Policatial Pressurising and Posturing

I came across Paypal’s statement regarding their suspension of donations towards WikiLeaks:

PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We’ve notified the account holder of this action.

Of course, PayPal doesn’t seem to have noticed eBay’s daily facilitation of the transfer of hundreds of pirated films, music and software—-which is actually illegal—-during their review of WikiLeaks’ use of the service.

While all these companies—-Amazon, EasyDNS and PayPal—-cite their terms of use as a reason for cutting off WikiLeaks, it’s sure weird, my colleague mentioned, that they all chose just this moment to re-read their terms of service and notice this clause. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with Joe Lieberman and other members of the U.S. right’s cry-baby-with-a-club tactics.

My favourite/most-annoyed-by column so far contains these gems, amongst many other nutjob comments. Here some examples:

Last week, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed that the United States does in fact have the offensive capabilities in cyberspace to take down WikiLeaks, but that the Obama administration chose not to use them. This failure to act prompted a patriotic hacker who goes by the name th3j35t3r (the Jester) to attack WikiLeaks himself, repeatedly taking down its Web site.

Translation: the government honorably held back from censoring information, so it’s great that someone stepped in to do the job. What a patriot.

Some say attacking WikiLeaks would be fruitless. Really? […] Imagine the impact on WikiLeaks’s ability to distribute additional classified information if its systems were suddenly and mysteriously infected by a worm that would fry the computer of anyone who downloaded the documents. WikiLeaks would probably have very few future visitors to its Web site.

Translation: I have no idea about how computers work, and it’s in fact surprising I managed to type this article at all. I also support state-sponsored attacks on media organisations, those meddling blackguards.

If the cables didn’t reveal the U.S.’s desire to partake in illegal spying activities amongst many other things—-including upon members of the U.N.—-their response to WikiLeaks might be a little less contradictory, if not any more acceptable. The undoubted political pressure placed on all these companies can be translated as: “we may spy on you, possibly illegally, but we don’t want you legally reading our leaked data”.

While I’m still conflicted on the actual case of releasing the documents, the reaction it’s provoked is making me more and more sick of the people who claim to represent us but instead seem to be more concerned about lining their own beds—-if not explicitly with bribes then abusing their power to stop information appearing which may embarrass them. Alternately, the powerful must realise that in a democratic country their mistakes should not be hidden from their electorate.

There is so much information in these cables which isn’t a problem for national security but is kept secret simply because private dealings have diverged so massively from what we are told. For example, the U.S. playing down the level of corruption in Afghanistan in public while privately knowing that there is endemic corruption through all levels of the administration, from police chiefs to the president. It seems the corruption is played down in public to give the impression we’re not supporting a corrupt regime just because the whole affair is such a failure that this is the best we have.

This is my major issue: governments should have access to a measure of privacy—-negotiations are delicate—-but to mislead the public so badly and often is hugely problematic and if WikiLeaks can help fix this then this leak cannot be such a terrible thing.

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