Seemingly, the U.S. Senate is now the largest crusader against American intelligence practices on the globe, and the despicable Wikileaks has now been reduced to publishing travel advice. The fugitive Julian Assange and his foray into journalism has become a joke.
Earlier this month, the site revealed two classified CIA documents. Despite the fact that these documents were marked as "NOFORN" (not for foreign eyes), I question the need for the these particular documents being marked secret at all. As Berlin-based Leonid Bershidsky aptly described:
One file, named "Surviving Secondary," teaches CIA operatives the intricacies of attracting as little attention as possible during airport security checks anywhere in the world. The other, titled "Schengen Overview," explains how European border control systems worked in early 2012. There is nothing in either of them that would justify keeping them secret: Mostly, they're just common sense.
Assange attempted to squeeze as much as he could from the weak and diluted information trough stating;
- "The CIA has carried out kidnappings from European Union states, including Italy and Sweden, during the Bush administration," Wikileaks' news release quoted him as saying. "These manuals show that under the Obama administration the CIA is still intent on infiltrating European Union borders and conducting clandestine operations in EU member states."
Where I once reported on the harmful and asinine ways of Julian Assange, now I simply sit back and let him do it on his own. Mission accomplished. Anyone, "in the know," can tell you that there is nothing secret about common sense... or at least, there should be nothing secret about common sense. Lord knows there are plenty of people with no common sense which may indicate that it is, in fact, a secret. Nevertheless these "scoops" that Assange has "released" are benign and actually beneficial.
Few will be surprised to discover that CIA "staffers" might pass through international airports, in Europe and elsewhere, with bogus passports. Hello? This is the intelligence world. At no point does an effective operative wear a name badge or "SPY" T-shirt as they wait at passport security check.
Common Sense, and Assange's lack thereof
Julian Paul Assange is an Australian self-proclaimed editor, activist, publisher and journalist. He is best known as the editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks, which publishes submissions of secret information, to the detriment of anyone. | Photo: Reuters |
Assange's primary source of his "scoop" (CIA advice to its operatives) came from a 2004 Israeli security consultancy manual. In this document, "spies" are told not to show "unusual nervousness or anxiety" and not to switch lines at security. More common sense. Additionally, this scandalous revelation advises operatives that it helps to speak the language of the country that issued your passport, that tickets bought for cash in countries where credit cards are common arouse suspicion, and that traveling without baggage and on one-way tickets sets off all kinds of alarms. An example given:
- "Salvadoran security services identified a suspected Venezuelan government courier on the basis of a military style haircut, physical fitness, casual dress, and little baggage."
More common sense: The document states that it's a good idea to look your ticket class, which includes the quality of your gadgets; don't wear a sweatsuit, in other words, if you're traveling on a diplomatic passport, etc.
Remember, out of the 1 million people on the Schengen countries' common watch-list, only 2.5 percent are there because of some criminal activity. The rest of the alerts have to do with immigration issues, unrelated to the suspected terrorism.
A few reminders:
- What Wikileaks did was a crime: The initial Wikileaks release was not only criminal, but it cost many innocent souls, as well as jeopardized millions more. Even is you support Assange's beliefs, two wrongs do not make a right, and were not needed to bring light to anything you feel the need to expose. Wrong is still wrong.
- Going forward, privacy is more important than transparency: As more and more interaction is mediated by computer, it is subject to surveillance, gathering, and processing in ways that are difficult to detect. Information is increasingly bought and sold as a commodity, so previously acceptable disclosures -- like giving your phone number or email to a store -- must be reconsidered. Fast, powerful and inexpensive data mining, combined with large amounts of accessible data, makes privacy more important than ever.
- Slapping the hand that protects you: For those of you or fortunate enough to live with the protection of of free speech, let me remind you of those men and women who give their lives to ensure your freedoms. This is not patriotic rhetoric, this is truth. You sleep soundly at night because of the efforts valiantly put forth by the tip of the spear: intelligence agencies. Their valor is immediately followed by the outstanding men and women in our military, law-enforcement, judiciary systems, and the like.
- This is raw information: Unverified, unanalyzed, and without context. By failing to provide more information, WikiLeaks leaves the documents as vulnerable to misrepresentation as drunken Facebook pictures. Also, unintentional disclosure is big business, which makes dumping large quantities of raw data on the Internet reckless at best and at worst a criminal abdication of responsibility.
- Hypocratic assault. If you have to hurt someone to make your point, you're making the wrong point.
While I still find Julian Assange and his efforts misguided, criminal, anti-freedom, anti-American, and abhorrent, at this point reporting on him is nothing more than comical. Nevertheless the threat he and others like him pose is still real and should be treated as such.