My Wikileaks Mirror Experience

Wik­ileaks has been in and out of the news for a few years now.  It has had a few major suc­cess­es over the years, but noth­ing has gen­er­at­ed the press and the notice from gov­ern­ments as the release of the US diplo­mat­ic cables that is still (at time of writ­ing) ongoing.

To some extent, the detrac­tors are cor­rect. To the ran­dom per­son out­side the US, much of these cables con­sti­tute gos­sip.  But the news sto­ry here isn’t about what the US thinks of oth­er coun­tries, it’s the dis­con­nect between the US gov­ern­ment and it’s peo­ple.  The things the US gov­ern­ment is doing and say­ing in the name of it’s peo­ple are not what those peo­ple   would have it do.  Even for oth­er nations (some of the cables are from oth­er nation’s diplo­mats and were sent to the US), the rev­e­la­tion of their nation’s posi­tion in some mul­ti­lat­er­al nego­ti­a­tion has been shocking.

Regard­less of your posi­tion on the con­tent of the cables, the free­dom of speech that releas­es them is impor­tant.  It’s instruc­tive and iron­ic that Prav­da has crit­i­cized the US’s cam­paign to stop wik­ileaks as an affront to free­dom of speech.  It’s equal­ly enlight­en­ing, that Daniel Ells­berg, quot­ed in the New York Times said that giv­en the pen­ta­gon papers today, he would have post­ed them on the  inter­net.  Both these papers put the val­ue of the wik­ileaked cables as inform­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple about their own government.

Ear­ly in the morn­ing on Decem­ber 5th, Wik­ileaks put out the call for mir­rors.  Some­time short­ly after the 5th began, Slash­dot car­ried word of this call to mil­lions of geeks around the world.  A friend drew my atten­tion to the Slash­dot post and short­ly there­after I had fol­lowed the rather brief instruc­tions to cre­ate a mir­ror account on our web­serv­er.  The very same web­serv­er that cranks out this blog.  The instruc­tions led me to cre­ate the account, but it was the wik­ileaks min­ions that actu­al­ly pop­u­lat­ed it with con­tent.  That hap­pened some­time dur­ing the wee hours of the 5th, most like­ly while I was asleep.

In the morn­ing, I noticed that the account had been pop­u­lat­ed by some data, but I did­n’t real­ly look any fur­ther than using du to note that they had loaded 70-ish megabytes of data onto our machine.  I would­n’t want the disk to be over­full, after all.

To be hon­est, I did it because it was the right thing to do and because I was some­what pre­pared to host a high pro­file site on this web serv­er.  I did­n’t give the mir­ror anoth­er thought until a few days lat­er when my part­ner let me know that the Nation­al Post was call­ing to inter­view who­ev­er cre­at­ed the wik­ileaks mir­ror.  The result was this arti­cle, which at least bears some resem­blance to what I said.  The BC guy sounds like a real nut­ter, though.

The next day The Toron­to Star called and the result was this arti­cle.  Then a talk radio sta­tion called from BC.  The radio host seemed gen­er­al­ly sur­prised that peo­ple sup­port­ed wik­ileaks.  I tried my best to empha­size that free­dom of speach impor­tant.  I asked each reporter if their media out­let was big enough and brave enough to release some­thing of this size.  My own feel­ing is that few media out­lets are suf­fi­cient­ly inde­pen­dent to make a release of this impor­tance.  Even the ven­er­a­ble New York Times — the paper that did pub­lish the Pen­ta­gon Papers — might not have the inde­pen­dence and strength to release these cables.  That’s all spec­u­la­tion, though.  Once the cables them­selves are pub­lished on the inter­net, dis­cussing them in a news­pa­per is less of a risk.

Media atten­tion waned quick­ly — as it often does.  I did­n’t get any more calls.  The site con­tin­ues to get a few thou­sand hits per day and is again out of mind.  Dur­ing the atten­tion we received many calls encour­ag­ing us and only one (anony­mous) call denounc­ing us.  We may yet still gain one or two cus­tomers (still in the sales process) who called in to switch their inter­net ser­vices to sup­port peo­ple who would sup­port wikileaks.

But I did­n’t do it because we’d get cus­tomers or because I would get my pic­ture in the paper.  I did it and would do it again because it is the right thing to do.

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