Anonymous and scoring an “own goal” in the fight over internet freedom.

Well, Anonymous has done it again:

Nestled within the data dump, posted as both a BitTorrent release and posted on sites accessible via the Tor anonymity network, are more than 300 different email accounts from 56 law enforcement websites. Details from the ransacked Missouri Sherriff’s Association website also appear in the release, including user names and passwords as well as users’ home addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers – a move that’s sure to infuriate law enforcement officials even before they note the actual name of the hackers’ release, “Shooting Sheriffs Saturday.”

Also found within the release are various police training files, a list of users who have submitted information to an online “anonymous” crime tip system, and various server-related information and login credentials.

“We have no sympathy for any of the officers or informants who may be endangered by the release of their personal information. For too long they have been using and abusing our personal information, spying on us, arresting us, beating us, and thinking that they can get away with oppressing us in secrecy,” reads the hackers’ Pastebin-posted manifesto. “Well it’s retribution time: we want them to experience just a taste of the kind of misery and suffering they inflict upon us on an everyday basis.”

Like a band of poo flinging monkeys, they once again cheer their ability to strike at that man.

Forgetting that the Man has guns.  Much like the Anarchist bombers of the 19th century managed to drastically harm the very goals they claimed to be fighting for, what Anonymous has done is nothing less than provide those pointing to the fact that the internet needs more, not less control with concrete examples as to why they’re right.  We’ve already seen, in Bahrain, and other nations that yes, it’s possible for a national government to make fairly big strides to restricting the internet.

The biggest barrier, in fact is not technological, but social and political– our own courts have routinely struck down laws seen as too restrictive and the population itself remains hostile to the idea, at least in general. But releasing the names and identities of police?  Potentially endangering tipsters?

That’s a great way to lose this war, especially if there’s no incriminating material as part of the dump– people were willing to accept that a “Technical” violation occured in the release of the Abu Ghraib photo’s because it was plain that the acts being photographed were illegal, violations of both civil law and the UCMJ which those witnessing were obligated to report.  But this, if it’s just the identifying information of police, absent any other information, or criminal files with identifying information of suspects or witnesses, this will have no such defense. What it will do is to back the hand of those arguing that the internet is now as vital as any public utility and that groups like Anonymous must now be treated like terrorists, bringing the full weight of governmental power to bear on them– and that as a part of that, the internet itself must be more strictly regulated.

Such would require great effort– which to date has been an advantage, but the more acts like this, the more the real powers– the corporations and govenrments that actually make the internet work, will start to decide that the extra cost is worth the security.  And worse, so will the people, who rather than hearing about genuine abuses of government authority brought down by hackers, will see cases of latter day infants throwing temper tantrums because some of their associates were put in prison. That does not produce a sense of injustice on the part of the bystanders, merely a hope that the government has enough cells for all.

Anonymous is not the friend of internet freedom– Anonymous is the enemy and its members are working very hard to strengthen the hand of those who wish to end internet freedom.

Playing Chicken with Lunatics.

When we talk about the question of the debt ceiling, make no mistake.  A full on default would be unprecedented.  A nation that has never done it before would default on it’s debt– it’s promise to pay.

Before we go any further, remember one thing– those dollars in your pocket?  They ain’t backed by gold, they’re backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States.  If the US defaults on one debt– well a dollar is just a debt of another kind.  Remember that.

The truth is that nobody can really say how bad this thing would get.  AT the very least it would increase our interest rates, likely a fair amount which means that all of you with mortgages, loans, and other such examples of involvement in our economy would pay more– as would those buying goods that were now more expensive.

But that isn’t the worst problem.

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How to support Al Qaeda in one easy step.

And no, it’s not in Iraq– It’s in Bahrain.

The sentencing of four protesters to death, in court proceedings that would be familiar to any small town Southern Sheriff in the 1950’s, makes it plain that the intent isn’t simply to defeat the protesters but to crush them. While the west continues to bomb Libya, the bleatings on Bahrain are distinguished by their half hearted nature, and in fact in many places, an obvious hope this will go away so that the current leadership, which is quite amiable to taking our suggestions, remains in place, comfortably swilling at their troughs.   That’s why we hear so much about these Libyan mercenaries, yet the full scale incursion of Saudi troops (troops supported, trained and equipped by the West, not least among them, the United States.) goes without much comment.

The level of mental gymnastics to explain why nothing has been done– and yes, when you consider all the levers the US and west have, “nothing” is the operative word here, would be amusing, if it wasn’t so sickening.

And what’s worse?  We’ve been down this road before in Iran.  Bahrain may suppress this current movement– they after all, came to a gun fight with some knives, but the only thing that means is that any hint of compromise will be burned away.  The fearful may retreat– make no mistake, they will never support the government again, but they will at least stay in their homes.

That is, until the other side of the movement, the one that will be purged of any moderation, manages to score a victory.  And this side of the movement, infuriated, and well aware that from this point on, words and demonstrations will be met with guns, will turn to anyone willing to provide them with guns.  And among those groups would be Iran or groups like Al Qaeda’s various franchises.

And one can hardly blame them– the US and west after all, in real terms, reacted with a giant yawn, combined with some annoyance that the Bahraini security services weren’t able to make this problem go away more quietly.   For the protesters it’s now become a life and death struggle, and you take help, well from anyone you can get it from in those sorts of struggle. After all, Churchill was the one who made the perceptive comment about aid from the devil.

If the US was worried about Iranian influence, this is the worst possible outcome– an allied nation now that rules solely on the backs of foreign mercenaries and military units, one that no longer has even the smallest shard of legitimacy.  The Christian Science Monitor calls it accurately:

The government’s strategy of crackdowns cannot be a long-term solution, says a Western observer in Bahrain who asked not to be identified to avoid repercussions from the government.

“Ultimately countries that start on this path have to end in reform. The only question is whether it’s five years, 10 years, or 15 years, and what the body count is,” says the observer. “The only options right now are substantial reform or a severe crackdown in which they kill a lot of people and pin them in their villages. And that’s not sustainable. I don’t care if you’re talking about 20 years, at some point that ends.”

What has happened is that the US had made the creation of another radical government certain– not this year, maybe not next year, but revolutionaries are often patient– worse, it has provided an easy PR victory for anti-US forces, who can point at bombs in Libya, a nation opposed to us, and then to the ineffectual response in Bahrain. The Shia will once again see Iran as one of their only champions, and radical movements will gain more adherents– every doctor fired for treating patients, every individual arrested for participating in protests will have received a graduate level education in why bombs are better than words.

Iran is handed another group of Shia who now need support from any group they can get it, and various radical groups know that now they have yet another potential source of recruits, ones repressed by yet another corrupt, western supported oligarchy.

Wikileaks– active spying?

Claim: WikiLeaks Published Documents Siphoned Over File Sharing Software

Music and movie pirates may not be the only ones trolling peer-to-peer networks for booty. The secret-spilling site WikiLeaks may also have used file sharing networks to obtain some of the documents it has published, according to a computer-security firm.

The allegations come from Tiversa, a Pennsylvania peer-to-peer investigations firm, that claims it passed information of WikiLeaks’ file sharing activity to U.S. government officials, according to Bloomberg.

Tiversa asserts that on Feb. 7, 2009 it monitored four computers based in Sweden, where WikiLeaks’ primary servers were based, as they conducted 413 searches on peer-to-peer networks seeking Microsoft Excel files and other data-heavy documents, some of which were subsequently published online by WikiLeaks.

If the allegations are true, it would not be the first time that WikiLeaks published documents that were obtained through hacking or online surveillance rather than from a whistleblower or other insiders.

The site published data in 2008 that a hacker obtained from the private e-mail account of then vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. And, according to a New Yorker story published last year, the site also possesses a cache of more than a million documents that were grabbed by a WikiLeaks activist in 2006 after they traveled through the Tor anonymizing network. At least one of these documents was published on the WikiLeaks site, according to the magazine.

So why should we care? Whether you like Wikileaks, don’t like them, or think they should die in a fire, does it really make a difference in how they distribute and gather information?

Well yes, it does and it could be a very serious difference.

News organizations by and large, seek out tips, sources, whistleblowers– but they always have that intermediate link between them and the original source material.  When gathering the Pentagon Papers, The New York Times didn’t go and get them themselves, they received them from Daniel Ellsberg, rather than a crack team of reporter ninja’s who stole documents from the Pentagon before engaging in a running gun battle with MP’s on their way to New York.   The crime if there was one, was Ellsberg’s– and by long standing tradition, later codified in New York Times Co. v. United States, the standards for prior restraint were placed high enough that today it’s unusual for a serious attempt to even be made to stop publication of such information– no matter how embaressing.

But, we need to note that Ellsberg wasn’t found innocent of violations of the Espionage Act and the act itself was not ruled unconstitutional– the case was simply fatally flawed by governmental misdeeds.  That act is still out there, and it has never been ruled unconstitutional. 

So if Wikileaks, is engaging in independent efforts to gather information, trolling p2p files, and such, they’ve removed a very important barrier between them and possible legal trouble– because now it’s no longer a matter of gathering information from whistleblowers, but directly obtaining the information.

This doesn’t only apply to Wikileaks, of course– as the ability to individual gather information from the net, the difference between reporter and source will increasingly blur.  For example, it’s known that in many cases these documents were released inadvertently.  But does their release to a public p2p network immunize Wikileaks or any other reporting agency?  You can argue that by being on a public network, for whatever reason, they are no longer covered by the Espionage Act– but that hasn’t actually been argued in a court yet.

This is going to be an increasingly important factor– the growth of new blogs, and even private citizens making use of capabilities which simply didn’t exist as little as 15 years ago to also engage in news (or gossip) gathering is forcing changes in the way both nations and individuals view the law as it applies to the news media.