WikiWars: blow by blow

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Assange out on bail; Aussie spies spooked by cyberwar; Google joins pariah cloud providers.

Background:The detention of Wikileaks publisher and editor-in-chief, Australian journalist Julian Assange triggered an all out cyber civil war between those such as Anonymous, a shadowy collective of online activists sympathetic to his release of secret diplomatic cables and supporters of the US. In the crossfire: websites and computer networks of either faction, taken down by coordinated attacks aimed to disrupt their ability to carry on business, control and command forces and publish information.

Bookmark this page because we'll update this rolling commentary as news breaks.

Know more? Let us know in the comments below or send email to wikiwar(a)securecomputing.net.au

December 17

0900 Wikileaks editor Julian Assange was granted bail and released last night AEDT after British High Court judge Mr Justic Ouseley denied the Crown prosecutor's attempt to keep him in Wandsworth prison, saying he may abscond. In denying the prosecutor, Justice Ouseley said Asange made all efforts to contact police on arrival in Britain and kept them informed of his whereabouts, surrendering voluntarily to police: "That is not the conduct of a person who is seeking to evade justice", he said.

The Guardian reported Assange's first words on release after nine days behind bars:

It's great to smell the fresh air of London again.

First, some thank yous. To all the people around the world who have had faith in me, who have supported my team while I have been away. To my lawyers, who have put up a brave and ultimately successful fight, to our sureties and people who have provided money in the face of great difficulty and aversion. And to members of the press who are not all taken in and considered to look deeper in their work. And I guess finally, to the British justice system itself, where if justice is not always the outcome at least it is not dead yet.

During my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of a Victorian prison I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement, also on remand, in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me. Those people also need your attention and support.

And with that I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal, as we get it, which we have not yet, the evidence from these allegations. Thank you.

Assange will have to meet strict conditions including wearing an e-tag on his ankle to track his movements [ed: does anyone else see the irony in putting an electronic tracking device on an elite hacker?]

0005 Assange granted bail with conditions.

December 16

1600 Assange appears in the High Court in London at 8:30pm AEDT tonight to hear if Swedish prosecutors' attempts to extradite him for questioning over alleged sexual misdemeanours were successful or whether he may retire to the English countryside under effective house arrest on $A379,000 bail until his next hearing on January 11. The Crown Prosecutor blocked Assange's release on bail two days ago it was believed initially at the request of the Swedes although both have denied this.

1300 The Defence Signals Directorate in 2008 was unprepared for cyberwar, Wikileaks documents released by Fairfax press overnight revealed. In a meeting with US intelligence heads, Australian defence chiefs asked the US for help because they were "hard pressed" to keep up with cybersecurity when the directorate was stuck in an old mindset.

Noon The Age releases plaintext versions of the Australian Wikileaks documents.

morning edition

Wikileaks mirrors: 2194

Wikileaks cables: 1532 of 251,287 (0.61 percent)

Wikileaks encouraged US military workers to bypass the government's sanctions on accessing the controversial diplomatic cables by using one of the more than 2000 mirror sites. But US Government workers face punishment if caught reading the materials.

Google has joined the list of pariah providers summarily yanking the cloud out from under Wikileaks supporters Anonymous, Panda Labs believes. The security researcher said Operation Payback organisers used Google Docs to store campaign fliers and conduct polls "to determine future targets". "It's unclear as to which part(s) of the Google TOS have been violated by the group, but according to the organisers, several of these polls have been taken offline by the company," Panda Labs blogger Sean-Paul Correl wrote.

The Twitter profile of Anonymous supporter @Anonywatcher was suspended but a coordination and PR account @AnonOps linked to the group is still operational.

Anonymous urged followers to step out from behind their PCs and turn off Low Orbit Ion Cannon on Saturday to distribute paper fliers in the streets in support of Wikileaks during Operation Paperstorm.

December 15

1430: The eldest daughter of Uzbekistan's President Islom Karamov, Gulnara Karimova, ran US telco Skytel out of the country in 2005 because it rebuffed her overtures to buy into the company, cables released this week revealed. The former US ambassador to the former Soviet satellite state that is a vital choke point for American prosecution of the war in Afghanistan, said Uzbek authorities jammed the CDMA450 mobile phone provider's network and refused to allow it to restart, forcing it to leave the country a few months later.

Australian senator Scott Ludlam says the "high-definition wormhole" Wikileaks cables reveal the "tightropes of diplomacy and massive violence that nation states walk every day".

Prime Minister Gillard's stunning miscalculation in attacking the WikiLeaks organisation are likely to haunt her. Let us be completely clear. Julian Assange didn't leak anything. The organisation of which he is a part received classified material from a source within the US military, which it is now making available to the world's media organisations.

If Assange and his organisation have committed crimes, then let the arguments be heard in an open court. Given the tone of some of the more unhinged commentary from the US and elsewhere calling for [his] extrajudicial killing it is far from clear what his extradition to the US would actually mean.

The US Air Force has blocked employees from visiting media websites carrying Wikileaks documents, including The New York Times and the Guardian even though, presumably, most of them already have access to unredacted versions via the compromised SIPRNET system that was the font of their origin. In a move aimed at ensuring US Government workers can't participate in the discussion accreting to the release of the materials, US defence spokesman Major Toni Jones said it was "routine".

[The Air Force] routinely blocks network access to websites hosting inappropriate materials or malware [malicious software] and this includes any website that hosts classified materials and those that are released by Wikileaks.

Overnight dump

Number of Wikileaks mirrors: 2174

Cables released: 1446 of 251,287 (0.575 percent)

The judge who granted Assange bail in cash of £240,000 ($A379,000) in a British court delighted the twitterati by allowing reporters to tweet proceedings. In response to a question from Times reporter Alexi Mostrous, district judge Howard Riddle granted permission for tweets "if it's quiet and doesn't disturb anything". Swedish prosecutors soon appealed the subsequent decision that would allow Assange to live until the next hearing on January 11 at a manor house two hours outside of London so long as he wore a tracking ankle bracelet and reported to local police each day. Assange and his celebrity legal team led by UN human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC are due back in court on Friday to hear the outcome of the appeal.

A legislative lawyer for the US Congressional Research Service found that big obstacles lie in the way of attempts prosecute Assange in the US for revealing more than 250,000 diploamtic cables. Jennifer Elsea found such a prosecution would be the first of its type and would carry free-speech First Amendment "implications", political and foreign policy "ramifications" that are "related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction".

Leaks of classified information to the press have only rarely been punished as crimes, and we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship.

Although unlawful acquisition of information might be subject to criminal prosecution with few First Amendment implications, the publication of that information remains protected. Whether the publication of national security information can be punished likely turns on the value of the information to the public weighed against the likelihood of identifiable harm to the national security, arguably a more difficult case for prosecutors to make.

In an online poll, nearly 1.25 million readers of Time voted Assange Person of the Year by a landslide, the Wikileaks founder registering 382,020 votes, "giving him an easy first place", Time said. "He was 148,383 votes over the silver medalist, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey".

The humble fax machine emerged as the next vector of attack for Wikileaks supporters Anonymous, who turned their attentions from hurling net traffic at the likes of Amazon and credit card companies to organising to bombard those corporations' machines. In Operation Leakflood, the group urges its members to send "random Wikileaks cables" using free fax services to organisations that have denied service to Wikileaks.


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