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Re: <nettime> Chris McGreal: Who watches Wikileaks? (The Guardian) (! ;
Geert Lovink on Mon, 12 Apr 2010 15:16:26 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Chris McGreal: Who watches Wikileaks? (The Guardian) (! ; -)


Hi all,

this is certainly an interesting and very much nettime thread, with  
much more to come. Here is another piece, also from a Brittish  
newspaper. I see lots of parallels with the strategies and problems  
the Dutch anti-militarist group Onkruit ran into in the early  
eighties. They got into stealing (Gutenberg) papers and faced similar  
issues who was going to investigate them, read them, publish them etc.  
The problem that I see is how to overcome banal cyber-liberatarianism  
and build new (or rebuild old) bridges between geekdom and  
investigative journalism, presuming that the work of the latter will  
have to be paid for, even though parts can be crowd sourced and done  
by volunteers. This is really an issue of 'organized networks'.

Ciao, Geert

---

Original at:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/11/iceland-wikileaks-henry-porter

(http://bit.ly/a0kJ0B)

Out of one nation's catastrophe comes a clarion call for honesty

Iceland's proposal to create a haven for investigative journalism should
be welcomed by all who cherish freedom of expression

Henry Porter
The Observer, Sunday 11 April 2010

Sitting at the bottom of the mountain in Iceland, there was time enough
last week to reflect on this country's importance in the struggle  
between
the world's internet users and state secrecy, never better represented
than by publication by Wikileaks of a video showing the slaughter of  
more
than a dozen people by an American helicopter gunship in Baghdad.

Iceland is proposing radical new laws that will create a safe haven for
investigative journalism and therefore the release of this kind of
shocking footage, which exposes a cover-up, as well as the true nature  
of
a war where a superpower deploys its weapons on a third world country,  
in
this instance cutting down, among others, two people working for  
Reuters.
The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (Immi) will allow organisations  
like
Wikileaks to provide the strongest possible protections for sources and
whistleblowers releasing sensitive material that big business and
secretive states want to suppress.

Having flown from Britain last Tuesday where our disreputable Parliament
was about to pass the Digital Economy Bill with virtually no scrutiny  
and
certainly no concern for freedom of expression, it was remarkably
refreshing to read the following from the official website of the Immi,
which, incidentally, is supported by all parties here. "The goal of the
Immi proposal is to task the government with finding ways to strengthen
freedom of expression around the world and in Iceland… we also feel it  
is
high time to establish the first Icelandic international prize: the
Icelandic Freedom of Expression Award."

The prospect of this investigative sanctuary has naturally attracted
Wikileaks and earlier this year its Australian founder, Julian Assange,
spent three weeks advising the Icelandic government on the initiative.  
He
has since alleged that the CIA has mounted an aggressive surveillance
operation against him and that the Icelandic intelligence officials also
pursued him.

Well, who knows what's true, but the idea of any British government
proposing such a prize, let alone supporting an initiative like this is
unthinkable: we pride ourselves on our innate love of free expression  
and
liberty but in the last 20 years, along with the expansion of state  
power,
we have done little to stop the growth of official secrecy and very  
little
to assert our right to know.

In what seems at this distance to be an unusually dire beginning to an
election campaign, few perhaps noticed that Lord Mandelson's Digital
Economy Bill, presented as protection for ordinary copyright holders
against file-sharing, will enable our government to block websites  
such as
Wikileaks on grounds that it infringes copyright; more or less  
everything
the website publishes is someone's property. Stephen Timms, the  
government
minister piloting the bill in the Commons, said that he would not want  
to
see the bill restrict freedom of speech, but then, predictably,  
refused to
guarantee that Wikileaks would not be blocked.

This badly drafted, poorly scrutinised legislation will hamper but not
impede Wikileaks, for a few there always will be ways round cyber
blockades. However, imagine the way our government might have tried to
suppress publication of MPs' expenses by Wikileaks or documents  
connected
to the Iraq war. Although the new bill was not drafted to protect MPs  
and
government, no effort would be spared to assert the rights of copyright
holders, just as no effort was spared by Gordon Brown in a masterclass  
of
opportunism when he used the 2001 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act
in 2008 to freeze assets of Iceland's Landsbanki, which owned the failed
bank Icesave.

As surely as Lord Mandelson will never have to answer personally to the
electorate for this shoddy piece of legislation, the new copyright laws
will be used to protect those in power, elected or otherwise, and that
must be a bad thing. But what we are seeing here is the natural response
of just one state to the threat that the web poses to its control and  
need
for secrecy. Last year, the US designated a fifth domain of military
endeavour to join those of land, sea, air and space. It is cyberspace  
and,
among other things, the United States has created a special unit, the  
24th
Air Force Cyber Command at San Antonio, Texas, to develop defences, as
well as offensive capabilities to "assess adversaries' network  
security".
It is not hard to imagine the response of the Cyber Command, or  
AFCYBER as
it will be known, to a security breach like the one showing American
aircrews killing people as though they were playing a video game.

The fifth domain is a sphere where spies and politicians and the  
military
must compete and it is right to stress that sometimes this will be for  
all
our security. But often it will not, which is what makes the Icelandic
initiative important. The Immi is utterly in keeping with the country's
feelings of violation and remorse following the crash of its three main
banks with debts of €50bn – about €160,000 for each Icelander. Some  
knew,
but the vast majority of the population did not understand the true  
nature
of the country's exposure, which is felt all the more because just two  
or
three generations back this was a thrifty nation where the majority made
their living from fishing and a little agriculture.

Openness has become an obsession here equal to the belief that all
citizens have the right, indeed duty, to inform themselves about what is
being done in their name. That view applies to all democratic  
governments,
not just their own, which is why the Icelanders may be on the point of
providing a crucial service to the world.

Many governments, not least the Americans, are deeply hostile to what  
they
regard as irresponsible behaviour by the Icelanders, but it is worth
noting that Iceland promises to consider "the legal environments of  
other
countries" in developing the Immi. How Iceland is going to square  
radical
policies of openness with the laws of other territories remains to be
seen, but after its treatment by the British and the financial  
collapse in
the US, it will take a fairly robust attitude to appeals from at least
these two governments.

There is also something else propelling the Immi, which occurred to me  
as
I watched vast superjeeps descend perilously in the middle of the night
from a storm on the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in the south where a  
volcano
is erupting. It is the Icelanders' sense that you cannot allow for every
eventuality. Bad things happen and it is better that you understand the
nature of risk rather than give up your freedoms in exchange for that
illusory sense of security that has inspired so much recent  
legislation in
Britain and so much official secrecy.

IMMI website: http://immi.is/?l=en





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