Posts Tagged ‘Government Secrecy’

The ultimate threat to Wikileaks

April 25, 2019

The ultimate threat to Wikileaks is not that Julian Assange may be executed or imprisoned for life.  The ultimate threat is that the NSA, GCHQ, FSB or some other intelligence agency will crack the Wikileaks code.

If a government can commit crimes in secret, and can make it a crime to reveal that secret, there is no barrier to dictatorship and tyranny.

The greatness of Julian Assange was to create a program whereby whistleblowers could divulge secrets without revealing their identity, even to Wikileaks itself.

Assange is the founder and public face of Wikileaks, but there are other members who help keep it up and running, and who will continue even if Assange is put away.  If Wikileaks is shut down, the architecture of the system is available to anyone who wants to use it.  Most important news organizations have a Wikileaks-like system for receiving confidential information.

But this is not an achievement that will stand for once and for all.

I have no doubt that governments and corporations are working night and day to find ways to hack the Wikileaks system, and unmask the leakers and truth-tellers.  If and when they do, they will not announce it.

In 2010, Pvt Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning was caught sending unauthorized information to Wikileaks because she unwisely talked to an informer.  But now prosecutors have actual transcripts showing Manning conversed with Assange.

I wonder whether the authorities had these transcripts all along, or whether Assange and Manning used a secure communication system that the government only recently was able to crack.

I hope that the people who believe in disclosure are working just as hard to strengthen and protect the system as the government is to crack it.  This is a race that will not end until either all dissent is crushed or the veil of secrecy is removed from the crimes of governments—I say “governments” plural because it is not just the U.S. government that Wikileaks threatens.

LINKS

WIKILEAKS.

WIKILEAKS DEFENSE FUND

Secrets and lies

July 2, 2013

A British blogger wrote that the reason governments have so many secrets is that they tell so many lies.

Every credit has its debit, every positive its negative.  So for every secret there must be a lie, and every lie must be kept secret.

061813ClassifiedThis is the currency of power today.  Fiat truth.

We are not allowed to have any secrets any more.  And yet those who insist they must know the truth about us, who spy upon us to extract our secrets, tell us. in return, only lies.

It is a dangerous, corroding imbalance of power, because lies, like debts, compound.  […]

The private dealings of the ordinary citizen are considered suspect and must, we are told, be rooted out.  The secrets and outright lies of the corporate and governmental worlds, however – they are confidential.  They are protected – behind razor-wire threats of legal action and closed door tribunals of hand picked experts.

via Golem XIV – Thoughts.

Lies, like crimes, compound.  You have to tell more lies to cover up the initial lies.  That’s what brought down President Nixon in the Watergate scandal.

Click on Secrets and Lies for the full post.  Hat tip to naked capitalism.

Why is the TPP draft treaty such a big secret?

June 20, 2013

President Obama in his last State of the Union address said that he hopes to see the United States ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, an proposed treaty among at least 12 nations on both sides of the Pacific that would set rules of what members governments could and couldn’t do in regard to financial regulation, intellectual property rights and much else.

But the Obama administration refuses to disclose precisely what is in the draft treaty or what the United States is asking for.  That’s classified information.

That is to say, the classification system, whose original stated purpose was to make it a crime to disclose military secrets to foreign enemies, is being used to make it a crime to reveal the government’s proposed trade treaty to the American public.

Government bodies have held closed and secret meetings from time immemorial, and journalists and legislators have found out about them as best they could.  But making it a crime to reveal what goes on in those meetings has historically been regarded as unconstitutional.

At some point, of course, the text of the treaty will have to be disclosed.  The Obama administration’s intent seems to be to keep everything secret until the last moment, and thus rush the treaty through Congress on a “fast track” vote with a minimum of discussion.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, the outspoken Massachusetts Democrat, courageously voted against Michael Froman to be U.S. trade representatives because of his refusal to answer simple questions about the TPP.  Here’s what she said about it.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant.  In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it.  This argument is exactly backwards.  If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.

I believe in transparency and democracy, and I think the U.S. Trade Representative should too.

I asked the President’s nominee to be Trade Representative — Michael Froman – three questions: First, would he commit to releasing the composite bracketed text? Or second, if not, would he commit to releasing just a scrubbed version of the bracketed text that made anonymous which country proposed which provision. (Note: Even the Bush Administration put out the scrubbed version during negotiations around the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement.)

Third, I asked Mr. Froman if he would provide more transparency behind what information is made to the trade office’s outside advisers.  Currently, there are about 600 outside advisers that have access to sensitive information, and the roster includes a wide diversity of industry representatives and some labor and NGO representatives too. But there is no transparency around who gets what information and whether they all see the same things, and I think that’s a real problem.

Mr. Froman’s response was clear: No, no, no.

via naked capitalism.

The outside advisers, by the way, reportedly include 500 representatives of industry and finance, and 100 from all other groups; they, too, are sworn to secrecy.  Senators and Representatives have been forbidden to share what little they know even with their own staffs.  Recently Rep. Alan Grayson, an outspoken Florida Democrat, was allowed to see a version of the draft treaty.

Rep. Alan Grayson

Rep. Alan Grayson

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told HuffPost on Monday that he viewed an edited version of the negotiation texts last week, but that secrecy policies at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative created scheduling difficulties that delayed his access for nearly six weeks.

The Obama administration has barred any Congressional staffers from reviewing the full negotiation text and prohibited members of Congress from discussing the specific terms of the text with trade experts and reporters.  Staffers on some committees are granted access to portions of the text under their committee’s jurisdiction.

“This, more than anything, shows the abuse of the classified information system,” Grayson told HuffPost.  “They maintain that the text is classified information.  And I get clearance because I’m a member of Congress, but now they tell me that they don’t want me to talk to anybody about it because if I did, I’d be releasing classified information.”

[snip]

“What I saw was nothing that could possibly justify the secrecy that surrounds it,” Grayson said, referring to the draft Trans-Pacific deal.  “It is ironic in a way that the government thinks it’s alright to have a record of every single call that an American makes, but not alright for an American citizen to know what sovereign powers the government is negotiating away.”

via Huffington Post.

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