Something occurred to me today; or rather, it’s been bubbling up in my subconscious for a while and finally came to the surface. I wonder why I haven’t ever heard anyone else mention this in public. (Maybe they have; I haven’t seen it.)
It occurred to me that if I were working in either the governmental or private intelligence communities, Wikileaks would seem to me to be a remarkably useful tool for playing infowar games.
Wikileaks is a totally independent quasi-organization that will publish any significant leaked information packages they receive, without naming the source, so long as (presumably) the information can be verified to be accurate. Correct?
Now: everyone assumes Bradley Manning is the source for the Cablegate documents, but nobody’s confirmed or denied this, and it wouldn’t really matter if they had. I find it hard to believe Manning could have gotten access to those (non-military) documents and compiled them without nobody noticing, but then, maybe the people who run security for the government really are that stupid.
But let’s imagine another alternative: let’s say you run intel for a large government. Say China, because the Chinese government is very interested in information warfare. Let’s say you managed to get your hands on these diplomatic cables.
As intel, they’re nearly worthless, as Umberto Eco points out. Nothing of any real value. A mess o’ pottage.
But wait. What if I were to leak this hunk of useless shit to Julian Assange? Carefully edited to remove anything we don’t like, of course, and leaving in anything we want to use to send a message. (Like that we’re engaging in unofficial attacks on one of the US’s major info hubs. Google assuredly knew this was happening, but didn’t say anything. Terrorism, by definition, is the act of instilling fear in people for political gain. Think about it.)
I can submit it anonymously or create a false identity to reach out to Wikileaks. Either way, it won’t be traced back to me by the public because Wikileaks has a vested interest in maintaining trust with potential whistleblowers. Wikileaks is a non-governmental group, which is in fact condemned by a number of major governments, whose stated goal is transparency and accountability. So nobody’s going to suspect I’m using them as a cat’s-paw.
If Wikileaks attempts to verify the information with the US government (officially or surreptitiously) they’ll discover that it does indeed stand up, because most of it is quite legitimate, and it seems unlikely that Wikileaks has a way of checking the integrity of each document in the whole big mess.
I know that people will pore over it; eventually they’ll find whatever it was I wanted them to find, and trumpet it to the world. And it can’t ever be traced back to me or the government that employs me.
Meanwhile, I drop a few grand in the Wikileaks PayPal account just to keep things running smoothly.
I’m not saying this is what happened with the Cablegate documents. But does it really sound impossible or even unlikely? The very nature of what Wikileaks does means that there’s no transparency in their sourcing of information. If I did work in intelligence, I’d be working on ways to use that to my advantage. I mean, Assange says he’s going to drop info on a major US bank next. Fine, but which one? Who gave him the information? Who stands to benefit from Wikileaks exposure?
I don’t actually doubt Assange’s sincerity or his motives, really. But that doesn’t mean his sources are pure or altruistic. And if somebody smart enough wanted to use Wikileaks as a tool for governmental or corporate skullduggery, I don’t see what, in theory, would prevent them.
Just a thought.