Joe Lieberman calls Amazon to say they should cut them off. Amazon cuts them off, then says the Lieberman call had nothing to do with it. We have no reason to doubt Amazon. It's consistent with their philosophy of not taking sides in political battles. Still I wish Amazon, who I'm a big fan of, had stood with them, had maintained its neutrality.
Then their DNS host cuts them off, claiming they were being hit with a massive Denial-of-Service attack. Again, no reason to doubt their word, but we wish they had found a way to work with them. Then WikiLeaks says you can find them through wikileaks.ch, which redirects to a dotted ID. People exchange this information on Twitter. So in a weird sneaker-net sort of way we have implemented a human DNS.
Now France runs a press release saying WikiLeaks can't be hosted there. We assume they had some reason to think that they might have this problem.
All the while there's a huge glaring 800-pound-gorilla elephant-in-the-room size contradiction. The pols say that businesses can't support WikiLeaks, but the Guardian and the NY Times and the newspapers in Pakistan, Indonesia, Israel -- all over the world -- they're businesses too. So if they're really serious about this, we're in First Amendment territory. They ought to be careful, because the politicians depend on these businesses to sell their product. Without them, they have no way to lie to us.
While the politicians and reporters are getting a fumbling on-the-job education in the architecture of the Internet (an NPR reporter said, hesitatingly, that it appears as if the server is now in Switzerland), the next question is where does the running stop? When does the situation reach equilibrium? What's the best outcome for the people of the planet?
It seems to me that at the end of this chain is BitTorrent. That when WikiLeaks wants to publish the next archive, they can get their best practice from eztv.it, and have 20 people scattered around the globe at the ends of various big pipes ready to seed it. Once the distribution is underway the only way to shut it down will be to shut down the Internet itself. Politicians should be aware that these are the stakes. They either get used operating in the open, where the people they're governing are in on everything they do, or they go totalitarian, around the globe, now.
That must be what they're discussing behind the scenes in government. And don't miss that this is equally threatening to media. They won't be able to engage in spin rooms and situation rooms, appearances and perception. When we can see the real communiques, that kind of mush won't do.
Ethan Zuckerman, via email: "Dave, [the torrents are] already there - the cables themselves are being distributed as a torrent. What's so crazy about all this is that the 'illegal content' everyone claims to be worried about hosting is basically just a promotional page - the sensitive stuff is out there in torrentspace and virtually impossible to stop from being distributed."