Thursday, December 16, 2010

Open season on messengers

I heard today that the US Air Force is blocking its people from viewing the New York Times website, and those of other papers that have republished the Wikileaks cables.

The words "stable door" spring to mind. Although in this case the horse hasn't so much "bolted", it's more like it's lounging around the paddock sniggering at the stable hands and enjoying a quiet ciggie. Everyone knows exactly where it is and how it got there. We're a little vague on the "why", though. Why did a private soldier have access to all that material? Why, exactly, does a very junior soldier need to know what the US ambassador to New Zealand was writing to the State Department?

The official explanation goes something like "Blah blah, 9/11, blah, intelligence sharing, blah, join the dots, blah blah, never happen again." Which, of course, is utter bollocks. Material of the level that would be required to foresee another 9/11 is specifically excluded from the whole bundle - there is nothing "top secret" there.

And if you take the view that even low-level people might be able to glean patterns and spot warning signs in this dross - wouldn't it make more sense to publish it?

Well, they have effectively published it now. And much as I hate to think "conspiracy", I can't help but notice that it's been published in such a way as to hand maximal ammunition to several interest groups. The CIA, FBI and Pentagon have all been furiously angling for funding for "cyberwarfare" divisions; the unapologetically-fascist wings of both political parties believe that the First Amendment was frankly a mistake; the White House has been itching for an opportunity to apply some sort of "control" to the Internet. All of these groups are in full cry.

Meanwhile, USAF personnel - uniquely in the world, apparently - don't have access to this material now. So much for intelligence sharing.

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