Tag Archives: Wikileaks

If you link to something, do you own it?

Peter Van Buren Wikileaks Foreign Service State Department
Peter Van Buren, veteran US State Department foreign service officer: Linked to WikiLeaks, or merely linked to WikiLeaks?

When I first started working at the University of Minnesota over ten years ago, just when the WWW as we know it today was starting up, I found that Teh U had an interesting set of rules that were so crazy that it made me volunteer to be on the committees that made IT related rules so I could end the insanity. The insanity continued, of course. I remember asking the appropriate unit, at the time I was creating my first U-related web site, about the rule that said “If you link to an outside site you are responsible for whatever happens on that site.” Does this mean, I inquired, that if I am walking by a bank and glance at it while it is being robbed, that I’m a felon?

It too over six months for the appropriate unit to respond to my memo (which had about 20 questions on it). The answer was inadequate. But I digress.

Peter Van Buren, author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People has a blog, and on his blog he linked to a WikiLeaks disclosed item. Therefore, apparently, he is a bad person and must be fired.

As summarized by Wired:

Van Buren said he was under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information — even though he had merely linked to documents that were already widely available on the internet. The cable was just one in a cache of more than 250,000 State Department cables that WikiLeaks allegedly obtained from former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning last year and has been posting piecemeal online with media partners in the U.S. and Europe since last November.

“In other words, a link to a document posted by who-knows-who on a public website available at this moment to anyone in the world was the legal equivalent of me stealing a Top Secret report, hiding it under my coat, and passing it to a Chinese spy in a dark alley,” Van Buren wrote this week.

I have no opinion of Van Buren or his work, but you can follow the links above to open more than one can of worms. Or can of something. Enjoy.

Wikileaks Mythbusting: Yemen Cables

There has been much talk about whether the recent Wikileaks leak of diplomatic cables will be a good thing or a bad thing. I would assume (and that is an assumption … which is why I used the word assume) that there would be some of both, some forward movement of progressive ideals including honest government and reasonably transparent diplomatic policies that value human rights and the environment, etc., and some damage to ongoing diplomatic processes or exposure of ammunition that can be used for nefarious purposes by nefarious figures and organizations. But, since some of that would have happened anyway (a leak of a cable is not the only way to embolden a terrorist, advance a philosophy, fix or complicate a diplomatic problem or solve an historical riddle) we may be better off not asking about the big and essentially unknowable picture, and focusing on individual cases. So, I’d like to look, in a preliminary way, at a couple of such individual cases
Continue reading Wikileaks Mythbusting: Yemen Cables