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Wikileaks Continues Distributing Documents

December 6, 2010

As Washington continued to turn up the heat on Wikileaks and founder Julian Assange over the weekend, the confidential information distributed by the website remained available through mirror sites and torrent peer-to-peer sharing programs, the AFP reported Sunday.

After losing the support of many of its partners in the United States, including website host Amazon.com and content distributor Tableau Software, and becoming the target of numerous cyberattacks late last week, Wikileaks “has already been forced to change its domain name and hop-scotch to servers around the globe,” the French news agency said.

According to AFP, “Wikileaks has been offering its archives for download through torrent peer-to-peer sharing–a move that could allow any user around the world to post them or share them”¦ Anticipating the US attempts to block it though, Wikileaks has taken the precaution of posting a big, 1.4-gigabyte file encrypted with a 256-digit key said to be unbreakable.”

The file, which the news organization identified as ‘insurance.aes256,’ is “big enough to contain all the US cables said to be in Wikileaks’s possession,” including all of the 250,000 cables released to date as well as all of its previously published documents pertaining to the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. The data is unreadable until a key is provided.

“Due to recent attacks on our infrastructure, we’ve decided to make sure everyone can reach our content,” Wikileaks said in a message posted to its site, the AFP reported. “As part of this process we’re releasing archived copy of all files we ever released,” Wikileaks said in a message on its site.”

In an interview with the UK newspaper The Guardian on Friday, Assange said that the cable archives had been “spread, along with significant material from the US and other countries to over 100,000 people in encrypted form,” as well as several news media outlets. “If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically”¦ History will win.”

Assange’s whereabouts have also become a source of speculation. According to the AFP, the 39-year-old Australian said that he was no longer welcome in his home country, who has vowed to support the American government in its battle against Wikileaks.

According to Associated Press (AP) writer John Heilprin, Assange “is considering seeking asylum in Switzerland” after telling a Spanish newspaper that he had been targeted by “hundreds” of death threats, including some targeting his children and Wikileaks lawyers.

Heilprin notes that Assange “had begun seeking donations to an account under his name through the Swiss postal system in Bern, the Swiss capital, while also using a Swiss-Icelandic credit card processing center and other accounts in Iceland and Germany. He lost a major source of revenue when the online payment service provider PayPal cut off the Wikileaks account over the weekend.”

The AP said that he was currently in Britain, citing Assange’s UK lawyer as a source.

Meanwhile, in the United States, government officials worked to try to undo the damage done by the published documents. On Monday morning, the website of British media outlet The Independent reported that the US was “being forced to undertake a major reshuffle of the embassy staff, military personnel and intelligence operatives whose work has been laid bare” by the Wikileaks cable leaks.

“The Obama administration was yesterday facing a crisis in its diplomatic service, amid growing evidence that the ongoing publication of a tranche of supposedly-confidential communiqu©s will make normal work difficult, if not dangerous, for important State Department employees across the world,” reporters Guy Adams and Kim Sengupta said, adding that the threats that additional cable could be published are “leading to fears that the unhelpful revelations will continue for months to come, destabilizing US relations with almost all of its key allies and inflaming tensions with already-hostile governments in the Middle East and beyond.”

“The Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department are reported to be identifying which members of staff have been named as the authors of the most unhelpful memos to have been published by Wikileaks,” added Adams and Sengupta. “They will need to be removed from what are among America’s most strategically-important postings.”

On the Sunday NBC television program Meet the Press, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said that Assange was “a high-tech terrorist” and that he hoped the Wikileaks founder would be prosecuted for the “enormous damage” that publishing those confidential documents had done to the US, both domestically and internationally, according to Heilprin.

All the while, the spread of the documents has continued, despite attempts to shut down Wikileaks for good. In an interview with the AP, Pascal Gloor, Vice President of the Swiss Pirate Party–a group that is assisting Assange–said that their Wikileaks.ch website was receiving approximately 3,000 visitors each second, and that several mirrors of the Wikileaks site were being hosted on their servers.

“Even if you take down the server in Sweden, it’s too late,” Gloor told Heilprin on Sunday. “There are hundreds of mirrors of Wikileaks now”¦ It’s a test for Internet censorship. Can governments take something off the Net? I think not. There are copies of the website everywhere.”

While the documents may still be available, federal officials are being warned not to access them. In a memo obtained by Fox News, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned its employees not to view any of the information distributed by the website, telling all employees and contractors that all of the documents must first be “declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority” before they can be reviewed by personnel without proper security clearance.

Fox News also reported that the memo told officials that they are “obligated to protect classified information pursuant to all applicable laws, and to use government information technology systems in accordance with agency procedures so that the integrity of such systems is not compromised.” It does not, however, call for blockage of the Wikileaks website, as individuals with proper security clearance are permitted to access and review the classified documents.

Also on Sunday, new details came to light about one of the cables released by Wikileaks–a memo, sent from the US Embassy in Beijing to Washington D.C. accusing Chinese officials of orchestrating cyberattacks against Google in late 2009. According to Gillian Wong of the AP, the document said that a “well-placed” contact had told diplomats that the attacks were ordered by the Politburo Standing Committee, which Wong calls “the apex of Communist Party power.”

“The details of the memos, known in diplomatic parlance as cables, could not be verified,” the AP reported added. “Chinese government departments either refused to comment or could not be reached. If true, the cables show the political pressures that were facing Google when it decided to close its China-based search engine in March.”

On Friday, Senators John Ensign, Scott Brown, and Joseph Lieberman, introduced a bill that would make it illegal to publish the names of military and intelligence agency informants. The legislation, dubbed the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act or SHIELD Act, would amend the existing US Espionage Act, is widely believed to be a direct response to Assange’s leaks.

“Our foreign representatives, allies, and intelligence sources must have the clear assurance that their lives will not be endangered by those with opposing agendas, whether they are Americans or not, and our government must make it clear that revealing the identities of these individuals will not be tolerated,” Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement last week. “This legislation will help hold people criminally accountable who endanger these sources of information that are vital to protecting our national security interests.”

“The reckless behavior of Wikileaks has compromised our national security and threatened the safety of our troops overseas, and this bipartisan legislation gives the Department of Justice a tool to prevent something like this from happening again,” added Brown. “While I strongly support government transparency, certain information must be kept classified in order to protect innocent American lives during this time of war and global terrorism.”

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