WikiLeakS.org, political manipulation and arrogant spin doctors

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We are getting increasingly disenchanted with the WikiLeakS.org project - not necessarily with the technical people behind it, but with the political activists , who seem to have already infiltrated the project with their own partisan political agenda.

Despite the claims of democracy and transparency and respect which can be found on the WikiLeakS.org documentation, there is little evidence of this in last week's Kenyan corruption document hype affair.

When we raised a few points of concern via email, this is what we got back from the arrogant WikiLeaks.org spin doctor

From: Wikileaks spokesperson
To: [email address]
Date: Sat, 01 Sep 2007

> On Fri, 31 Aug 2007
>Wikileaks spokesperson wrote:
>> Because Kenyan (and african more generally) internet speeds are so
>> incredibly slow, we need some people to
>> type up / wikify / OCR the KTM report to enable it's distribution
>> in Kenya.
>
> Why did you not do this *before* hyping up the publicity ?

Political timing.

Who exactly decided on this political timing ? The list of volunteers was not consulted.

It could be argued that even an absolutely genuine document which is leaked, can have vastly different impact, depending on the timing of the revelation.

This is why Freedom of Information Act request are often fought so hard by Western Government bureaucracies, and their political masters, even though the requested documents are revealed eventually after the legal appeals process, paid for by the taxpayers, who can neuter much of the political impact by causing lengthy delays.

Since the forthcoming Kenyan elections are not until November or December this year, it could be argued that the political timing of this WikiLeakS.org document leak about the Moi clan corruption, actually plays in to the hands of the current Government, as it gives them time to rubbish the claims and to distract the electorate with other propaganda.

Would the political impact of the media hype about this particular document have been greater some time closer to the polling day ?

We could not ask such questions on the discussion pages of the WikiLeakS.org wiki, because the Kenyan corruption document pages were locked until well after the document had been published.

> It took me half a dozen attempts to download the file, even >via a fast connection through a major ISP.

Why?

Presumably because the WIkiLeakS.org servers were overloaded by all the media requests generated by the press release hype - there were no problems with the ISP connection to other websites in Germany.

> > Would it really have been so difficult to have simply split the > document into 4 separate .pdf files, say the Table of >Contents and the Executive summary, in part 1, then pages 9 >to 40 and pages 41 to 75 and pages 75 to 110 each as >separate .pdf files ?

It is being wikified as we speak and we have it down to 1mb. Are you volunteering to assist?
>

No !

Remember this was not a "WikiLeak" by an anonymous third world whistleblower, this document was published by the core WikLeakS.org team of political activists.

They could easily have called on their list of volunteers for help before the publication date.

> Has nobody at Wikileaks.org heard of ZIP compression ? >Even though, in this case the saving in file size is only about 3 >per cent, surely it should be a semi-automatic part of the >wikileaks.org publication process to provide compressed >versions of documents ?

Possibly. Are you volunteering to write the code?
>

Why should anyone have to re-invent the wheel ? There are lots of existing file splitting and file compression programs, several of them are probably already installed by default on the WikiLeakS.org servers.

Integrating them securely into the system, without introducing remotely exploitable vulnerabilities, may take some work, but nobody is in a position to help to do that, since WikiLeakS.org have not bothered to even publish a high level systems architecture design, or a security architecture, let alone any Open Source source code or APIs.

They seem to be acting exactly like a big Government IT project and relying on security through obscurity, without any of a Government's trustworthiness, even if that is quite low in the opinion of many people.

This is a serious credibility problem for the WikiLeakS.org project.

>> On Aug 31, 2007, at 6:34 PM, Julian A. wrote: >> >>> Wikileaks news release >>> Embargoed until 5:00 AM GMT, Friday, August 31, 2007 >>> >>> The missing Kenyan billions > > [...] > >>> NOTE: Wikileaks has not yet publicly "launched". > > How can you have an *embargoed Press release* and claim > NOT to have launched publicly ???

Done all the time for many developing projects. Known != launched
>

No ! That is not the way to establish a reputation for trustworthiness,

That is the tactic of fraudsters and confidence tricksters and failed Government and Corporate IT project disaster spin doctors.

> Worryingly, there is also no warning in the Press Release, >that journalists or activists should ensure that they double >check the names and addresses and contact details which the >alleged Kroll report, which was not intended for publication, >contains, Probably most of them are accurate, or at least they >were back in 2004.
>
> However like all external consultancy reports, it pitches that >further research work is required, partly for commercial >reasons, and partly, because there is obviously much more >investigative work and checking which could be done.

Sure, but we're not the nanny state.

This WikiLeakS.org spin doctor seems to have contempt for the users of the system, and for any collateral damage which may be done to innocent third parties.

Just the sort of attitude taken by fascists, communists and other fanatics who worship "the end justifies the means" politics

That particular kind of moralizing is not our role.

Giving some basic warnings and caveats about an as yet unverified and unanalysed document, should definitely be part of the WikiLeakS.org documentation.

Solidarité, WL

If the attitudes displayed in this email persist, then we will have to move from trying to keep an open mind about WikiLeakS.org, to active opposition to the scheme.

WikiLeakS.org should publish a project roadmap of the stages which they intend to go through before they launch fully. On past performance, it seems unlikely that they will stick to their promised project milestones, but at least it would make it clear to their volunteers and the interested media and public, just at what stage the project is currently at. It could also highlight any "new ideas" and modifications which get added to the specification e.g. there now seems to be vague mention of some sort of undefined "reputation system", which is being given as an excuse for not yet allowing the full editing functionality of the wiki.

2 Comments

Since wikileaks posting of the documents was politically motivated (against the Kenyan govt) can I assume that the folks at wikileaks prefers to have a govt run by machete wielding murderer rather than run of the mill corruption types.

I wonder if wikileaks would post documents that showed Raila Odinga encouraging murder, theft and other general violence, or demostrated his ties to radical Islamists, or would their political leanings prevent them from do so.

@ senorlechero - they probably would post such documents, if they exist.

However, whether the core activists would actually put the same amount of effort into publicising stuff they disagree with politically, and sending out press releases etc, is another matter.

Whether they are more careless with the identities and lives of whistleblowers, or insiders who can comment intelligently on the authenticity and relevance of leaked documents, if they do not

My impression is that in their haste to publish all sorts of US or UK military classified documents, they are willing to risk the anonymity of their sources somewhat, because, somehow, "the ends justify the means".

Where are the Chinese military documents, or evidence of Communist party apparatchik corruption, for example ?

Are there none of these yet, because nobody actually trusts WikileaksS.org with their lives ?

About this blog

This blog here at WikiLeak.org (no "S") discusses the ethical and technical issues raised by the WikiLeakS.org project, which is trying to be a resource for whistleblower leaks, by providing "untraceable mass document leaking and analysis".

These are bold and controversial aims and claims, with both pros and cons, especially for something which crosses international boundaries and legal jurisdictions.

This blog is not part of the WikiLeakS.org project, and there really are no copies of leaked documents or files being mirrored here.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog@WikiLeak[dot]org

Before you send an email to this address, remember that this blog is independent of the WikiLeakS.org project.

If you have confidential information that you want to share with us, please make use of our PGP public encryption key or an email account based overseas e.g. Hushmail

LeakDirectory.org

Now that the WikiLeakS.org project is defunct, so far as new whistleblower are concerned, what are the alternatives ?

The LeakDirectory.org wiki page lists links and anonymity analyses of some of the many post-wikileaks projects.

There are also links to better funded "official" whistlblowing crime or national security reporting tip off websites or mainstream media websites. These should, in theory, be even better at protecting the anonymity and security of their informants, than wikileaks, but that is not always so.

New whistleblower website operators or new potential whistleblowers should carefully evaluate the best techniques (or common mistakes) from around the world and make their personal risk assessments accordingly.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

The WikiLeakS.org Submissions web page provides some methods for sending them leaked documents, with varying degrees of anonymity and security. Anybody planning to do this for real, should also read some of the other guides and advice to political activists and dissidents:

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link: http://ht4w.co.uk

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

WikiLeakS Links

The WikiLeakS.org Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

WikiLeakS Twitter feeds

The WikiLeakS.org website does not stay online all of the time, especially when there is a surge of traffic caused by mainstream media coverage of a particularly newsworthy leak.

Recently, they have been using their new Twitter feeds, to selectively publicise leaked documents to the media, and also to report on the status of routing or traffic congestion problems affecting the main website in Stockholm, Sweden.

N.B.the words "security" or "anonymity" and "Twitter" are mutually exclusive:

WikiLeakS.org Twitter feed via SSL encrypted session: https://twitter.com/wikileaks

WikiLeakS.org unencrypted Twitter feed http://twitter.com/wikileaks

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Temporary Autonomous Zone

Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) by Hakim Bey (Peter Lambourn Wilson)

Cyberpunk author William Gibson

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us, UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond

Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Wikileaks.org - the controversial "uncensorable, anonymous whistleblowing" website based currently in Sweden.

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  • WikiLeak: @ senorlechero - they probably would post such documents, if read more
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