Category Archives: Whistleblowing

Nefarious Activists?

Nefarious – Word of the Day

 

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Image: techviral.net

Black, grey white hats – hacking of course!

White Hat hackers are ethical hackers, they simply use hacking techniques to test software and security systems. The Grey Hat hacker is not malicious, but occasionally violates ethical principles and laws. Black Hats are the bad guys, they are nefarious, according to law enforcement agencies and commercial interests, they infiltrate systems, wipe, steal and disrupt. Or do they?

As often happens with any fear of wrong doing or alleged crime, truth is often the first casualty. Black Hats are simply lumped in together. So consider Gary McKinnon, formerly known as Solo, who hacked ino 97 US military and NASA systems between 2001 and 2002, altering and removing data. Mckinnon claimed he was looking for information about UFOs, extraterrestials, and chemical suppression processes. Extradition to the US from Britain was attempted but in the end refused. McKinnon remained free, and in the ensuing investigations, it transpired that the sensational claims made against him were inaccurate. But then we had Kevin Poulson who committed fraud and theft using hacking skills, he was caught and sent to prison, but now works at The Daily Beast and has been an editor at  Wired.

So, two different motives appear, one to find information that is being hidden from the public, the other to do the equivalent of the old bank robbery. Both are considered to be crimes, however, in my mind, McKinnon was not seeking gain, whereas Poulson’s sought financial gain through theft. I have some sympathy for Mckinnon, and none for Poulson.

Anonymous is a loose collective of what are referred to as hacktivists, they are  amorphous and ever changing, and they have specialised in cyber attack, especially in matters of justice and claims to avenge corruption and injustice. It is typified by the headless man symbol – meaning there is no central leader or leadership, and in public the use of the Zorro mask is now synonymous. Many have referred to the group as a cyber Robin Hood. Their main purpose has been to temporarily shut down websites and services as a form of protest. anonymous has exposed pedophile groups, sweat shops, cheating spouses, racial profiling, racist political groups, corrupt politicians and more. They led cyber attacks on Scientology, Westboro Baptist Church, and commercial interests who have been show to behave unjustly. They have been supporters of Wikileaks, Occupy and Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

Wikileaks is a group that operates a website and who post hacked or leaked material, mainly suppressed material from around the globe, it has also set up a research wing looking at the material it posts. It was founded by Julian Assange, who has been the subject of an extradition battle by the US. Although it has had a controversial history thus far, and some alleged nefarious dealings with Russian interests, Wikileaks has also exposed commercial and government lies, duplicity, and deception around the globe. Wikileaks has exposed nuclear dsiasters, environmental abuses,government corruption, military attacks on civilians, plots and threats, and police corruption. Basically taking up the role of an independent watchdog.

These groups are indeed nefarious, but the one’s I really don’t like are those that are just common thieves. The rest, while motives are mixed, and methods questionable, at least they have sought a way to make governments and commercial interests accountable. in my view it is laughable when western government agencies protest about the crimes of hacktivists and in particular the shady methods they use, I see that as the kettle calling the pot black. So it all depends on where you are standing as to how you might see this issue, but I for one see a glimmer of good in the work of Anonymous and Wikileaks. Governments become arrogant, and as has been shown by hacktivists, they lie to the people, even to themselves, and that means power has been corrupted.

The US and its allies speak of hacktivists as terrorists. I beg to differ, it’s a little childish to exaggerate the issue. Besides, in my view these people have done exactly what Mark Felt, Daniel Elsberg and others before them have done, but in a global and accessible way using the internet. In that sense, hacktivists are whistleblowing. We may not like their methods or their attitude, but just look at some of the results.

For me, the work of the hacktivists is more about getting to the truth and preserving freedom of speech. While truth is relative, freedom of speech is sacrosanct and should be defended no matter what. How did keeping the Iran nuclear leak in 2009 suppressed protect national security? It didn’t. Freedom of speech is far more important than someone’s opinion that government should be protected at all costs.

Some related quotes I like:

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”  Harry Truman speaking to Congress August 8, 1950.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” George Orwell

Speak your truth!

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under history, life, Philosophy/Theology, politics, quote, Whistleblowing

When Truth Disappears

via Daily Prompt: Disappear

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Daniel Ellsberg.

Last week I watched the movie “The Post”, it has a stellar cast with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, Spielberg directing. For me the technical side of the movie was irelevant, because what was more important in this movie was the story itself, the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

Ellsberg, who had served in the marines in the late 50s, joined the Rand Corporation as a strategic analyst focussing on nuclear strategy. He completed his PhD in economics in 1962, and then in 1964 went to work at the Pentagon as assistant to John McNaughton. He then went to Vietnam for two years, working for general Lansdale through the State Dept. It was while in Vietnam that Ellsberg began to question the US involvement in the war.

When Ellsberg returned from Vietnam he returned to the Rand Corporation, and in 67 he contributed to the top-secret study on the Vietnam war commissioned by McNamara. This study was completed in 1968 and titled The Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg now understood the war to be one of US aggression and not one of support for a legitimate govt. under attack, and was therefore an illigitimate war under the UN Charter. Ellsberg could see from the study that from Kenedy to Johnson to Nixon the US Administration had known they would never win the war the way they were fighting it, so they were simply face saving and condemning a generation of young men to death while destroying another country. Ellsberg with help from a colleague, made secret copies of the Papers. In 1970 he tried to persuade selected US senators to bring them to the senate floor as evidence. This failed, and in 1971 he sent a copy to the NY Times correspondent Neil Sheehan, who published an excerpt with teh promise of a serial. The Nixon Administration sought a court injunction, and succeeded. Ellsberg then gave the papers to The Washington Post, and several other newspapers, who printed them. Another injunction was sought, but the Administration lost and the ruling allowed freedom to print, and they did.

As an aside, Nixon aide Erlichman authorised the formation of “The Whitehouse Plumbers”, Hunt and Liddy, as they were infamously known, to break into Ellsberg’s Psychiatrist’s office and get his files, they did but found nothing worth using against Ellsberg. This action was recorded on tape, and was the undoing of the Administration’s attempt to convict Ellsberg. Notably, shortly after this, the “Plumbers” raided the Watergate office of the Democrat Party, and so Nixon’s fate was then sealed.

The publication of the Pentagon Papers were deemed by the US Supreme Court to be a right of free speech and this ruling was seen as a landmark case. The publication damaged the war effort and was part of the turning of the tide, it shocked a nation that they had been so blatantly lied to by successive administrations. The truth had been a casualty, the truth had disappeared.

But then, isn’t that the story of politics?

  • The fabrication of stories to create a power block in Argentina 74 – 88, which included the systematic murder, rape and torture of citizens deemed to be in opposition to the Junta.
  • The illegal coup by Pinochet based on the projected fear of communism, also resulting in systematic murder, rape and torture of citizens deemed to be in opposition to the Dictator.
  • El Salvador – ditto.
  • Bush Jnr., Blair, Howard and the cooked up (the never found, mythical weapons of mass destruction) need to invade Iraq (not forgetting Somalia and Afghanistan before that).
  • The current rhetoric coming out of the US and UK on Iran is going the same route.

The truth has disappeared in politics, and when truth disappears we should be concerned to restore the truth. I do not believe that governments have any right to hold documents in secret. The argument that secrecy protects the government and security is clearly an oxymoron. Secrecy in government is about staying in power and hiding unethical and criminal behaviour, as a series of whistleblowers have shown over the decades.

Whistleblowing is a dangerous role in any society, and one where any govenrment can cast you as the enemy, but one that some people take seriously as the only action they can take for the good of the people. Ellsberg, Felt, Bukovsky, Ponting, Silkwood, Wright, Vanunu, Serpico, Gun, Manning, Asange, Snowdon, and dozens more have surrendered their own safety and rights to expose the lies that governments and corporations (sometimes colluding) concoct for their own puposes. Sadly, while many western governments have legislated to give some protection of whistleblowers, it usually falls short of full protection and such legislation is still prejudiced in favour of governments and corporations.

Daniel Ellsberg set up “The Truth-Telling Project in the early 2000s, but that is now defunct (though other groups now use that name for other puposes). He spends time writing about the importance of whistleblowing, and supporting those who take that step.

The Pentagon Papers release and whistlebowing in general reminds me of that famous dictum of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good (men – sic) people do nothing.” And that beautiful quote from Ann Frank: “How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Let’s not be ostriches, let’s be truth tellers where we are, let’s make truth reappear.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under community, life, politics, quote, Uncategorized, Whistleblowing