Whether you like Julian Assange, hate him, or altogether are indifferent towards him, the reality is that the WikiLeaks phenomenon is here to stay.
Even as Assange is moved to isolation in his London, England prison on unrelated charges, protesters around the world call for his release. The real news this weekend is the launch of a new website tomorrow, OpenLeaks, by a former WikiLeaks employee. OpenLeaks will differ from Wikileaks in that it will allow anonymous users to upload information, which will then be released to media agents who can filter through it.
OpenLeaks will not release the information directly online in the manner that WikiLeaks did, and seeks to act as a broker for the information instead,
As a result of our intention not to publish any document directly and in our own name, we do not expect to experience the kind of political pressure which WikiLeaks is under at this time. In that aspect, it is quite interesting to see how little of politicians’ anger seems directed at the newspapers using WikiLeaks sources.
This is a turning point for the Internet — it’s not just about WikiLeaks anymore. What happens to WikiLeaks will get applied to others later on.
The U.S. military is considering measures to prevent future leaks. Valeria Maltoni claims that WikiLeaks has shown that all of our relationships are public. Perhaps the military will mirror the anti-social media trend and build higher walled-gardens. They are already considering banning USB drives.
Daniel Drezner of the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy said,
Governments do not respond to security breaches by surrendering themselves to the fates. American foreign-policy bureaucracies have and will continue to respond to WikiLeaks by clamping down on the dissemination of information.
…a lot less will be written down. State Department officials will opt for telephones over e-mail. As a result, future data dumps from WikiLeaks or its imitators are less likely. The cumulative effect of these measures will make it much harder for political scientists and diplomatic historians to piece together how decisions were made.
Maybe we'll revert back to carrier pigeons or something. As Jolie O'Dell points out, it's the human element that will always make this risk impossible to eliminate entirely,
…the real solution would be ensuring that all servicemen and women are in full accordance with the government’s and military’s means and ends or that the government’s and military’s means and ends are in no way and to no person objectionable or immoral. Neither one of those ideals seems realistic, which makes banning USB drives a lot easier than tackling the root of the problem.
The Wikileaks controversy reveals that even if the government wishes to exercise more control over information in the future, it simply can't.
And the reason it can't is specifically because it's a global phenomenon. Omar El Akkad of The Globe simply states,
If the WikiLeaks dump, and the subsequent cyberattacks, have made anything clear it’s this: 2010 belongs to hackers.
It doesn't take much to become a WikiLeaks hacker. It's as simple as clicking a button, as Ryan Singel points out,
…it’s now fairly trivial for anyone to join in such attacks. All you’ll need to know is the right webpage to visit and how to click on a big button.
However, the tool does not let you hide your IP address, and anyone considering using the tool should be aware that three Anonymous members, across two different online campaigns, have been arrested, and two convicted, for participating in denial of service attacks.
The nightmare of jurisdictional and enforcement issues, let alone more sophisticated maneuvers that do mask IP addresses, make traditional law enforcement an impractical solution.
The best reaction by law enforcement, if WikiLeaks is any indication, is to let the activists fizzle out themselves. Between infighting, lack of organization, and poor cohesion, there's not much in terms of a sustained campaign that anarchist-types appear capable of, for now.
Warren Kinsella has some choice words on this as well,
…at the end of yet another WikiWeek, it really doesn't matter what any of us think of Assange.
As of this morning, there are more than 500 WikiLeak mirror sites around the planet.
WikiLeaks' founder may be disappearing.
But WikiLeaks is not.