New York Times
LONDON — A small army of activist hackers orchestrated a broad campaign of cyber-attacks on Wednesday in support of the beleaguered antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks, which has drawn governmental criticism from around the globe for its release of classified American documents and whose founder, Julian Assange, is being held in Britain on accusations of sex offenses.
Julian Assange has really stirred up a hornet's nest this time. The first dump of leaked information caused the US government to huff and puff in frustration but no real action took place. At least no overt action. But this second dump has involved quite a number of other countries and now the backlash and backlash to the backlash has begun.
Personally, I'm torn. On the one hand I understand the need for transparency in the government but a lot of the information divulged so far is either government operational minutiae, opinion reports by operatives and officials that border on gossip and the identity of collaborators in hot-spots and theaters of war around the world. Almost none of which is Earth shattering and barely news worthy. I know Julian Assange is a radical and thinks he's doing the world a favor but he's not taking one big thing into consideration:
The apathy and cynicism of the average citizen.
Most people just aren't all that concerned with how their government works. When you turn on the hot water faucet on your sink literally a thousand things have to happen in a specific order just so you can have hot water in your home. But you don't care about the specifics of that, you just want the hot water you paid for. Wikileaks gives you those specifics. People in general and Americans in particular just want to feel secure and be able to go to work. That's it. As long as that feeling of security and routine of work is not greatly interrupted, we don't care how the government gets it done. A few weeks back there was a media dust up over the TSA body checks at the airport. But what didn't get as much airtime as the complainers was the fact that polls taken on whether people supported or didn't support the checks revealed that over 60 percent of those polled consistently supported the checks and x-rays. That just illustrates what I'm talking about.
Also the kind of information that was divulged, while interesting on the surface doesn't do anything to forward any kind of discourse or action from the public. What are we supposed to do with information that characterizes Russian leaders as "Batman and Robin" or describes Italy's Prime Minister as "feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader."? Some of the information isn't so surprising like learning that Arab leaders secretly pushed for America to strike at Iran with our military while publicly agreeing that hard sanctions were sufficient. You mean to tell us that political leaders talk out of both sides of their face? Wow, that's unheard of. Assange may think he's doing a good thing but its not translating into positive action from the citizenry.
What it is doing is drawing the ire and laser like attention from most of the G-20 countries. And they responded in the typical way governments do when threatened by an enemy they can't disappear without anyone noticing. They brought him into custody on trumped up charges of rape, isolated and separated him from his money supply and performed character assassination by calling him a terrorist and rapist in the media. Julian Assange is being handled in a very similar fashion and tactic that was used to apprehend Saddam Hussein. And now it looks like it won't be long before he's sitting in a jail cell in Gitmo. But we're forgetting this is the 21st century and Assange isn't a dictator of some borderline third world country threatening to release WMD. He's a hacker and that means his domain consists of ones, zeros and code.
He's the leader of a virtual country and its citizens are ready to rally and battle for his cause. Just in the last 24 hours they've already struck back by shutting down Visa and MasterCard websites in an attack dubbed "Operation Payback". More attacks like these could be in the works as long as Assange is held in custody or Wikileaks is under threat of being shut down. As this situation escalates, the big question is will it have the desired effect that Assange is looking for. Which is more transparency from the government and its leaders. Or will it just cause those entities to tighten up and hunker down even more?