing the nomination reversed himself and voted for it.
So today I’m cruising the internets and come across Dave Winer, another Obama supporter. He articulates my own thoughts well. Obama’s FISA screwup (Scripting News),

First, the conservative pundits who say that Obama turned his back on the extreme left by voting for the new FISA bill have it wrong. He turned his back on people of all persuasions who believe in our form of government.
. . . He was right if he assumed he had our vote. I will not vote for McCain to prove this point. But I’m also not going to give him any more money. I’m going to save that for causes I believe in.
I no longer believe there is a cause to Obama other than getting Obama elected. It’s up to him now to prove otherwise. The FISA vote can be undone, but he has to actually do the undoing.

And go read the discussion as well. Some excerpts:

“I no longer have any confidence in my understanding of who Obama really is.”
“I have never seen a lucid explanation of why Obama voted this way. What does he hope to gain?”
“I too lost a lot of (maybe all) respect for Obama when I heard about his FISA vote.. Even Hillary voted against it.”
“If Obama loses his base, the steam will go out of his campaign with a great rush. There are strong indications that this has already happened.”
“His campaign would have been elevated and energized by doing the right thing. Instead, now survey the ruin among his base and his declining contributions.”

This was about the Constitution, not politics. I think many of us are just sick of the kind of “Impeachment is off the table” political calculation that got us into this mess. I think Obama can turn this around but only if he commits to solid principals and demonstrates that he means it.