The US Air Force has blocked access on its computers to websites that have published the secret cables obtained and distributed by WikiLeaks. That would include websites of news organizations. According to Eric Schmitt, writing for the New York Times, an unnamed Air Force official provided the on-screen warning indicating that internet usage is logged and monitored and that violators face punishment. Schmitt reports that other branches of the US military are not blocking access to news organization websites.
Meanwhile filmmaker, author, and general all-good troublemaker Michael Moore has put up US$20,000 to help arrange bail for Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. Moore has also offered “my website, my servers, my domain names, and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, out on bail and writing “Don’t shoot messenger for revealing uncomfortable truths” for the Australian, asserts that WikiLeaks represents scientific journalism, a new form of the craft. “We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true,” writes Assange. “Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?”
The Columbia Journalism School faculty have written President Obama and Attorney General Holder a letter arguing cogently about the dangers and (presumed) unintended consequences of prosecuting WikiLeaks. “But while we hold varying opinions of Wikileaks’ methods and decisions, we all believe that in publishing diplomatic cables Wikileaks is engaging in journalistic activity protected by the First Amendment,” writes the Columbia faculty members. “Any prosecution of Wikileaks’ staff for receiving, possessing or publishing classified materials will set a dangerous precedent for reporters in any publication or medium, potentially chilling investigative journalism and other First Amendment-protected activity. As a historical matter, government overreaction to publication of leaked material in the press has always been more damaging to American democracy than the leaks themselves.”
Roy Revie is a Scottish sociology researcher examining government digital communication practices. He’s written a tremendous analysis of the impact of WikiLeaks on the open internet. Revie points out that the US State Department under Hillary Clinton continues to play “an important and contradictory role in the debate on internet freedom.”
In January 2010 (before the WiliLeaks big dumps) Clinton spoke at the Newseum, introducing the concept of “21st century statecraft” concurrent with her State Department’s advancement of the use of social media in diplomacy and geopolitics. A very large part of 21st century statecraft, at least before WikiLeaks, was internet freedom. Clinton advocated vociferously for internet freedom as an absolute right, “a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.”
At about the same time the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act (VOICE) authorized US propaganda channels as well as anti-censorship and censorship circumvention tools.
That was then and this is now.
As Revie writes, “Clinton began 2010 impressed that ‘even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable,’ she ends it dealing with a diplomatic crisis (idiotically framed as “embarrassing” by most of the media) and presiding over a government backed attack on WikiLeaks –- a group which has become the symbol of internet freedom and government scrutiny and has consciously put itself on collision course with US power.”