Ever since July, visitors to the WikiLeaks website have been invited to download a heavily encrypted file called “insurance.aes256.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now warning that this file contains more sensitive documents, and he will release the decryption password he is arrested, or his web site is taken off the Internet. Authorities believe the file could include classified information about Guantanamo Bay, American airstrikes in Afghanistan that included civilian casualties, and Bank of America documents, according to the Sunday Times of London.
So much for all the balloon juice about “freedom of information” from Assange! This particular trove of information only gets to be “free” if he goes to jail. Otherwise, it stays as safe as it was on U.S. military servers. Well, more safe, unless Assange hires treasonous Pfc. Bradley Manning, his alleged source of classified information, to work in his IT department. I wonder if the password will be released in the event he is arrested for rape, as the government of Sweden wants to do. Maybe we should convene the United Nations Security Council to negotiate exactly how many free rapes he gets, before someone just has to arrest him, doomsday file be damned.
Assange hasn’t been shy about using his newfound celebrity to tell the people of the world how to run their governments. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, published by the UK Daily Telegraph today, he called on the President of the United States to resign, along with ”the whole chain of command,” if he approved the diplomatic spying efforts described in the cables WikiLeaks has released to date. “The whole chain of command who was aware of this order, and approved it, must resign if the US is to be seen to be a credible nation that obeys the rule of law. The order is so serious it may well have been put to the president for approval,” intoned the self-appointed judge of international credibility.
Will the doomsday password be released if Obama and the “whole chain of command” don’t comply with his demands? Or is that information strictly to be used as a “get out of jail free” card for Julian “Neo” Assange? In the latter case, isn’t he doing precisely what he so loudly criticizes America and her allies for doing: deciding what data should remained imprisoned behind a veil of secrecy, according to his own agenda?
The simple truth is that society, by definition, must control the flow of information to some degree. The police won’t have much luck catching murder suspects or racketeers if they must immediately make all forensic information available to the public. Diplomacy becomes impossible if it must always be conducted before an audience. The bank information Assange is threatening to release violates the confidentiality of civilian business transactions. The absence of all secrecy is anarchy, not liberty.
Worse, Assange does not propose to inflict his new dream of zero secrecy upon the entire world… only its civilized half. He has no interest in exposing the secrets of totalitarian dictatorships or terror states, and knows he would not survive the attempt to do so. His crusade won’t rule out backroom deals, espionage, or intelligence gathering – it just makes it impossible for the good guys to do those things. He would turn the vital info-war component of the War on Terror into a game of Battleship in which only one side has to play with its board turned around for the enemy to see.
This is not a heroic struggle to expose all secrets. It’s a battle to find out who gets to decide which secrets will be kept: the elected representatives of world governments, or a terror-symp hacker from Australia. I’m not crazy about some of those elected officials, but they beat the hell out of government by ransom note. At least we can vote Barack Obama out of office in 2012. Where do we go to vote against Julian Assange?
It’s time to call the bluff. Take Assange down, by whatever means are necessary, and blow WikiLeaks into digital oblivion. Make Bradley Manning pay the appropriate price for treason, and put as many associates of Assange behind bars as possible. Let the password to his “insurance file” slip out, and let us be done with this farce, once and for all. Otherwise, we’ll never stop hearing about that password, and like all other terrorists, Julian Assange will always have another set of demands ready.