Red Alert

WikiLeaks: sunlight the best disinfectant

Posted by on January 8th, 2011
This is the first of a few posts on WikiLeaks.

Labour is committed to a strong policy on open and transparent government based on core principles. One of those principles is that sunlight can, and should be, the best disinfectant.

In 2010, OpenLabourNZ was NZ’s first attempt to develop policy in an open way using online technology.

It would be foolish to say that all matters to do with policy-making and governing should be conducted in the open or available to public scrutiny. But Wikileaks has cracked open many issues that beg the question; why not be more open?

A disturbing new development reveals ongoing attempts to shut down WikiLeaks now involve an Icelandic member of parliament.

Salon, a US online news and entertainment website and the Guardian newspaper have reported that Birgitta Jonsdottir, Icelandic MP and former WikiLeaks volunteer, is fighting a US justice department attempt to get hold of her private messages on Twitter.

DOJ subpoenas Twitter records of several WikiLeaks volunteers

Last night, Birgitta Jónsdóttir — a former WikiLeaks volunteer and current member of the Icelandic Parliament — announced (on Twitter) that she had been notified by Twitter that the DOJ had served a Subpoena demanding information “about all my tweets and more since November 1st 2009.”  Several news outlets, including The Guardianwrote about Jónsdóttir’s announcement.   

What hasn’t been reported is that the Subpoena served on Twitter — which is actually an Order from a federal court that the DOJ requested — seeks the same information for numerous other individuals currently or formerly associated with WikiLeaks, including Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Julian Assange.  It also seeks the same information for Bradley Manning and for WikiLeaks’ Twitter account.

The information demanded by the DOJ is sweeping in scope.  It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the ”means and source of payment,” including banking records and credit cards.  It seeks all of that information for the period beginning November 1, 2009, through the present.  A copy of the Order served on Twitter is here.

The sunlight in this case is on the DOJ’s intention, regarding the individuals named in the subpoena, and re Twitter, one of the world’s leading social media outlets.

I myself follow the WikiLeaks Twitter account and discovered this story a short time ago on Twitter.

My concern is whether there is an attempt to shut down, restrict or compromise the ability of a social media outlet to exist and for people who use Twitter to communicate freely.

I don’t think it will work. And I think that the attitudes of those in government regarding openness don’t necessarily reflect the attitudes of the people they represent. And it’s time for change.


21 Responses to “WikiLeaks: sunlight the best disinfectant”

  1. BLiP says:

    Labour is committed to a strong policy on open and transparent government based on core principles. One of those principles is that sunlight can, and should be, the best disinfectant.

    Remind me – what’s Labour’s position on Parliamentary Services being subject to the Official Information Act?

  2. Johor says:

    “I think that the attitudes of those in government [US and many others] regarding openness don’t necessarily reflect the attitudes of the people they represent. And it’s time for change.”
    Leave out the word ‘necessarily’ and you are right on ALL counts even though it smacks of stating the obvious. Anybody who has taken any kind of interest in what the US government has been doing for the last ten years will agree with you. Flexing muscle on social media is the desperate act of a frightened tyrant state.

  3. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    BLip you must have missed this bit-
    It would be foolish to say that all matters to do with policy-making and governing should be conducted in the open or available to public scrutiny

  4. Alwyn says:

    Open and Transparent??
    Perhaps you could you tell me whether you approve of your previous leaders papers being provided to The National Archives proved that they were sealed for what I have been informed is ONE HUNDRED YEARS.
    One of the more interesting things I found in the WikiLeaks cables from New Zealand was that the then government you have repeated a lie. Provide any direct evidence to the contrary and you will be allowed out of moderation. Do it again and you are banned. Trevor

  5. Dave says:

    @Alwyn – it seems transparency is only a good thing when it paints you in a good light. All other forms of transparency must be stopped, at all costs, it seems. As far as Comrade Helens papers go, why would it have to be sealed for a hundred years – what on earth would she have to hide or who is she protecting? Seems very odd to an outsider doesn’t it? I certainly don’t see a good reason to deny the public, a public servants papers from the time they were in office.

  6. Al1ens says:

    As far as Comrade Helens papers go, why would it have to be sealed for a hundred years – what on earth would she have to hide or who is she protecting?

    Or john key not answering questions about the disgraced former minister richard worth, claiming it wasn’t “in the public interest”

  7. Dorothy says:

    you might also mention that the US govt wanted the subpoena itself kept secret – and it was, for several days. As you say, some things need to be kept confidential but Wikileaks has shown that too many govts have secrecy as a default setting even when (a) there is no need for it, and (b) the public are a lot less easily scared by the truth than some officials seem to presume.

  8. BLiP says:

    BLip you must have missed this bit-
    It would be foolish to say that all matters to do with policy-making and governing should be conducted in the open or available to public scrutiny

    Nah, I spotted it. Nifty little “out” isn’t it? Had it been the lead para I might not have bothered with my question. But lets consider what Parliamentary Services information would actually provide: it is the direct dollar cost of the provision of Government itself. I’m not talking about commercial tenders, nor international trade negotiations, nor even diplomatic shenanigans. I’m talking about the cash that politicians themselves spend and receive to do their job. What’s the rationale for the secrecy in that regard? Gimme a good reason and I’ll shut up. And, please, don’t tell me its about “perception”.

  9. Alwyn says:

    Perhaps you can tell me why, after being ablr to be viewed by anyone looking at this blog I went back to “awiting moderation”?
    Several people saw, and commented on my contribution. Why have you now suppressed it?
    Surely ypu are in favour of Open communication and don’t want to compromise that?

  10. Clare Curran says:

    Alwyn, your comment got taken out and put into moderation because of its serious nature. Both myself and Trevor have been away from computers today. I have only just accessed my PC. It’s a holiday period. You have now had a response from trevor and your comment has been republished. Over to you

  11. BLiP says:

    Surely ypu are in favour of Open communication and don’t want to compromise that?

    Don’t stress Alwyn. I’ve been in moderation for three months. Its frustrating not being able to participate in the community aspect of Red Alert but, I have to say, all my comments end up published, albeit later rather than sooner. As the election draws near, I imagine there will be a growing population of us second-class posters sitting in moderation. But, hey, its the internet as a whole that guarantees freedom of speech, not individual blogs. Politics is politics, and mods are gods.

  12. Mignque says:

    The control system of all people in the world passes from the governments to network structures. Who will understand, he will continue game.

  13. Alwyn says:

    I really don’t understand what the “lie” is that I am supposed to be propagating.
    Can you at least tell me which of these cases you are talking about -
    1) I am supposed to be telling a lie.
    2) Wiki-leaks are telling the lie in that they have published a fabricated cable.
    3) The actions reported in the cable from the US Embassy never happened and they never spoke to Mr Goff.
    I can’t see how the first can really be true as the cable was published.

  14. tracey says:

    Dont forget the bad record of the NATS during this term under the OIA and Brownlee telling untruths about Great Barrier Reef and the Hobbit.

    The fear that wikileaks has engendered in certain quarters is very eye opening. For example, when the Washing Post (??) published an article outting a CIA agent and thereby destroying her career, was the Washington Post shut down, it’s finance cut, etc etc? NO. What’s the difference? The BUSH government were applauding (or worse) that outting, the US govt didnt like the wikileaks, leaks.

  15. SPC says:

    The US government action signals an attempt to declare WikiLeaks an illegal organisation and a ewlated attempt to deny it access to funds. To be effective they would need to intimidate foreign governments and businesses to become part of the programme.

  16. Gerald says:

    USA have been pressuring Govts and politicians for years, including our own bunch of complicit incompetents. All Govts derive their power over us by secrecy, but we the people who are supposed to be represented by these mendacious clowns are complicit in that we do not demand transperancy from ALL our SERVANTS. We should start with Binding Referenda and Parliamentary recall. But they won’t allow that will they? Unless enough of us are prepared to push for what we desparately need a truly represenative Government.

  17. Mike says:

    Secret governments destroy democracy.
    Democracy demands that we know what governments do in our name in order for us to decide whether we want that government to continue for another term.
    Electioneering promises so often turn out to be smoke and mirrors only espoused to gain votes and later excuses are made for why they cannot be kept.
    Much of the time they were never going to be kept.

    Likewise, secret deals between political parties and business, particularly overseas organisations, have huge potential to diminish the value of our votes, hijack our sovreignty and export our jobs to the lowest bidder in countries with little to no protection for workers.

    MMP is vital but open government with few secrets is even more important. Both National and Labour have let Kiwis down badly over the last 30 years and have sold us out to foreign interests.

  18. Nate says:

    One has to wonder. If sunlight is the best disinfectant, why are you censoring user comments on this blog?

    I’m only guessing, but perhaps the ‘lie’ Alwyn referred to which was too shocking for the Internet’s tender eyes was this?

    http://blog.greens.org.nz/2010/12/22/why-nz-sent-army-engineers-to-iraq-in-2003/

    While I’m sure that Fonterra doesn’t have the ability to dispatch troops directly, I think it would be hard to argue that trade doesn’t figure heavily into New Zealand’s foreign policy. Or every other country’s, for that matter. War and diplomacy has always been influenced by trade – someone has to pay the army’s bills. Yet we don’t often talk about the obvious, for some reason.

    The reasons for us being in Iraq are no doubt complicated and not *just* about New Zealand’s economic future with our US-led allies any more than the USA was there *just* for the short-term oil revenue, but common sense suggests that if Iraq’s chief export was peppermints, it wouldn’t rate highly as an international flashpoint. And if the USA wasn’t the big trade gorilla on the block, and we weren’t a small export-dependent state, we wouldn’t perhaps be quite so eager to ‘do our bit for democracy’ using the military in places where it’s not obvious that democracy is actually being done.

    Is it as simple as ‘NZ needs to do what the USA (and increasingly China) wants or we don’t get to sell stuff to the markets they control’? Maybe it is. Maybe there’s more quietly unspoken influence going on than either Labour or National would admit. At the end of the day, we are a small fish in a very large pond and we do have to make compromises to get by. And we know that the USA circa 2003 was leaning on a lot of small nations by promising trade deals. Was NZ really so pure and elevated that we were completely above that kind of influence?

    The limits of NZ’s political and economic independence are an important discussion that we need to have. Why suppress all debate out of hand by deleting comments?

  19. ZenTiger says:

    The OIA was a major step forward for us, and in spite of the predictions of doom back then, has proven it’s worth over time. The next step for the government is pro-active disclosure – an attitude of disclosing information before it is asked for. Technology continues to create possibilities for us to make it low cost and universal.

    Here’s an opportunity for Labour to create definite policy around pro-active disclosure for the government, rather than just say the words. Or perhaps you already have?

    Clare, whilst you seem keen on open government, I would have thought you wouldn’t be following wikiLeaks so closely. It’s basically stolen and unapproved information that is released on the terms of the hackers, not the government.

    Can we assume that once the information is procured by whatever means, that you have no problem how it is used by third parties? Personally, it’s one of the reasons I haven’t spent any time on looking into it.

    If the world are looking for evidence of great wrong-doing, they’d get a quicker hit on North Korea. Lots of evidence, big yawn.

  20. Clare Curran says:

    Hey ZenTiger thanks for comments. Pro-active disclosure is certainly the way forward. I have no doubt about that. The words are coming…. I hope.

    Why am I following WikiLeaks? because of the transformative effect that information has, and because it appears that much of the information released should already have been released.

    I want to talk mroe about the concept of something called deliberative privacy, which I’ll do this week. When I get a chance.

    But the more government reveals about its processes, decisions and thinking and discussions with others, the more that people will begin to trust those processes, those governments and those relationships.

    Yes?

  21. ZenTiger says:

    Yes, I fully agree. If policy consultation happens before the policy is released, it’s much easier to amend, and there is no “back-tracking”. Glad to see Labour thinking about this.

    Mind you, it also calls for a bit of a cultural change. I think recent years have seen a slow move from risk management to risk avoidance, and this impacts on policy creation. Also, government is often seen as the default service provider, when it could (at least out of necessity) reduce costs and in some areas become a service enabler. Probably wandering off into too lengthy a topic, because I see government enabling services as something very different from “outsourcing” or “sub-contracting”.