In the dispute between the US Government and Wikileaks it is interesting to see the tactics used. We are breaking new ground here. The way this fight is fought leads to all kind of observations and questions.
So what is it that is happening here? Let us start with an unnamed US governor that wants to “Hunt Assange down like a terrorist.”Well, there once was this religious leader that did not like a book written about his religion so he called for ''all the Muslims to execute them, wherever they find them.'' In this quote “them” is the author and (that’s interesting) the publisher. Remember Salmon Rushdie? I have no idea why this image came up in my mind clearly there is no analogy here.
In an earlier article I questioned the ownership of the information published by Wikileaks. If you hold that the US Government owns that information than basically it was stolen which would make Wikileaks guilty of fencing stolen goods. But in that case the logical course of action for the US Government would be to accuse Wikileaks and/ or Assange of this particular crime. The next step would be to ask the United Kingdom for his extradition.
I am no expert but given the good US – UK relationship I would expect they have reasonable extradition regulations in place to make this possible. For some reason the US Government chooses not to walk this road. Makes you wonder about the initial ownership assumption.
The Wikileaks webservers are located in Sweden and it is interesting to note that at no time the Swedish Government openly considered “pulling the plug” on the servers. They might have been asked to do something like that but till now they managed to steer clear of this fight. More interesting however is that Wikileaks and Assange have very close connections with the Icelandic government.
According to the stories they were involved with drafting legislation for Iceland about freedom of information which should position Iceland as a “New media haven”. Something similar to a tax haven but than for information instead of money. Interesting to note that Assange and Wikileaks trusted the deliverables of their efforts so much that decided to host their site in…. Sweden!
The incredible coincidence that Assange is accused exactly at this point in time has so much similarities with the plot of the movie “Enemy of the State” it has to be a coincidence. Nobody can be that obvious, or can they? Let’s treat this issue separate and leave the rest for the conspiracy theorists.
Next thing that happens is that third-party Internet service providers start pulling the plug on services that Wikileaks needs. Let us assume that I have a fight with my government about money (let say they claim I owe them taxes) but my money is located in a Swiss bank and we all know countries like Switzerland will not cooperate unless you prove to them that I was involved in illegal activities while gathering that money. See the analogy here? This amazing thing happens, the energy supplier of the bank let us know they will not supply any further electricity so the bank cannot operate anymore. Even more so the vault supplier cancels the contract with the bank.
One by one the supporting services are dropped. And funny enough the internet services are all supplied by US companies. It is unclear if the suppliers have been “persuaded” or if this is some kind of self-censorship but the message is clear. As one supplier states on their website: “… provides developers the tools to build failure resilient applications and isolate themselves from common failure scenarios.” Not a single lie there, you only invent a new failure scenario! At this time you think you have seen it all but guess what. Reality is stranger than fiction.
The Wikileaks site is provided by the same provider a few weeks later. This time a Danish newspaper decides to host a mirror of the Wikileaks site using exactly the same service provider. Politiken, we all believe the fact you choose this provider is a coincidence. After all no self-respecting newspaper would try to manipulate the situation so they are in the middle of a news scope. The press writes about the news they do not try to create it. After all if the police did anything like that we would call it entrapment!
Another of these suppliers claim on their website: “It's safer, it's faster and it's everywhere. Use XXX to shop at thousands of web-sites, knowing that your financial details are never shared.” Indeed you cannot share what you cannot use but “it’s everywhere”? Guess not.
Off course there is the stupidity of those on the other side as well. “Operation-payback”, I get the image of football hooligans. Not really interested in the welfare of their club just aggression and stupidity looking for a reason to manifest itself. Their actions they give the “other side” the opportunity to portrait themselves as the victims and legitimize their actions in the eyes of the general public.
So what is the conclusion who wins who loses? Assange and Wikileaks, they clearly gained publicity but as the new form of Internet aided journalism or just an opportunistic, “shoot everything that moves”, conspiracy paranoid new form of anarchy? I guess time will tell.
The lady governor? She lost so much credibility in the past it would be impossible to lose even more. However she did get publicity so I would say a draw for her.
The multinational, independent Internet Service providers that are caught with their paints down? I hope they make a decent portion of their turnover in the US because it will cost them a bundle to re-establishtheir lost credibility in the rest of the world. Then again the as the newspaper showed within two weeks it is business as usual with new sites using the same services. I would say these companies lost. However I would love to see their financial figures in the coming period to see if their actions were indeed “bad for business”. Maybe the world has turned so cynical that organizations that prove to be this untrustworthy do not even have to pay the price.
The US Government? In this world there are a number of countries were the government operates a “ministry of truth”. The way this incident has been handled basically showed those governments “how it’s done”. Even worse countries like Venezuela, Iran, North Korea but also Russia and China now have example tactics towards information on the Internet they do not appreciate.
The US Government has lost the “high ground” should other governments use similar bully tactics. Complaining would be like “pots calling the kettle black”. US Government how does it feel to run a “ministry of truth”? You lose!
So who wins? Countries like Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Caymans and others made billions by providing tax havens with banking regulations that give them the image of independence and trustworthiness even when the “big boys” come knocking. I do agree with Wikileaks and Assange about the need to create “New media havens”. However I would not make it especially for “New media” but for information in all forms so I would call it an “Information haven”.
This incident shows the need for these information havens and in my book Sweden gained admittance to the list. Given the still growing importance of internet in this century of information I would expect that this list will become as rewarding in this century as being considered a tax-haven was in the last one. Sweden, you win!