Glenn Greenwald on being a target of a WikiLeaks takedown attempt

Whatever you think of WikiLeaks and their motives, it’s hard not to agree that they have done more to expose government corruption and deceit than any mainstream journalist has done in a very long time.

While it’s a given that they achieve this by publishing classified information, I think the true nature of some governments and their politicians has been defined just as much by their outrageous rhetoric as the information disclosed.

Certain US politicians have all but called for the death penalty for Julian Assange. Their right-wing commentators have actually called for it publicly in the mainstream media. This is wrong on two levels – firstly it is not something we should ever hear in a modern democratic society – and secondly it completely misses the point that Assange is not a hacker or leaker of classified documents. He is simply fulfilling the role of a publisher, taking great care to ensure anonymity for his sources.

Online warfare

At the end of last year, WikiLeaks revealed that it had a trove of documents from a large American bank, and in response that organisation (widely understood to be Bank of America) started to look into ways to take down WikiLeaks. This led them to enter into discussions with a US security firm called HBGary. This security firm has links to other firms that do work for US government departments, so a very interesting picture is starting to emerge.

HBGary is a fairly new organisation and is desperate to start making some money. The business is run by CEO Aaron Barr who is equally keen to make a name for himself. He drew up a WikiLeaks attack plan that included some really nasty recommendations such as knocking out the WikiLeaks infrastructure with secret software exploits, and silencing or discrediting its supporters with coercion and potentially blackmail.

Glenn Greenwald is a prominent WikiLeaks supporter and was personally included in the attack plan as somebody who should be subverted and silenced. In his response to being targeted, he has something very interesting to say in response – which will strike a chord with those concerned by the rising power of corporations around the world:

“But the real issue highlighted by this episode is just how lawless and unrestrained is the unified axis of government and corporate power.  I’ve written many times about this issue — the full-scale merger between public and private spheres —  because it’s easily one of the most critical yet under-discussed political topics.  Especially (though by no means only) in the worlds of the Surveillance and National Security State, the powers of the state have become largely privatized.  There is very little separation between government power and corporate power.   Those who wield the latter intrinsically wield the former.  The revolving door between the highest levels of government and corporate offices rotates so fast and continuously that it has basically flown off its track and no longer provides even the minimal barrier it once did.  It’s not merely that corporate power is unrestrained; it’s worse than that:  corporations actively exploit the power of the state to further entrench and enhance their power.”

And a very good point regarding supposedly balanced and fair process of justice:

“After Anonymous imposed some very minimal cyber disruptions on Paypal, Master Card and Amazon, the DOJ flamboyantly vowed to arrest the culprits, and several individuals were just arrested as part of those attacks.  But weeks earlier, a far more damaging and serious cyber-attack was launched at WikiLeaks, knocking them offline.  Those attacks were sophisticated and dangerous.  Whoever did that was quite likely part of either a government agency or a large private entity acting at its behest.  Yet the DOJ has never announced any investigation into those attacks or vowed to apprehend the culprits, and it’s impossible to imagine that ever happening.

Why?  Because crimes carried out that serve the Government’s agenda and target its opponents are permitted and even encouraged; cyber-attacks are “crimes” only when undertaken by those whom the Government dislikes, but are perfectly permissible when the Government itself or those with a sympathetic agenda unleash them.  Whoever launched those cyber attacks at WikiLeaks (whether government or private actors) had no more legal right to do so than Anonymous, but only the latter will be prosecuted.”

Further information

Read the full article by Glenn here…

Ars Technica has some great in-depth investigations into the amazing cloak-and-dagger story of HBGary trying to take down WikiLeaks and make a name for itself by revealing the identities of members of the Anonymous hacking group.

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