“This Machine Kills Secrets”

This Machine Kills Secrets,” a novel by Andy Greenberg, gives an account of historical events that led to the creation of WikiLeaks. The novel discusses concepts, such as privacy and civil liberties, which were the reason the site was started in the first place. The novel also goes into the advanced technology, which makes WikiLeaks possible.

One of these technologies is a program called Tor, which allows leakers to the site to remain anonymous. Tor, and other similar encryption technologies, is only in use today thanks to people battling the government for the right to use them. The fight made in order to use these technologies took place in the 1990’s in what were called the crypto wars. The crypto wars weren’t really wars in the usual sense of the word, and were really more debates and discussions than anything else. These debates happened on online forums where Julian Assange was both a reader as well as a contributor.

Although encryption technologies have made it possible for leakers to remain anonymous, sites like WikiLeaks still face many problems. In order for people to be willing to leak, the site must appear trustworthy to would be leakers. If potential leakers don’t know who is behind the site, they won’t leak information in case the government runs it. This creates a problem because once the site is no longer anonymous it faces issues like spies joining the staff and threats to its online presence.

The ability for leakers to remain anonymous is also being threatened in ways that encryption can’t prevent. Companies who face leaks are, in some cases, able to learn the identity of the leaker by seeing who accesses the information on their network. There is also a new mandate that all employees in federal intelligence agencies who take lie detector tests are to be questioned about leaking.

Personally, I can’t decide whether or not WikiLeaks is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it creates a lot of danger by allowing the whole world access to sensitive information. Some of the information on the site could very well cause a rise in tensions between countries, which, at the best may cause problems with international relations and at worst, the outbreak of wars. The site also has the potential to cause problems with military activity and may place soldiers in even more danger than they originally faced. On the other hand, WikiLeaks really does do a lot of good. Governments will, hopefully, respond to the knowledge that secrets are no longer all that safe by increasing their transparency. The threat of sensitive information becoming public also encourages governments to stop activities and such that their people would disapprove. The site also helps expose corruption, and therefore limit corruption.

What is your opinion on the site, WikiLeaks? Do you think that it is harmful? Do you think that WikiLeaks is more beneficial than anything else? Do you think that people have a right to know their government’s secrets?

10 thoughts on ““This Machine Kills Secrets”

  1. I’m piggybacking on your debate, Liz. You’ve made me think about a different aspect to the virtual environment technology and social media enables that Kevin asks in his post about the Sam Bacile video and freedom of expression. WikiLeaks’s appearance spawned vigorous discussion in the field of journalism about how it alters the terrain of traditional investigative journalism, where reporters corroborate evidence, vet sources, and go through editorial management prior to publishing. By allowing public-citizens unmediated access to, as you say, sensitive documents, doesn’t open-access information also give us a role in how we interpret it and use it?

  2. I think Wikileaks is a valuable resource because it allows the public access to information that they usually would be able to see. Information about companies given by whistleblowers can help governments to regulate industries and help fix corruption or irresponsible actions by people. The public should know everything that goes on that concerns them with respect to governments or products or companies because that is one of their unalienable rights.

  3. This is a very thought-provoking piece Liz. One small note, I don’t think this book is a novel! I am fairly certain it is a work of non-fiction. Can you double check?

  4. The debates in the crypto war sound like they would be endless. Anonymity is definitely important when revealing information, but I see the issues with it. Wikileaks can be used for both good and bad, but I’m for it and the positive effects. People will be more careful with their information, and it’s better for some things to be revealed. The opposite holds true, of course, but in my opinion, the benefits equal or are better than the negatives. Better to have both than none at all, as long as the negative effects aren’t overwhelming.

  5. I think WikiLeaks is a great site. It allows one to see actual reality instead of the filtered reality that the media portrays to us. I visited the site once and I was able to see a video clip of a US army helicopter shooting down on Iraqis, from the helicopter’s point of view. Whether or not the Iraqis were a threat to the US, I don’t know, but it was pretty cool to actually see what goes on in modern warfare (the video clip really did resemble the video game).

    I agree with Kunal. I think it’s better to keep the public out of the dark. They should know what’s really going on in the world. It is said that the truth will set you free, and I totally agree with that statement. It would benefit society if society knew what’s really going on in the world instead of what the media feeds to them, and unfortunately a lot of society only takes in what the media feeds to them.

  6. I agree completely that Wikileaks is a great site because of the transparency it brings. Transparency, when it comes to politics, is used to check for corruption and hold those accountable for it. Something that is open for all to see allows for public participation and feedback. Wikileaks allows ordinary people to see the inner workings of government and see what is actually happening. Although keeping people in the dark may sometimes be better, I believe that we should be given the choice to choose whether or not we should keep things hidden or open. By providing transparency, Wikileaks is empowering the people and revealing the hideous truth of reality.

  7. The truth will set us free and WikiLeaks is just the resource to do it. Its information doesn’t get filtered nearly as much as what we get from the media. We have the right to know what’s going on everywhere if America is indeed the biggest proponent of democracy for all. We can’t help spread democracy if we don’t know what the problem is to begin with. There needs to be public awareness in order to ensure life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

  8. I agree with Liz’s point in this topic; I’m not sure whether or not WikiLeaks is actually completely good or bad. I think that it’s really important for people to know the truth especially since the media often misconstrues information, but there are also a lot of dangers that follow with WikiLeaks. I feel like these days we don’t really have any complete privacy, even on the Internet, so that whole idea of anonymity is confusing. WikiLeaks may have its benefits by revealing truths to the public, but at the same time it is also like opening Pandora’s box.

  9. Although i’m undecided as to whether wikileaks is good or bad, I think that the movement behind it is very shady. Tor, for example, is currently widely used to run something called the Silk Road, where anyone, who knows how to use Tor can buy things ranging from drugs to weapons to stolen goods anonymously and very easily. Although I don’t like the idea of government secrecy or involvement in the internet, excluding the government entirely and trying to fight against it can lead to dangerous things.

  10. I do not believe that Wikileaks is good, but it does reveal a lot of information that people are unaware of. The media and government does not always inform us about everything, but we do have the right of knowing. Yet, it is debatable if acquiring this information will lead to positive consequences.

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