WikiLeaks Ushers in Era of 'Hacktivists'

Friday, 10 Dec 2010 11:17 AM

By Arnaud de Borchgrave

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The WikiLeaks pandemic spread like wildfire around planet Earth triggering a new age of uncertainty, anxiety — and fear. Nothing was sacred or secret. The loose-lips-sink-ships mentality is spreading to the ether, or at least the Internet whose true dimensions are hard to grasp.

The Library of Congress contains 40 million volumes, 250 million manuscripts, 10,000 new items coming in every day — and 525 miles of shelf space. But moving through the Internet every day is several thousand LOCs.

Like the Y2K panic of 1999 about the year 2000, hysteria about 2012 is all over the Internet again, either Dec. 21 or 23, the former is the winter solstice and the latter is when the Mayan calendar ends.

With 2 billion people out of almost 7 billion in the world online and 4.2 billion cell phones — Masai warriors in Kenya have been photographed with spear in one hand and holding a phone to the ear with the other — it had all the earmarks of a global Tower of Babel.

"Hacktivists" are taking revenge against companies that cut ties with WikiLeaks amid mounting political pressure. The intelligence research group Maldon wrote that "even the website, which is fast becoming a test case for freedom of speech online, could not have anticipated the lengths to which anonymous friends would go to protect it."

Mobilizing tens of thousands of computers to one purpose isn't new. Spare computer capacity has long been used in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, also to unlock the human genome.

Now the same globe-girdling collective power has been mobilized for electronic activism. It also has bred the phenomenon of transnational journalists who have no known loyalties — and multiple targets. These range from multinational capitalist corporations to anything that stands in the way of their left-leaning agenda.

Hours after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was detained in London, a group of electronic privateers disrupted networks of payment companies' websites, including MasterCard and Visa. Dubbed Operation Payback, its electronic guerrillas have a long history of online sabotage. They call themselves Anonymous and their Botnet, an online weapon of mass destruction, is made up of volunteers who relinquish control of their computers.

A denial-of-service attack is a standard electronic weapon that targets and overwhelms the site of a server. Thus, the Recording Association of America was targeted when it tried to suppress online piracy.

Now operating in the same global electronic league is the pro-al-Qaida caliphate that publishes the new magazine "Aspire," replete with instructions on how to build explosive devices and offering exciting trips with lots of adventure fighting for Allah in Yemen and Somalia.

These were the same ideas that led to the underpants bomber who almost blew up an airliner as it headed toward a landing in Detroit inward bound from Amsterdam. Or motivated the mercifully incompetent would-be Times Square bomber, now in prison for life. Maj. Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army psychiatrist and devout Muslim, was proselytized online by a U.S.-born Yemeni cleric and is now charged with killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas.

Dubbed by his many anti-establishment admirers the "Scarlet Pimpernel of cyberspace," Assange is "uncompromising in his scrutiny of big business and big government," says the Maldon group.

The Australian-born Assange's parents met at an anti-Vietnam War demonstration and instilled in their son a sense of rebellion. They were on the move constantly as they operated a touring theater company, which led to 37 different schools for Julian. He left home at 17 and went on to study pure mathematics and physics at university.

An early convert to the Internet, it became his true passion, and he joined a computer underground group that hacked the e-mail accounts of the rich and influential to mine their secrets.

After publishing an expose on physicists who sold their research to military and intelligence agencies, reports Maldon, Assange went on to found WikiLeaks in 2007. The site describes itself as the "uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis" and has grown to be regarded as the most extensive and safest platform for whistleblowers to leak to.

One of Assange's major scoops was the publication last April of a secret video taken in 2007 of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a dozen civilians, including two unarmed Reuter's journalists.

In a major blast before Assange's arrest, WikiLeaks listed key infrastructure sites whose loss could critically impact the national security and public health of the United States, from bauxite mines in Guinea to snake-bite anti-venom manufacturing in Italy to a hydroelectric dam in Canada — all potential targets for terrorist attacks.

The U.S. political and economic scene is tailor-made for WikiLeakers' next attacks — with or without Assange. The progressive Paladin in the White House is no more. There are 15 million jobless and even more if one counts those whose benefits have run out and those who have stopped looking. There are several million of still vigorous over 50 who can see neither job nor retirement benefits for the rest of their lives.

And some companies, e.g., Great Lakes Integrated in Cleveland, plan to keep about 90 percent of its work force temporary — permanently. Nationwide there is a 25 percent increase in temporary employment. While companies save themselves a bundle, temps also tend to spend less in the general economy.

By prolonging tax cuts for the wealthy and the rest of the population, President Barack Obama lost the support of his liberal constituencies.

In open rebellion, congressional Democrats withheld support. Obama, they said, had embraced the signature domestic policy of Bush 43's presidency. But they also know it will be approved in the new Congress. Kicking cans down the road may be good politics — but it is disastrous financially and economically.

With China's still-growing mountain of U.S. treasuries, the United States currently owes China more than $1 trillion. The U.S. federal budget of $3.8 trillion has an estimated deficit of $1.5 trillion. And the national debt has just gone over $13 trillion — at the rate of $4.15 billion a day.

The latest global study of scholastic achievement shows the United States below average in math and no better than average in reading. China won hands down — in all categories. Time to bring China and Pakistan into an Afghan settlement? Long overdue. Word of mouth only. No WikiLeaks.




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