Wikileaks: Technology and Government
by Trey Rentz, Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 10:08:50 AM EST
At time of writing, the biggest push in our computer industry seems to be more about control than actual innovation. CellPhones that send and receive email, and take pictures - are technologically the same as the phones that sent and received email, and took pictures two years ago. The cellphone companies are still playing games - pretending that we, the American public - who pay the taxes for the FCC , and the American government - have licensed to them a wireless spectrum that is somehow limited and finite and impossible to broadcast enough bandwidth to get a website to your phone - without them replacing our browsers, clipping off the sites that haven't paid them off - and otherwise attempting to set themselves up as the gatekeepers of the public internet. Network neutrality is still under attack, and now we have companies who rely completely upon the public internet to deliver their streaming TV service. But the infrastructure is , on the long haul - pretty much the same. Some pieces are better. What has really changed is how important all of it has become. The Internet is no longer a casual curiosity circa 1993. It's a crucial part of international and domestic business.
And also, government.
We are now voting on the basis of our own independent research. A new party in America, is taking its primary boost from its connections forged on the internet. It placed candidates on the ballot - and got them elected in their state primaries. The traditional parties scrambled to catch on and use this technology. Although it could be said that the originator of this type of movement - was a 2004 campaign by a Doctor from Vermont - we are clearly working in a field where the availability of accurate information about those we elect - and our ability to network independently of news media entertainment - and the 24 hour news media entertainment cycle - has been a determinant factor in nearly two major general elections and at least one midterm. But only insofar as the information we receive has integrity - we are subject to massive disinformation sources - phished email, fake and spoofed addresses - a collection of possible forgery that is beyond the scope of this essay to explore and identify. So, we are using that information - and some of us are even vetting it out. There is a broad danger, still , that 'social networking' can be misused - or that a certain tribalism can be instilled in the American public. Perhaps the lesson of the midterms of 2010 is that elections can still be bought even in a networked world - the massive expenditure of corporate cash (the largest ever in any American midterm election) was focussed largely on an attempt to punish the 'hardworking congress' for actually getting work done instead of sitting around like fat cats.
But all of this is still pretty much the same as it was circa 2004 when said doctor from said new england state ran a campaign that rocketed him to the top of the charts from out of nowhere. And just as quickly collapsed (with a little televised help).
Wikileaks has brought a new element to the table. And that element has yet to be defined.
A wiki is a website that can be written on the fly by the people who participate in it. Its information is vetted and tested - for truth and veracity - by many different sources. Many times such a site finds its way to become a useful resource. Wikileaks, however, relies not only upon the open source nature of its architecture to allow such submssion - it uses teams of investigative journalists to explore and vet independently each story it releases.
And release it has. Wikileaks , with its release yesterday of nearly 250,000 diplomatic communications - stands to change our American government permanently.
My first question is. Why us? Why is it not the case, that every other government gets to have its entire cable communications record posted. Can you imagine what your marriage would be like, if every chat line you ever posted were given to your wife?
I think because , like us, Wikileaks is looking for its place in the world. Its role as a technology that enables positive, responsive governance. America stands as a beacon of democracy for the world. At least, certainly we once were worthy of that title. Wikileaks is only three years old - and they are very clearly searching for a place in the world.
And yesterday's leaks are a bombshell. The fact that there are things in there about Iran, are secondary. After all - Iran is sitting on real estate that would connect one of the last great oil reserves with the Persian gulf. It's no big surprise big oil wants to keep the focus on them.
For me, as a reader, the first and most significant impact of the leaked documents upon my voting decisions is realization of the scope and breadth of corporate interests in our modern American political process - and the need to commutate them. The cables that were leaked yesterday - were difficult to read at first because the site was out of service for a while - subjected to a distributed denial of service attack. But when they were released, we discovered that the American diplomatic corps has been .... well... let me redact whatever I would say here. You can read them for yourself. And you should.
What is important, for our government - that this technology brings to light - is the difference between corporate interests, and our own.
Here is a quote from the wikileaks site - that I can cut and paste anywhere, because it is all open source. And no corporation is going to sue me to keep me from posting it somewhere.
Sufficient principled leaking in tandem with fearless reporting will bring down administrations that rely on concealing reality from their own citizens.
It is increasingly obvious that corporate fraud must be effectively addressed. In the US, employees account for most revelations of fraud, followed by industry regulators, media, auditors and, finally, the SEC. Whistleblowers account for around half of all exposures of fraud.
Corporate corruption comes in many forms. The number of employees and turnover of some corporations exceeds the population and GDP of some nation states. When comparing countries, after observations of population size and GDP, it is usual to compare the system of government, the major power groupings and the civic freedoms available to their populations. Such comparisons can also be illuminating in the case of corporations.
Considering the largest corporations as analogous to a nation state reveals the following properties:
- The right to vote does not exist except for share holders (analogous to land owners) and even there voting power is in proportion to ownership.
- All power issues from a central committee.
- There is no balancing division of power. There is no fourth estate. There are no juries and innocence is not presumed.
- Failure to submit to any order may result in instant exile.
- There is no freedom of speech.
- There is no right of association. Even romance between men and women is often forbidden without approval.
- The economy is centrally planned.
- There is pervasive surveillance of movement and electronic communication.
- The society is heavily regulated, to the degree many employees are told when, where and how many times a day they can go to the toilet.
- There is little transparency and something like the Freedom of Information Act is unimaginable.
- Internal opposition groups, such as unions, are blackbanned, surveilled and/or marginalized whenever and wherever possible.
(end quote) - from Wikileaks.org
If we, as a people - are able to process what is being leaked there on that site - or, for that matter - on any wiki anywhere - we will become a nation of watchdogs and active participants in the political process. I would love nothing better than to see another 4 billion dollars spent on an election - just as this past election - with the sole design of knocking out the senate majority leader, or displacing the house leader, and replacing them with people like the GOP candidate Christine O Donnell - who did not even understand the first amendment -- and have them get nothing on the return on investment.
The accountants and beancounters are in control. There is nothing more effective - to change them - than to simply allow their own internal controls to find them wasting money. The darwinistic cycle that holds business in eternal cycles of upgrade and competition would collapse them in so doing and shut off the lifeblood of an entire microeconomy in and around Washington DC. A layer of corporate controlled lobbyism that operates like a layer of oxidation on a battery contact that prevents the battery from powering its device. From McLean, Falls Church all the way around to Arlington and Baltimore.
I might take the time to dig a little more into the wikileaks documents. But my first scans of the documents are disturbing. A pattern seems to exist where we are taking countries - and treating them as 'clients'... even if that clientele are warmongers or if they suppress free speech. Our government runs the risk of becoming something other than a democracy, if we allow, as we did this past midterm election - our country to be bought and sold by corporate interests. 4 billion dollars is a number they can throw around on their balance sheet - some companies in fact, can do that on a quarterly basis out of their profits.
What we need to do, as Americans - is to iterate that no matter how much is spent - our country is not for sale to the highest bidder. And in time, the corporate lesson will be learned: there is nothing more effective in removing those elements of a corporation from itself - than non performance on large investments.
And somewhere down the road, maybe it will get too expensive for them to keep trying to limit our web access on our cellphone or make us pay them to allow us to install something on our own hardware.
MCI did it to AT+T. We can do it to American corporations. That's my two centavos. What do you think?
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