In last week's Technocracy, I wrote about the WikiLeaks controversy. More specifically, I wrote about the ways intimidation of a website owner's support and infrastructure services – services paid for by the website in question – can silence or impede the expression of free speech. I made no real attempt to evaluate the activities of WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, except to say that I consider Mr. Assange little better than a terrorist. Most of Mr. Assange's difficulties have, to this point, revolved around issues that were anything but an evaluation of whether he has committed a crime.
Recent news has made it easier to characterize WikiLeaks and Assange politically and socially. It has also underscored, starkly, the real war we fight in contemporary society. We fight this war regardless of our knowledge of it. We win or lose this war despite the widespread ignorance of it that often characterizes our governments, our allies and our citizenry.
In the summer of 2009, I first wrote of this war in "Why we need cyber-warriors now." In that column, I spoke of a "proxy war" even now "taking place behind the veil of modern technology." I will repeat now what I said then: Every minute of the day, external foes are mounting assaults on American infrastructure, civilian American assets and American military targets. Those enemies do this through the virtual world. Their foot soldiers are an army of disparate computer hackers, ranging from state-sponsored operatives to ordinary people in almost every nation on the planet:
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The problems don't stop with the hostile governments of emerging military and technological threats like China. According to Popsci.com, it isn't just China's government that is attacking our cyber-infrastructure. It's also hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians. ... The FBI can do little to prosecute hackers in foreign countries, least of all hostile nations like China (whose government turns a blind eye to simple copyright infringements, must less wholesale cyber war). The hackers are also becoming harder to monitor and track through conventional means.
The problem is that "hackers" are no longer "hackers." Slowly, popular culture is perverting the image of the Internet criminal, transforming him or her into a noble figure of free speech, dissent and speaking truth to power. This imagery is fiction, if for no other reason than it is not now, nor has it ever been, a noble act of freedom of expression to harass, silence or harm commercially an entity whose lawful activity you dislike. Yet this is precisely what has happened – and "hackers" are now "hacktivists," presumed by wretched propagandists like Michael Moore to be committing acts of "patriotism" rather than propagating wanton electronic vandalism, fraud, intimidation and theft.
Many Americans first became aware of "hacktivism" last week, when supporters of WikiLeaks, angered by several commercial firms' withdrawal of services to Assange and his organization, targeted these businesses for denial-of-service attacks (and other electronic crimes). Media outlets were quick to declare that "the first global cyber war has begun," characterizing these criminal acts in sickeningly fawning articles as acts of resistance against "authoritarian regimes" and "obvious symbols of authority." National Public Radio called the hack-attacks "surprisingly easy social protest," while columnist Chris O'Brien said these virtual terrorist attacks signal a "rise of new powers," a potentially "epic" erosion of national sovereignty that redefines how we describe and affiliate ourselves as citizens.
The wide-eyed adoration of criminals and agitators by left-wing pundits and "journalists" around the world should not surprise us. Such left-wing socio-political functionaries adore anything that repudiates American exceptionalism or otherwise diminishes American power and influence. This is why, predictably, a host of left-leaning public figures – Michael Moore included – are so quick to hold up Assange as some kind of crusader for free speech ... rather than the simple agent of espionage he is by definition. A man who releases confidential information to a worldwide information network, regardless of how he came by that information, is simply disseminating classified information obtained illegally. Such a man is free to do so if he truly wishes to go to war with the nation(s) whose documents he is publicly sharing, but he should not then whine that as an icon of free expression, he should be free of the far-reaching consequences for his actions.
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In judging the nature of Assange and WikiLeaks, we must come back to "hacktivism." When hackers distribute a computer virus to disable Iran's nuclear program, they are arguably acting in the best interests of all concerned. When hackers crash the websites of Visa, Mastercard or PayPal because they're mad that these organizations won't funnel money to Assange and his terrorist organization, they're simply bullies. The difference is not a question of whose side you happen to be on, much as leftists would have us believe. The difference is found in the context of these acts. Right and wrong exist. Rogue nations with nuclear weapons are a threat to peaceful citizens around the world. Banking firms that refuse to finance Julian Assange's releases of confidential documents aren't hurting or threatening anyone; they have the choice to refuse commerce they find objectionable or disreputable.
You may say that it is unfair to judge Assange and his organization by the criminal acts of their supporters. WikiLeaks does not control the actions of supposedly anonymous hackers or the hateful bloviating of cretins like Michael Moore, you may point out. You would be right, too. Assange, however, told us everything we need to know about him by creating and distributing an encrypted "doomsday" file, the key to which will be released if Assange judges he has been sufficiently misused by those in power. What is this if not extortion – and what is extortion if not the tool, the fundamental source of power, of a terrorist?
Julian Assange is a terrorist. We know this by his actions. His supporters are those who hate and fear America. By their words and deeds, we know them to be terrorist sympathizers.