22 June, 2011

Inside WikiLeaks, and inside Inside WikiLeaks!

 I am a self proclaimed admirer of Julian Assange [J] and more so of WikiLeaks[WL]. Let this trait of mine not induce an idea that this post of mine is in favor of J or WL, in manners more than what they deserve.

Daniel Schmitt [D], actually the pseudonym of Daniel Domscheit-Berg is the author of the supposedly tell all book about WikiLeaks in his recent hurriedly written, crib-log Inside WikiLeaks.

I took up reading this one for, this is the first account of any details from within the secretive whistle-blowers platform WikiLeaks. But, as ridiculous a book could get, Inside WikiLeaks is majorly the yanking of D about J's personal habits, dressing sense, his perception of women, arrogance, egotism and everything that should have been confined to one's personal observations about a fellow comrade in their struggle against secrecy, and for transparency.

Non conformity with the book

WL has always propagated that "Transparency is only for Governments and big corporations, and not necessarily for individuals". I think D had got this idea distorted and goes on yanking about J's personality, and reporting nuances of J's behavior like kids would do in kindergarten.

J eats with his hands, and wipes off on his pants.
J taps the keyboard hard, creating disturbing noise.
J wore the same white shirt for both the days of the conference.
J eats faster and leaves me little to eat.
J gets more importance, and not the team, or myself.
J wears my jacket, and goes to sleep.
J pounces on my cat.
J is not bothered about selling the T-shirts, he's busy philosophizing.
J is paranoid!
And lots of commentary on J's sexuality, to the extent that D brands J a sexist.

D, for all the credibility he has as being an important person who was working for WL, hailng from the Chaos Computer Club, and to come out with a kindergarten complaint book of this sort is silly firstly, and also puts the work he had contributed to WL in bad light. I can very well anticipate the quality of work he would have been contributing to WL with a mindset such as this.

The claims of him being sidelined, and that J was getting more attention is again a point not worth debating. WL is the ingenious and courageous brainchild of J, and if he gets credit better than his counterparts, there's nothing wrong in it, unless you have peers who are trivially bothered about it. This is a normal issue in any team, and I can testify with first hand experience, like many of you would as well.

The most importantly ignored aspect about J, or WL in the book has been the security threats they have been undergoing. D pretends as if they were functioning in a safe and secure IT firm, just writing code. Even if some of the threat claims made by Assange have been exaggerated, instances where WL whistleblowers were killed, or Amazon, Paypal, VISA withdrew their services reveal to great extents the opposition WL was/is being conditioned to. And because J had to front end WL in times of most turbulence, even his safety and well being is at evident risk.
The circumstantial allegations of the sexual misconduct by two women, to get J grounded is more than a normal reaction to what could have been J's actions.

Conformity with the book

Although the book is filled with nonsensical commentary on J, the details about how WL functioned initially, or at least to the point of narration where D is still not jealous of J is quite a read.
A single decade old server hosting WL for the first whole stint, and portraying it differently to the external world, or about the impact their leaks had is enjoyable.

The criticism on the disorientation of WL from its core principles of neutrality, because J wanted to go head on with the US, if true is a point I too would be worried about. As far as D has written in this book, J's anarchist tendencies have driven him to a war with the US. But, I cannot deny the fact that, when you take World politics and are trying to make it transparent, the US of course would emerge from under everyone's carpets. And to expose the world, is in reality exposing the US, for, the US is so intrinsically involved with the rest of the world!

Holding back of leaks, or if any bias has happened to them as D alleges, that again is a matter of immense concern. Although, apart from the commentary which influence the opinions of the audience, the material by itself will be authentic, or the concerned authorities would certainly pull WL into intended espionage.

About alleged mishandling of the donations to WL, which is the core motive which has driven D to write this book according to me, must sometime come under scrutiny, or better if J would publish the transactions to shut the critics.

The internal structure, and inherent secrecy of WL as an organization is understandable for, they're in a tough game, playing big opponents and functioning with transparency is something a small team like theirs cannot afford to.

About Open Leaks [OL], I am certainly looking forward to it taking off. For, if OL can be better than WL, by not influencing the nature of leaks, or precedence, or of the recipients of the leaks, it will certainly be better. Transparency on their platform theoretically sounds very promising, and if accomplished it can certainly become the baton holder of whistle-blowers after WL.

D says,
"There's enough injustice in the world to occupy more than one (whistleblowing) platform.", and let us hope both together can make the world a better place.

All said and done, WikiLeaks made the world aware of the importance of whistleblowing to a greater extent than ever before in the History, encouraging a lot of dissidents to take up the cause. Julian Assange, irrespective of his gray shades personally, has been the spokesperson for transparency of Governments globally and will remain an icon ( maybe not of Pop icon nature, as claimed by Daniel), but more important than that – A role model to today's technologists to take up issues of social concern, without secluding themselves from the realities around...

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