Skip to main content

Is the Wikileaks 'cyberwar' actually terrorism?

I've been deeply skeptical of Republican politicians who label Julian Assange and Wikileaks as "terrorists" deserving of a good Hellfire missile or two. What happened on Wednesday, though, muddies the waters for me a bit:

Within 12 hours of a British judge’s decision on Tuesday to deny Mr. Assange bail in a Swedish extradition case, attacks on the Web sites of WikiLeaks’s “enemies,” as defined by the organization’s impassioned supporters around the world, caused several corporate Web sites to become inaccessible or slow down markedly.

Targets of the attacks, in which activists overwhelmed the sites with traffic, included the Web site of MasterCard, which had stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks; Amazon.com, which revoked the use of its computer servers; and PayPal, which stopped accepting donations for Mr. Assange’s group. Visa.com was also affected by the attacks, as were the Web sites of the Swedish prosecutor’s office and the lawyer representing the two women whose allegations of sexual misconduct are the basis of Sweden’s extradition bid.

The New York Times doesn't mention this, but Sarah Palin was also a target of the hackers. (Though she was typically witless in her response.)

Now, as a matter of course, I'm pretty sympathetic to Gizmodo's take on the whole Wikileaks affair. "Wikileaks is a flawed endeavor represented publicly by a smug egotist. But it deserves the respect and support of anyone who prioritizes the privacy of individuals over that of governments." And I think people like Palin and Mitch McConnell who throw around the word "terrorist" too freely are a menace to free society.

The hackers acting in support of Wikileaks, though, aren't freeing information and exposing the inner workings of government. They're disrupting lives. Lots of regular people use Amazon and Visa and PayPal to conduct their daily business. And they are, to some extent, "collateral damage" in Wednesday's attacks.

Now, that damage right now is that some people are pretty inconvenienced. Nobody has died or even had to declare bankruptcy based on the hackers' actions. I don't want to make too big a deal about it. But the willingness of Wikileaks supporters to disrupt the lives and businesses of bystanders is troubling to me. And, possibly, a portent of bad days to come.

Comments

KhabaLox said…
Is the Wikileaks 'cyberwar' actually terrorism? Of course not! It doesn't even begin to approach anything resembling a reasonable definition of the word, and it's very irresponsible to label it as such. (I'm looking at you, certain Republican politicians.) And I'm concerned when intelligent, informed liberals like Joel see the actions of Anonymous as "muddying the waters."

What is happening now is mostly (all?) simple DDOS attacks by a bunch of 4chan /b/tards. I've heard it argued that such a tactic is the 21st century equivalent of a sit-in, and I think the analogy does have some merit. All they are doing is temporarily denying access to a (virtual) location by occupying its access points (i.e. its bandwidth and/or SYN/ACK queue). The difference is one of scale and of repercussions for the activists/attackers.

I personally don't think it's a great strategy, as it is going to cause more harm to Assange and Wikileaks than it is to Visa, MC or Paypal. I can see a lot of people blaming this activity on Assange and Wikileaks, but it's clear that they do not have any role in it.

But it's NOT terrorism. Even entertaining that idea is dangerous and points us toward a world in which anyone who upsets the status quo can be tarred with the same brush as mass murderers.

Popular posts from this blog

Yoga

I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Interesting:
Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…