In a briefing at the Defense Department, Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell ordered Wikileaks to remove classified documents and return them to the U.S. government.
For reals? I might be wrong here*, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how the internet works. See, e.g., the Tom Cruise scientology video saga for just one example of what happens when powerful people with expensive lawyers decide to attack random people on the internet. And if you think the Department of Defense is more web-savvy than the Church of Scientology, I suppose you’re entitled to that opinion… but short of nuking Iceland, what are they going to do?
I pose that question in all seriousness.
This isn’t about being “nice” or some kind of contest between DoD and Wikileaks about the meaning of “the right thing” in this context. It’s almost universally accepted that the U.S. government is spending a ton of money to murder innocent people in Afghanistan for no reason that can be articulated. Wikileaks, majorities of the American public, and most of the rest of the world clearly wants it to stop. To the extent that words like “good” or “right” have meaning here, any action that moves U.S. policy towards an end of the occupation is unquestionably “the right thing,” and so far Wikileaks has done more towards that end in just a few short weeks than the US military apparatus has been able to accomplish in nearly ten years. DoD has significantly less credibility than Wikileaks does at this point- agents of the US government are in no position to be making demands.
The ultimatum the DoD has issued here, “Do the right thing and return our files…[implied OR ELSE!]” is essentially nonsense. Even if Wikileaks wanted to comply (they don’t) or were going to try to comply (they won’t), what does it even mean to “return” a digital file? I’m put in mind of those people who send emails via Outlook and then try to “recall” them… by sending a second email. Exchange server might work like that, but *email* doesn’t. And pretending that it does just makes the pretender look silly. Or stupid. Once something is on the web, you can’t take it back.
Over the last five years or so, we’ve witnessed the birth of that awareness in the collective consciousness of our more intelligent political leaders. As applied to politicians, the long memory of the net is a positive- any tools that help the electorate to screen out people who are crazy or habitual liars are a good thing. I guess this sample of DoD’s ideas about their power over the net is an indicator that the bureaucracies haven’t quite figured it out yet.
* I’m not wrong.