Whats up with Wikileaks?

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MARTIAL TREZZINI  /  AP
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange held an online question-and-answer session Friday with the Guardian newspaper's readers.

NBC News and news services NBC News and news services

  

LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Friday that there were some references to UFOs in "yet-to-be-published" confidential files obtained from the U.S. government.

In an online chat hosted by the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, he also said that no one has been harmed by his organization's release of troves of secret documents.

"WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time there has been no credible allegation, even by organizations like the Pentagon, that even a single person has come to harm as a result of our activities," Assange said in response to a reader's question. "This is despite much-attempted manipulation and spin trying to lead people to a counter-factual conclusion. We do not expect any change in this regard."

Assange said he and colleagues were aware of death threats following the publication of  diplomatic cables on their website.

"The threats against our lives are a matter of public record, however, we are taking the appropriate precautions to the degree that we are able when dealing with a superpower," Assange was quoted as saying.

Answering questions online, Assange also said that anyone making threats against his life should be charged with incitement to murder.

 
Asked if he has ever been forwarded documents dealing with UFOs or extraterrestrials, Assange responded, "Many weirdos e-mail us about UFOs or how they discovered that they were the anti-Christ whilst talking with their ex-wife at a garden party over a pot plant. However, as yet they have not satisfied two of our publishing rules: 1) that the documents not be self-authored; 2) that they be original. 

"However, it is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the Cablegate archive, there are indeed references to UFOs."

Britain's Guardian is one of a number of newspapers around the world with early access to diplomatic cables seen by WikiLeaks.

The whereabouts of Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, are unknown, but some reports have said he is believed to be in southern England.

Swedish authorities said on Friday that information missing from a European arrest warrant they had issued against Assange for alleged sex crimes had been handed to British authorities.

"We sent it. They asked for complementary information and now they have it," Swedish Prosecution Authority spokeswoman Karin Rosander said.

Bjorn Hurtig, Assange's attorney in Sweden, told Dutch TV that the WikiliLeaks founder would fight extradition if arrested.

Hurtig repeated Assange's denials of a sexual crime in Sweden and said any evidence against him was "very very weak."

"One woman says it's rape another woman says its a sexual offense," Hurtig said. "I will not say if he says he has had sex with them. I will tell you he denies rape he denies sexual offenses he denies having committed any sort of crime against these women or against any other person."

Crippling Web traffic
In his reponses on the Guardian's online question-and-answer session, Assange described Pfc. Bradley Manning, who was detained in connection with the leaked documents, as an "unparalleled hero" — if it was he who leaked the cables to WikiLeaks, he said.

Video: WikiLeaks chief could be arrested today

The Q&A session with was crippled at first by heavy traffic but it was not immediately clear if The Guardian newspaper website was under a denial of service attack.

The Guardian said on one of its Twitter feeds that readers should be patient because the website is under heavy visitor loads.

Assange has not made a public appearance in nearly a month, although he has spoken to journalists over the Internet.

  
Swedish authorities have issued a Europe-wide warrant for his arrest, while WikiLeaks has been forced to switch to a Swiss domain name after its American domain name provider withdrew service. Its sites have also been hit by denial of service attacks. 
 'History will win'
"The Cable Gate archive has been spread, along with significant material from the US and other countries to over 100,000 people in encrypted form. If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically," Assange wrote in response to a question about the way material is distributed.  

"Further, the Cable Gate archives is in the hands of multiple news organizations. History will win. The world will be elevated to a better place. Will we survive? That depends on you."

Assange also addressed the attention he has been getting while the rest of his organization has remained largely anonymous.

"In the end, someone must be responsible to the public and only a leadership that is willing to be publicly courageous can genuinely suggest that sources take risks for the greater good," he said.

"In that process, I have become the lightning rod. I get undue attacks on every aspect of my life, but then I also get undue credit as some kind of balancing force."

 

NEW YORK — With tens of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables still to be disclosed by WikiLeaks, the Obama administration has warned federal government employees, and even some future diplomats, that they must refrain from downloading or even linking to any.

"Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors," the Office of Management and Budget said in a notice sent out Friday.
 
The New York Times, which first reported the directive, was told by a White House official that it does not advise agencies to block WikiLeaks or other websites on government computer systems. Nor does it bar federal employees from reading news stories about the leaks.

But, if they "accidentally" downloaded any leaked cables, the New York Times reported, they are being told to notify their "information security offices."

As for future diplomats, Columbia University students considering diplomacy careers are being warned to avoid linking to or posting online comments about the leaked cables.

A spokesman for the Ivy League school confirmed Saturday that the Office of Career Services sent an e-mail to students at the School of International and Public Affairs.

The Nov. 30 e-mail says an alumnus at the State Department had contacted the office, saying the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks were "still considered classified."

The e-mail said online discourse about the documents "would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information."

Most federal government jobs require a background check.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
 
Are these leaks Good or Bad? Or Both?
Whats your Opinion?

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#1  Edited By turoksonofstone

Anyone?

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I think they're a good thing. Though there are certain documents I wouldn't want to see released (Defense secrets etc.) But the diplomatic cables for example seem more interesting than dangerous. I'm not the best to judge though, as any time I've tried to access wiki leaks I've not been able to get through to it or the connection times out.

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#3  Edited By .o0Johnny0o.

I'm loving all these revelations.  There's good news out of it as well: despite half of the middle east asking the US to intervene against Iran, they've held to their promise of negotiation.  A lot of the other stuff has more been things that we all sort of guessed but no official statements (Prince Andrew's a knob, Kim Jong-il is batshit crazy)
 
What I thought was weird was Hilary Clinton sending out an order for all the biometric / credit card details of the leadership of the UN.  That's stuff straight out of 24.

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#4  Edited By turoksonofstone

  

Whistleblowing website's founder says he will resist extradition to Sweden



Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/12/07/wikileaks-assange-uk-lawyer.html#ixzz17RvSOczw

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was denied bail in a British court on Tuesday and will remain behind bars after saying he plans to fight extradition to Sweden, where he faces sex charges.

In handing down his decision in the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, Judge Howard Riddle said he had "substantial grounds" to believe Assange would not appear for his next hearing, slated for Dec. 14.

Julian Assange surrendered in the U.K. and is being held until his next court appearance Dec. 14.(Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)

The 39-year-old Australian was arrested Tuesday morning after he voluntarily appeared for an appointment at a London police station.

In his afternoon appearance at the court, where a group of supporters had gathered, Assange was asked whether he understood that he could consent to be extradited to Sweden. He replied he understood and would not consent, The Associated Press reported.

Assange is accused by Swedish authorities of one count of rape, one count of unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation alleged to have been committed in August, police said.

P.O.V.:

Do you believe WikiLeaks is good for democracy? Take our survey.

Mark Stephens, Assange's London-based lawyer, has said the charges stem from a "dispute over consensual but unprotected sex".

After Tuesday's hearing, Stephens said a renewed application for bail for Assange is expected to be made, but he said no decision has been made on when that will occur.

Asked by reporters in a scrum about Assange being held, Stephens said: "I'm sure the British judicial system is robust enough not to be interfered with by politicians, and that our judges are impartial and fair, and that our prosecutors are also impartial and fair. I hope that I can say same the same thing about Swedish prosecutors at some point in the future."

The founder of the whistleblowing website that has released reams of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables has denied the allegations. He has not yet been charged.

The WikiLeaks founder had been hiding out at an undisclosed location in Britain since the website began publishing the controversial diplomatic cables.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks, said Assange's arrest is an attack on media freedom, adding that the arrest won't stop the organization from releasing more documents online.

"This will not change our operation," he told The Associated Press.

Assange has said the documents will be released no matter what happens to him.

Mark Stephens, lawyer for whistleblowing website WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaks to the media as he arrives at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on Tuesday. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)

His lawyer has criticized Swedish prosecutor's handling of the case, saying his client has never been fully informed of the details of the allegations against him.

Marianne Ny, the Swedish prosecutor handling the case, has denied the investigation is politically motivated.

The organization's room to manoeuvre is narrowing by the day. It has been battered by web attacks, cut off by internet service providers and is the subject of a criminal investigation in the United States, where officials say the release jeopardized national security and diplomatic efforts around the world.

The campaign against WikiLeaks began with an effort to jam the website as the cables were being released. U.S. internet companies Amazon.com, Inc., EveryDNS and PayPal, Inc. then severed their links with WikiLeaks in quick succession, forcing it to jump to new servers and adopt a new primary web address — wikileaks.ch — in Switzerland.

Swiss authorities closed Assange's new Swiss bank account Monday, and MasterCard has pulled the plug on payments to WikiLeaks, according to technology news website CNET. Visa followed on Tuesday, saying it has suspended all payments to WikiLeaks "pending further investigation."



Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/12/07/wikileaks-assange-uk-lawyer.html#ixzz17RvDmexA
 

The U.S. government has declared war on WikiLeaks.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told Fox News last week, "We are stronger than one guy with one website. We should never be afraid of one guy that plopped down $35 and bought a Web address. ... We're not scared of one guy with one keyboard and a laptop."

So far the "one guy,"  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has been arrested and denied bail in the U.K. His website has been pummeled by a series of covert and overt attempts by governments and businesses around the world to cut off its oxygen supply, but the efforts have not stopped the information flow.  

Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow tweeted that the "first serious infowar is now engaged, and the "field of battle is WikiLeaks." 

WikiLeaks appears to be holding its ground for now.

Assange and WikiLeaks are being treated as outlaws without formal legal charges, although U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, "We have a very serious criminal investigation that's underway, and we're looking at all of the things that we can do to try to stem the flow of this information."   

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called WikiLeaks "an outrageous, reckless, and despicable action that will undermine the ability of our government and our partners to keep our people safe and to work together to defend our vital interests. Let there be no doubt: the individuals responsible are going to have blood on their hands."

House Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) called WikiLeaks a terrorist organization. "It is time that the Obama administration treats WikiLeaks for what it is -- a terrorist organization whose continued operation threatens our security," she said.  

CBSNews.com Special Report: WikiLeaks

On the electronic battlefield, a series of denial of service cyberattacks and denial of service by hosting companies, including Amazon, have attempted to disrupt the flow from the trove of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables extracted from a U.S. government server, allegedly by Private First Class Bradley Manning, a 23-year-old Army intelligence analyst. Currently, WikiLeaks is hosted on Swedish servers, which have been under cyberattack this week. 

Sen. Lieberman, who advised Amazon to deny WikiLeaks service, called for other companies to follow the example set by the Amazon's web service division. "The company's decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material," he said.

PayPal and MasterCard cut off financial support mechanisms. On Tuesday, Visa said it has suspended all payments to WikiLeaks pending an investigation of the organization's business. A Swiss bank, PostFinance, has frozen WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's legal defense fund. U.S. government scientists have been blocked from accessing WikiLeaks' websites for fear the data will "contaminate" their computers.

The cyber-battle is not one-sided. WikiLeaks also has exploited the decentralized nature of the Internet to remain functional. Assange and his WikiLeaks cohorts also have an insurance policy. About 100,000  WikiLeaks supporters have been given an encrypted file of WikiLeaks data, some potentially damaging to the U.S., that would be unleashed in the event of aggression that compromises its operations. "If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically,"  Assange said. In addition, hundreds of "mirror sites,"  which copy the data of the WikiLeaks site, have been set up.

In  addition, an anonymous hacking group has started to attack organizations, including PayPal, who denied services to WikiLeaks,  Computerworld reported

Twitter and Facebook have not closed the WikiLeaks accounts on their social networking sites.

The elephant in the room is whether the U.S. Department of Justice will file charges against Assange and WikiLeaks. U.S. government officials are considering what laws might apply to prosecuting Assange, outside of the outdated Espionage Act of 1917. Holder has been mostly silent on the subject since his initial statement about a "very serious criminal investigation."

Pfc. Manning was charged in July with violations of the Espionage Act. The government would need to prove that Assange, an Australian national, and WikiLeaks conspired with Manning to procure and release the documents to bring serious charges.

The secret State Department cable exposed by WikiLeaks and subsequently covered extensively in the press listing sites vital to U.S. national security and public health has created greater security concerns that details about the personality quirks of world leaders.

"Leaking a list that purports to lay out critical infrastructure is like painting a target on the companies or the entities which are listed," said Michael Chertoff,  former Secretary of Homeland Security.  

Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation maintained that the government is leery of shutting down WikiLeaks. "The reason the government hasn't acted to take down WikiLeaks is it knows, as does every First Amendment scholar, that would run afoul of the Supreme Court's decision in the Pentagon Papers case," Bankston told Politico. "Under the First Amendment, the legal presumption is strongly in favor of free speech and against prior restraint. The government would have the burden of demonstrating serious, really imminent harm and would have to do so for each document it wants to enjoin."

Assange is now behind bars in London for alleged sexual crime charges committed in Sweden, and fighting extradition, but WikiLeaks isn't deterred on its mission, as in this tweet from the elusive organization:  "Let down by the UK justice system's bizarre decision to refuse bail to Julian Assange. But #cablegate releases continue as planned." In other words, check your favorite news website for the latest CableGate revelations. 

Daniel Farber is editor-in-chief of CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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#5  Edited By turoksonofstone
NBR staff | Thursday December 9, 2010

UPDATE: 11am: Visa.com is now also down.


MasterCard’s website has been crippled by a coordinated attack by Wikileaks supporters referred to as Operation Payback.

Online activists appear to be acting in revenge for MasterCard announcing this week it would stop processing donations to WikiLeaks, claiming it engaged in illegal activity.

Visa has also announced it will no longer process donations to WikiLeaks.

A service message posted for retailers states:

MasterCard SecureCode is currently down. This means that all MasterCard and Maestro transactions cannot be processed via 3-D Secure. This is affecting all payment service providers and is not SecureTrading specific.

For our Payment Pages merchants transactions will continue to be processed as non 3-D Secure transactions.

NBR understands in-store MasterCard transactions are still working.

They have also attacked the website of Swedish prosecution authority and the lawyer for the two woman Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is accused of raping.

The "distributed denial of service" attack was carried out by a group of "hacktivists" going by the name Anonymous.

It is planning to target social media site Twitter, which it claims is "censoring" discussion about WikiLeaks by stopping it appearing in its trends list.

 
Commentary - What do Metallica and the U.S. government have in common?

They are both fighting to control information once it has been placed on the Internet. Like Napster, which rocked the music industry by enabling piracy and was eventually sued by the band Metallica, the current Wikileaks crisis concerning the unauthorized access and downloading of 250,000 sensitive and classified diplomatic cables and other files is simply another example of a controversial yet highly efficient and hard to stop Internet distribution engine for the global sharing of data.

Both Metallica and the U.S. government have gone after these Internet distribution systems in an attempt to regain control of content they own. But it’s a losing battle. For Metallica, not much has been done to stop the millions of people who illegally access and share music files. Internet users know several Napster replacements exist that still amass files and enable the sharing of them. When something people want—music or data—becomes public, you can be sure that people will find a way to share it.

Clearly, once information is available online—whether government cables or music—the people who own the information have lost all control over it. They can discuss new laws to accommodate new technologies, ethics and so on, but an equally pertinent question is “what could we have done to prevent this in the first place?”

The fundamental issue remains that in most organizations, trust is granted to staff allowing them access to mass amounts of an organization’s most sensitive data. And now the adoption of mobile and cloud computing pave the way for trusted staff to transfer and share data on the Internet. How do you manage trust to so much data and how do you recover your sensitive data once it is posted on the Internet? You can’t put the genie back in the bottle, so the real question should be, “What are we doing to keep it in?”

In the early 1990’s both blackhats and whitehats (cyber-savvy individuals who use their knowhow for bad or good, respectively) played around with ways to extract information from systems and were amazed at the assets they could access. It didn’t require a high level of sophistication to generate a virus and exploit weaknesses in systems. As the security market continued to expand, most of the early demand was for solutions to problems that didn’t threaten to siphon sensitive information or steal intellectual property. Rather, the problems that people paid money to fix were annoyances that took up the IT or security department’s time or that cut into employee productivity. Still, this was enough to fuel significant investment in security products to thwart issues like denial-of-service and destruction of data. Now, for the most part, companies seem to have established at least a reasonable state of availability to servers, storage, and communication services. Headlines don’t frequently talk of a virus getting into a system and shutting the whole network down anymore.

Still, we have yet to get ahead of the problem of a capable, motivated attacker who in some cases is sponsored by foreign governments. Today, we’re all talking about what happened with Wikileaks and many are focusing on the “Wiki” and not the leaks. And, while providers have shown good faith by shunning DNS and hosting services to the Wikileaks site, what will follow is a game of whack-a-mole. Case in point, Napster music sharing was replaced with platforms such as Limewire and BitTorrent. The Wikileaks loss represents yesterday’s clumsy virus. Quite simply, the leak originated from a low- level analyst trusted to follow policy. And while the security community is all-a-buzz around emerging advance persistent threats capable of sophisticated and coordinated attacks on nuclear plants (Stuxnet) let us not forget that we continue to be at great risk from much less sophisticated threats like trusted

insiders with access control enforced with basic tools such as handbooks and written policy. The sticky area has always been the way organizations grant trust and the amount of power given to a user once that trust has been granted. There has to be a shift in paradigm. Companies should still aim to establish trust—with background investigations and such—when they engage with partners, employees, etc. But organizations can no longer extend that level of trust to things as powerful as information systems and technology, and in particular, those trusted to administer and manage these platforms.

Commonly, a system admin gets a background check, gains clearance and is handed the ultimate access to government or company information and infrastructure. Not anymore. Companies need to move to a zero-trust model to enforce written policy with technology. At a minimum, the Wikileaks loss should sound an alarm for access control of privileged users such as web and system administrators. The potential for loss is too great to expect that all people are going to pay attention to a memo or follow the employee handbook. After all, it only took one bad seed for Wikileaks to occur.

Just last month, the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget issued a memo for the heads of departments and agencies regarding Wikileaks and misuse of classified information. The memo includes the following immediate instruction in support of zero trust:

• Each department or agency that handles classified information shall establish a security assessment team consisting of counterintelligence, security, and information assurance experts to review the agency’s implementation of procedures for safeguarding classified information against improper disclosures. Such review should include (without limitation) evaluation of the agency’s configuration of classified government systems to ensure that users do not have broader access than is necessary to do their jobs effectively, as well as implementation of restrictions on usage of, and removable media capabilities from, classified government computer networks.

There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed by a solution to the gamut of Internet security challenges and the need to share data. At a minimum, though, organizations should tackle high-risk challenges posed by well understood threats that are easy to solve—like controlling administrator and privileged access to data and systems with today’s existing technologies that are not prohibitively expensive. In fact, a proper privilege management platform designed to control, contain, and audit access to assets and systems needed to perform one’s job, could have prevented the Wikileaks leak.

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Ken Ammon is the chief strategy officer at Xceedium