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Catching up with Wikileaks
By Dave Winer on Monday, September 05, 2011 at 9:25 AM.

Apparently all the US embassy cables, with none of the names redacted, have been released.  #

It appears to me the sequence of events was this: #

1. The Guardian released a password that unlocks an archive which had leaked.  #

2. Who leaked the archive? I have no idea, but it appears not to have been Julian Assange. #

3. Wikileaks released the archive without a password a large number of unclassified documents. #

4. The full unencrypted archive is available elsewhere. #

After that a deluge of condemnation, from the professional press, of Julian Assange.  #

It's all predictable, and as with almost everything they've said about and done to Assange, seems based on incorrect information, perhaps deliberately -- giving them the benefit of the doubt they never give to Assange.  #

I have a Google email filter that sends me news about Wikileaks. For a while that had gotten dull. Now there are dozens of new stories coming out. There might be some big ones in here. Even though Wikileaks has the feel of an old story, it's generating lots of new investigations. Perhaps more than it initially did in December of last year. #

Micah Sifry says this will ruin some people's lives. Maybe it will, but we don't yet know which way things will turn. Why don't we reserve judgement until the facts are known. Also, Micah falls into the exact trap that the professional media laid for us, blaming it all on Assange. Someone pointed this out to him, and he acknowledges it in a postscript. But the attack remains, in the headline and the body of the piece. If I was Assange I would be seriously pissed off. Instead I am nauseated by the way these people flaunt their conflict, and pretend no one notices. #

The leak he refers to is about an Israeli political leader who believes Israel will eventually have a majority Arab population, and being a democracy, that means at some point it will no longer be a Jewish state. But this leader believes that it'll be okay, and I agree that there are reasons to think that it might, given what's going on elsewhere in the Middle East. Who knows Israel might turn out to lead the Arab world to democracy. They have a fair amount of experience with it, relative to the others.  #

Regardless, the person said these things. And maybe others in Israel believe them too, but haven't had the guts to say them publicly. Now someone is on the record -- true -- without permission. They have every right to be angry. But who knows what energy could be unlocked. It might be just the thing to get things moving, and I think everyone agrees they need to be doing that. (And probably will, with or without Wikileaks.) #

And that's just one random cable from one part of the world. The US does business everywhere.  #

The professional press has a lot at stake here. They have a method that they have religious feelings about, ones that some of us don't share, and that method is broken by the Wikileaks model. It's seriously unwise to try to make this about one person, because it's not. It's about a new technology that makes things like Wikileaks possible.  #

If you manage to nuke Wikileaks, that doesn't mean the genie goes back in the bottle.  #

I had an on-the-record email exchange with a reporter earlier this morning. Keeping with my no-interview policy, here's my side of the back and forth. #

1. The technology that made Wikileaks possible is not going away. It may be that Assange is an imperfect leader, and maybe he's a visionary and has served his role, or maybe this is just version 1.0 and the people who won't work with him have their own issues (I think there's a lot of that going on). Regardless, it seems there's a huge amount of information that has just been released. Without judging the morality of the leaking or who is responsible (seems the Guardian leaked the password) the fact is a lot of information was just released and has yet to be parsed, so we have no idea what the impact will be and what its future implications are. #

Also a question for [the reporter] -- when did reporters become such moralists? And don't you guys have a huge conflict of interest here? Shouldn't you bend over backwards to be fair to Assange in light of the conflict? Should we trust those organizations to factor out their conflict when evaluating their position? #

2. I completely lost faith in print media when Keller wrote his piece in the NYT Mag about Assange's socks (and other personal irrelevancies). That would have been a good time for the other publications to have aimed a little of their grief at the Times, to show that they weren't all just gunning for Assange. #

Best interview I heard on the subject was with the former NYT lawyer in the Pentagon Papers case, who said that Wikileaks deserves all the first amendment protection that the Times gets. Obviously that's true. And that should not have ever been in question. (This was on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC.) #

Reminds me of the lukewarm support we got for the web from the Times in the 90s when the Communication Decency Act made a mockery of the 1st Amendment on the Internet. They never lifted a finger to help. I guess they didn't imagine that they would depend on electronic media to deliver their reporting. #

If this is all going to be dealt with an eye toward the future, you all need to take a step back and look at your own role, and admit some culpability and make some corrections. Just dumping on Assange creates a very negative impression. #

BTW, I'm going to post all my comments on my blog. I don't do interviews, but I do blog posts. So please try to represent my point of view in whatever bits you choose to run (if any). #

3. And one more thing. I'm wearing clean socks. :-) #

Dave #

PS: Congrats to Wired for reporting it accurately. #

Christmas Tree
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