Saturday, December 4, 2010
In 2010, another huge archive of secret documents was made available. These classified documents did not accidentally leak onto the Internet through the work of some mischievous Internet hacker. Indeed, they were not even on the Internet. They were intentionally stolen from a private Defense Department network, the so-called “intranet.” The perp allegedly was a 23 year old US Army intelligence analyst named Bradley Manning, who had the clearances necessary to use this private network. If so, the operation was not conceptually different than that of Robert Hanssen, the KGB mole inside the FBI, who, among other things, broke into the private FBI computer network. Both were break-ins aimed at acquiring state secrets, which is, by any definition, espionage. The US Army intelligence analyst allegedly provided the fruits of his theft to an organization called Wiki-leaks, whose founder Julian Assange termed him a “hero.” Wiki-Leaks, in turn, made the fruits of this espionage available to the press, as had the Iranians with their stolen documents. The difference was that Julian Assange, unlike the Iranians, managed to negotiate arrangements with a number of leading news organizations, including the New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and The Guardian in which they would get advance access to the stolen documents in return for not publishing them before a designated date. As a result the Wiki-leaks had simultaneous front page stories in many of the world’s most prestigious publication. Such stories may have had great value to media, and even helped enhance their circulation, but what they were publishing, and lending their credibility to, was not Wiki-leaks but Wiki- Espionage.