Comment: What Can the US Do To Stop WikiLeaks?
August 19, 2010 4 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Ever since whistleblower site WikiLeaks published 77,000 classified US military documents on the war in Afghanistan, several pundits have urged US government agencies, including the Pentagon, to take action. Late last week, former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen urged the Pentagon to unleash its “cyber capabilities to prevent WikiLeaks from disseminating those materials”. Some columnists have even suggested that US intelligence services should “come up with an up-to-date photo of [WikiLeaks founder Julian] Assange and distribute it to [...] SEAL sharpshooters”. Pentagon representatives have also stepped up their rhetoric, warning that “[i]f doing the right thing isn’t good enough for [WikiLeaks], we will figure out what alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing”.
There is little doubt that the US Department of Defense is capable of severely damaging WikiLeaks’ Internet presence –through a sustained denial-of-service attack on the site’s publicly accessible servers, for instance. But would such a method affect the actual data in WikiLeaks’ possession or the ability of its supporters and volunteers to distribute it? The answer is: not at all.
To begin with, as intelNews discussed on August 2, the site has posted insurance.aes256, a password-protected file, to act as insurance in case anything happens to the WikiLeaks website or its founder, Julian Assange. Speaking last week in London, Assange confirmed that, in either scenario, WikiLeaks volunteers have been instructed to send out a password to allow anyone who has downloaded the file to instantly open it. Considering that the file is estimated to be nearly 20 times the size of the already released Afghan War Diary files, this seems like adequate insurance indeed.
On top of that, any cyber-attack against WikiLeaks by the US government would have to include dozens of existing mirrors of the site, as well as the hundreds, if not thousands, of freely available torrents with WikiLeaks files that are currently in circulation. Senior Wired editor Kevin Poulsen estimates that there are currently at least 61 torrent seeders (peers providing a complete version of WikiLeaks’ Afghan War Diary file) around the world, from America and Canada to Iceland, Australia and central Europe. His advice to Pentagon cyber-warriors who may be contemplating an attack on WikiLeaks? “Good luck with that”.
Meanwhile, Assange told a London audience last week that WikiLeaks plans to release a further 15,000 files included in its original Afghan War Diary treasure trove, which the site initially held back for ‘weeding’ (redacting sensitive information considered potentially harmful to individuals or operations). He is also reportedly “laying low” for security reasons.