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Wikileaks website to be abandoned (cryptome.org)
98 points by zitterbewegung on July 11, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments



This is getting ridiculous. Why doesn't Wikileaks just host all their content in a Git repository and use GPG to sign their releases?

Then it would be impossible to take down the site, and anyone could easily spin up a mirror.

Instead there's one monolithic distribution site which isn't decoupled from their submission network. The site is frequently down during a fundraiser, and due to how they run it other people can't easily directly contribute resources to run mirrors of the site.

I'm beginning to think that Wikileaks is not as interested in actually getting leaks out as it is furthering Julian Assange's personal indispensability.


Seriously. Take a page from the various illegal groups out there; use torrents, use filesharing, so on and so forth. Release snapshots of the website, let other people do the hosting and hide the true source.

People have been successfully hiding behind clever distribution techniques for as long as the internet existed. You'd think Wikileaks'd be able to think of something.


Indeed. It seems like there are plenty of alternatives to a vulnerable website (such as Freenet).

In that sense Assange role would be reduced to authenticating and releasing, and wouldn't have a lot of control over the publishing side of things. And that's the side which gets the most press coverage and attention (including from powerful governments).

Switching to that type of system would likely reduce his exposure to trouble... but that's probably the opposite of what he'd like.


I also have difficulty imagining journalists figuring out how to set up freenet.


Why wouldn't they just get a technical person to do it?


random journalist or insider: "hi, geek squad? can you set up some encryption software that allows me to perform covert communication across the internet? i don't know, freenet or freenode or firefox or something. what? no no, i'm definitely doing nothing suspicious. don't tell anyone, ok?"


Do you know any journalists? The ones I know are resourceful enough to know people with a variety of skills and connections. It's the nature of the job.


i'm sure they could get it done, but its much easier to get found out. better to have a simple method you don't rely on anyone else for.


I really share this feeling especially during the past 7 months while the fund-raising was ongoing.

Now, to be more practical and maybe start an implementation of a distributed Wikileaks. There are two processes : the submission process and the distribution process. I think the distribution process is easy with Git or any distributed VCS. The submission process is more tricky as this is involving a human/social process to merge content into the distribution "branch".

The submission process could be "à la" HN where there is a way to up/down vote a submission. When the submission is reaching a defined level, the submission is released for distribution. In this is case, the submission network is still centralized but the distribution part is really decentralized.

For submission process decentralization, distributed ticketing (e.g. http://ditz.rubyforge.org/ ) could be used to show status of a submission within a same git repository but showing/merging only submission reaching a level in its ticket. Just an idea...

Update : my humble comment is just on some technical aspect. The social/legal/human aspect of Wikileaks is something much more complex...


Submission for leaks (usually) also involves some sort of authentication, however. And that authentication needs to be kept confidential.

The result is that there's no way around a 'trusted' provider who signs releases, and that will inherently be a personality like Assange.

Simply relying on a reddit-style submission method would lead to a worse form of reddit. Currently you can evaluate whether or not you 'trust' content submitted to reddit by looking at the site hosting it (is the content from the NYT or a random blog?). For a wikileaks-reddit, all submissions would have to be anonymous, and you'd have no idea what is a real leak or not.


There's no need for a trusted singular provider. You can just implement this sort of thing as a circle of trust.

A leak could be made by anyone. But content would only be published on somerandomsite.com if it has been digitally signed by someone.

Who that someone is could be configurable. wikileaks.com would be things that are only signed by Assange, but you could spin up your own site with your own signing policies.


Emphatically agreed. Wikileaks lost my interest after their "Collateral Murder" campaign and then later threatening to take their ball (data) and go home if they didn't meet fundraising targets.

Compare that to how Wikipedia runs their affairs-- between the open and transparent editorial process and making their entire data corpus available from the get-go.


If they really wanted to be an eternal pain in the ass they'd have taken a page from that Anonymous group.


Don't you think subversion (pun intended) would be a more appropriate VCS?

Perhaps they should use the SVN interface to github?


No, it's centralized. Making it pretty much useless for this application.


It was a joke, jeez.

It's kind of funny that of all the post-CVS version control systems, the one that calls itself "subversion" is the one that hews the closest to the traditional paradigm.


>not as interested in actually getting leaks out as it is furthering Julian Assange's personal indispensability.

I agree, which is why it's hard for me to care if his adversaries squish him like a bug. Not a good way to get funding.


With the turf wikileaks is treading on, does some authentication code really confirm that this is not a counter intelligence op?

I'm not saying that any of these things are untrue, it's just that there would be some very valid reasons for wanting to keep the details of the operation opaque. (eg. paying in cash, etc)

When you piss of the US National Security apparatus to that degree there is going to be some blow back. Yes, ideally they'd want to put him behind bars in a supermax, like other political prisoners, but he's fairly high profile and has a large amount of public support. You'd definitely want to kill the crusader for freedom aspect of his media image and promote an in it for himself persona. A hit piece in mainstream media is going to give him a better platform and have absolutely no effect on anyone with a clue. The spooks know this so they aren't going to do something like that.

This is super effective, cryptome is legit as far as hackers and others that would contribute to his cause. This isn't a money issue it's a technical expertise issue. No one is going to join wikileaks for the money. Yes, money will help buy servers, but it's more about the technical expertise required for the people you're pissing off not to be able to build a solid case. Wikileaks itself has nothing to fear from the axis of evil, but a lot to fear from the G8 (except Russia). They will never honour a chinese extradition request because Assange found a video of Chinese soldiers killing civilians. They will however put his ass right next to the shoe bomber for posting vids of army dudes doing what army dudes are trained to do.

Yes, Assange may be running wikileaks to embezzle himself $50 grand a year, OR it could be that he's gone dark and doesn't have time to update the site because he's brushing up on his waterboarding technique with Maher Arar.


> Yes, Assange may be running wikileaks to embezzle himself $50 grand a year, OR it could be that he's gone dark and doesn't have time to update the site because he's brushing up on his waterboarding technique with Maher Arar.

You can't blame people for being suspicious. Humanity has proven time and time again that when there is a reason to suspect somebody absconded with large sums of money, they probably did. I have no opinion on the matter, but what could make a more effective cover story for vanishing than a believable 'Big Brother wanted to find me'?


You make a good point. Sure Assange is self-aggrandizing. Some may even call him flamboyant, but is that such a bad thing for wikileaks? I recall similar criticism of Jimmy Wales. Wales acts like a rock star and he, like Assange, is a master fundraiser and aficionado of private jets. Despite mass defections of editors, and the enduring pompousness of Mr. Wales, Wikipedia is better than ever. Sometimes a greasy-haired, eccentric diva is the best person to represent your cause.


> but is that such a bad thing for wikileaks?

Honestly, yes. Because in a perfect world Wikileaks has minimal editorial, no political bias and no agenda. But Assange does very much have those things.

The reason Wikipedia is good is because the community decision process is very strong (mostly through being slow and laborious); they, obviously, have a lot of respect for Wales but he can't influence things dramatically without being called on it (look at the fuss over the commons porn images).

Wikileaks doesn't have that sort of critical buffer of individuals (from what I have gathered about his personality Assange doesn't strike me as someone who would take any criticism at all). Sure there are volunteers but from my understanding it all works through Assange.


"Because in a perfect world Wikileaks has minimal editorial, no political bias and no agenda."

Why? Where's the argumentation? Your opinion is not fact, mister.


Well, yes, this is always opinion (I refuse to constantly add "in my opinion" to all statements :P it stifles the flow).

But I am not sure how easily it can be argued that bias/agenda could be good things for a whistleblower site. Or that it could compromise their aims.

On the other hand there are copious reasons why they would be good things (not least reputation).


Assange is aiming at maximum impact. He knows human nature well enough to understand that people love polarization, and he exploits human weaknesses in order to accomplish his goals. Who has ever heard of Cryptome or Steven Aftergood? Very few. By contrast, everyone knows Assange these days. You may find his approach distasteful, but you can't claim it's not effective.

In any case, why shouldn't the "collateral murder" video have been editorialized? I don't care if the soldiers were obeying the ROE and had the right to defend themselves. They still are the invaders, and the invasion is still illegal. Ultimately, I don't blame the soldiers, for they were following orders. I blame the American people for blindly trusting their government and failing to demand accountability from the morally challenged elected officials. A docile populace is the first step towards tyranny.

If Assange stokes the masses and gets people angry, I am perfectly fine with that. Anger in the face of tragedy is preferrable to utter indifference. If Assange is self-aggrandizing and has an agenda, I am fine with that too, for he has done a great job so far and it would be enormously unrealistic to demand zero self-interest from a person who has amassed such immense power in such a short period of time.


In any case, why shouldn't the "collateral murder" video have been editorialized? I don't care if the soldiers were obeying the ROE and had the right to defend themselves. They still are the invaders, and the invasion is still illegal

I think this is the core of our disagreement; because while I agree with you I abhor the idea of pushing an agenda and opinion on anyone. The video could have stood for itself; instead I believe Assange weakened it via it's presentation in an effort to raise the profile of Wikileaks.

If Assange stokes the masses and gets people angry, I am perfectly fine with that.

It matters; it matters a lot. Because the editorial was gleeful and gloating. It was saying "screw you US government" - and that is silly because the video stands for itself.

That Wikileaks has an agenda is, in my mind, wrong - when the information you present/possess comes from secret sources and contains highly controversial material it should be treated objectively.

I don;t care of Wikileaks languishes in obscurity like Cryptome; enough people know of it that anything seriously big (like the video) will make the media.

These sites are important simply by existing because they present a critical danger to those who want to abuse government positions; I don't want someone aggrandizing and pretentious and seemingly biased as those politicians presenting the information.


I disagree that the video could have stood for itself. WikiLeaks sent people to Baghdad to meet the children who were in the van that was shot by the Apache. That's investigative journalism, and it's laudable.

If the Pentagon shows you footage of a combat operation in which insurgents are hiding in a building that is seconds later destroyed by an Hellfire missile and they tell you that there were no civilian casualties, you may believe they're telling you the truth. If someone investigates the attack and finds out there were non-combatants in that building and that the Apache attack was a stupid abuse of force, later releases footage with captions suggesting a version of the facts different from the Pentagon's, then such editorializing is not bias, it's an accurate portrayal of the facts. The problem is that when the mainstream media is so biased and people have grown accustomed to it, then a cold-blooded depiction of the facts may look as an attempt to manipulate people's opinions, as if telling the truth were propaganda.

Lastly, Assange is burning bridges wherever he goes, and he's probably not making that much money. He lives the life of an international man of mystery, which may sound cool until one thinks of the downsides. A person who willingly embraces such lifestyle can only have a strong desire to amass power / fame and deliver impact. Assange is no saint, but he's useful, and that's all that matters.


This probably isn't the place to argue out the difference (for the record the points you highlight are not what I refer to as editorial - I mean stuff like calling it collateral murder etc. which is unnecessary) however...

Lastly, Assange is burning bridges wherever he goes, and he's probably not making that much money.

I'm calling bull on that. Or at least argument from the unprovable. Who knows what he makes or how he lives. I doubt he is a millionaire from all this but he flies around the world a lot.

He lives the life of an international man of mystery

Everything we know and read (mostly from the main himself) paints a picture of a guy living in this in his head. The reality is probably quite different :)

Im not calling Assange bad or anything; but I think he has too strong beliefs to head up such an important movement. He's a good poster boy - but I actually feel his attitude can harm the movement - because the mainstream media have a tough time taking him seriously.


"...because the mainstream media have a tough time taking him seriously."

Honestly, I can't think of anyone with less moral authority than the (bulk of the) mainstream media. If WikiLeaks could simply bypass the MSM, we'd all be better off.

I don't know if Assange helps the movement more than he hinders it, but at least he has done more for the cause of monitoring centers of power than the MSM in the last 40 years, since Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers. If he's using the donations to live the good life, I really don't care. Donations are voluntary, unlike the taxes that fund the Iraq War.


Honestly, I can't think of anyone with less moral authority than the (bulk of the) mainstream media.

Sadly that is how you contact most people. Besides - one of the main issues with modern media is bias and vitriol, shouldn't Wikileaks rise above that?

If he's using the donations to live the good life, I really don't care. Donations are voluntary, unlike the taxes that fund the Iraq War.

And that, I think, says it all. My principles are not so easily bent (I'm not convinced he is misappropriating funds btw). I gave them a donation to fund the support of whistleblowers - not to fund a lavish lifestyle. If he is doing that then I am very pissed off :)


In a perfect world wikileaks would be wholly unnecessary.


Guys, wikileaks is basically fighting for survival against the US government, among others. Can we really suggest they "just" use this or that, or complain that they're not handling thing so well ? They are basically trying to exist in a space that's almost impossible for most countries to exist in.

We're not talking about your average (or even uniquely scalable) startup here.

Seriously, do you have any doubt that anyone involved in this could end up secretly detained for years ? Assange is taking huge personal risks here, so yeah, it is about him, to a very large extent.


That may be true, but it's not as though Wikileaks has been particularly well-managed, or done much to decrease their (by which I mean 'his') exposure. There has been a lot of what appears to be, to put it bluntly, showboating, intentional or otherwise.

I can't say whether it stems from a desire for celebrity on Assange's part, which would be totally incompatible with the mission of a site like WL, or if it's unintentional and simply the result of accidental mismanagement. But either way I don't think it bodes well for the future of the site.

That said, I don't think that Assange or Wikileaks in general are critical. If nothing else, he proved that there is material out there waiting to be released. The concept, at least in broad strokes, is still sound; it was the execution that was flawed.

I think there is an open opportunity right now for someone to step in and do right -- less politically, less bombastically, more securely and more decentralized -- what WL aimed to do.


Guys, wikileaks is basically fighting for survival against the US government,

Seems unlikely; they could well be exploring legal and technical options - but due to where Wikileaks operates from the US government will have a hard time taking it apart. There could be a black bag operation in effect; but I have a feeling if that were the case we would soon be hearing about it from Assange.

Seriously, do you have any doubt that anyone involved in this could end up secretly detained for years ?

Yes, someone in Government would have to be insane to risk that. OR Wikileaks would have to release something extremely critical/damaging. Assange is pretty high profile and his disappearance wouldn't go unnoticed.

We're not talking about your average (or even uniquely scalable) startup here.

No, but as pointed out elsewhere there are a lot of highly evolved models for distributions already in use by illegal enterprises. These are efficient, relatively cheap and difficult to track. The problem is that Wikileaks would lose a lot of editorial control; which, I guess, they don't want.

I have a number of ideas that I suggested to them (when they asked for help) to improve their infrastructure but never heard back...

Assange is taking huge personal risks here, so yeah, it is about him, to a very large extent.

I don't buy that - I think mostly he is a bit of an attention seeker and cries wolf at the slightest hint of a conspiracy :) There's not a lot wrong with that but you must bear it in mind when dealing with Wikileaks. I don't think Assange is taking a huge personal risk in terms of western governments. If they can nail him for something legally I am sure they will jump at it - but the political fall out from taking down a whistleblower is huge.

Besides; Wikileaks doesn't actually leak all that much (well, any more).....


What evidence is there that this statement is actually true besides second hand evidence and assange's own statements? If there was documented evidence that the pentagon is after assange, wouldn't it be responsible for assange to "leak" that information?

I think we're getting scooped up in the story of a narcissist. A reliable source of information and a drama do not mix.


I upvoted you, but shouldn't this be a reply comment rather than a comment on its own.


I meant a reply to one of the comments above. It felt so when I read it much earlier, but never mind.


Just as a counter-point, the posts to Cryptome from Wikileaks "insiders" all are negative towards Assange. It sounds, if those posts are true, that not even the Wikileaks folks approve of him.


This article's been discredited by Wikileaks on twitter:

http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/17646287388

Found on reddit by the way =P


Hard to know who or what to believe. I thought that crytome was was reliable. Certainly the some security state apparatus is turning the screw. It'd be nice to know the whole story.


Actually, check the time stamps. Wikileaks disputed the first 8, but not this one. No word from Wikileaks on this so far.


There it is: "WikiLeaks will NOT be abandoned. Don't listen to disinfo being spread! We'll issue clarifications soon. Should've done earlier." http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/18289990888


And this comes about 2 months after it's declared a national security threat by the Pentagon.

How strange.


IIRC Cryptome has "history" with Wikileaks (I believe they were pretty fed up of WL's profile of The Whistleblower site despite being the new kid on the block compared to Cryptome).

Bear this in mind when reading.

With that said; I much prefer Cryptome to WL - they do consistently publish stuff! Usually without to much editorializing.

And even if this is all just made up (a possibility) it does highlight some of the concerns over WL. Assange is becoming a concerning character, where is the money going, the website does seem to be stagnating etc.


I don't know what exactly is going on there, whether it's a bankruptcy or something else, but whatever it is is not being particularly well handled. Shambles, really.


Shambles? At this point the site is up, and it seems like they're working on building a solid base in Iceland, starting with pretty good political and legal support.

All things considered, as long as one year from now they're still in business I'd say it's an impressive achievement.


I would love to participate in an open, transparent, and fair equivalent to wikileaks. Currently, cryptome actually does a 99% job of this.

Tools, vs. Services, and definitely in preference to individual personalities as gatekeepers!


WikiLeaks will not be abandoned: http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/18289990888


Cryptome seems to dislike Wikileaks for some reason, at least that's the impression I got. Never tried to dig into it though.


I think the word is "rivalry".


Anybody care to share some context for this article? It doesn't give any background into what wikileaks is and why it is being abandoned. It reads like somebody's personal email.

I'm sure there's an interesting story behind this, but the article doesn't attempt to provide it.


Also, Cryptome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptome

They've been doing a very Wikileaks-ish thing since 1996, operating (sometimes just) inside the limit of U.S. law and First Amendment protection.

The "PGPBoard" referred to is actually a Yahoo Group (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/pgpboard/), which seems stupid but is probably more resistant to international censorship than alt.anonymous.messages on Usenet. (Although if it were my butt on the line and I had a choice, I still think that Mixmaster+Usenet would be the better choice.)


What Wikileaks is? How have you managed to avoid hearing about it, and its struggles so long?

Here's a place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikileaks


Funny, I'm actually amazed that so many people keep up on this sort of thing. I wouldn't know where to begin.

I've been on the road the last several years, so unless it concerns rock climbing or surfing, or is something that you'd talk about with fellow travelers, it usually doesn't make it onto my radar.

Evidently there was some sort of economic downturn recently. Missed that too :).

HN is the only exception, since it keeps me up on the tech side of things.


If that's the case, you may want to try Googling the references you don't catch, before asking the folks here to explain further.


Why would it make a difference why I hadn't heard of this company?

Googling the site didn't help, nor did visiting the site itself, so I asked here. Seems like a reasonable thing to do.

In general, I think that a story on the front page of HN should stand on its own, without the need to go off and do any research to figure out what it's about. This story doesn't even attempt to give any background about its subject matter, so it fails that test.


Usually I would agree; however Wikileaks has been massive news and regularly features on here (they are not a Company - it is a Whistleblower site) so it is reasonable to assume the majority of people will know what it is about. Anyone who reads HN regularly in the last 6 months should have read about Wikileaks before.

(in the same way you would expect everyone here to understand what Reddit is)

I don't know why you got slated for asking though; seems reasonable.


Googling wikileaks here anyway nets the Wikipedia page as the third link:

> Wikileaks is an amorphous, international organization, originally based in Sweden,[1] that publishes anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive documents from governments and other organizations, while preserving the anonymity of their sources.

I normally hate the passive-aggressive JFGI response but in this case I can feel the pain. It's pure noise that a simple google search could have avoided.


Wow, crazy stuff. I hope there will be a new, and possibly better website to replace it.




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