Peter Carey’s Amnesia is more than Wikileaks without Assange

January 1, 2015

Amnesia
Book Review

I bought Amnesia by Peter Carey for Christmas reading, partly on the author’s track record. Also because the blurb promised a tale of a cyber-hacker which a back story of political intrigue in Australia including the revolutionary events of 1975, and current controversies around the treatment of boat people, a version of a wider issue of immigration policy confronting so many countries.

Release of The Angel Worm

Cyber-hacker Gaby Baillieux’s actions have been shaped by a turbulent childhood with politically and socially active parents and diverse group of mostly hostile school mates. Her acts of rebellion with super-hacker boyfriend Frederick culminate with the release of the Angel Worm, which also results in the release of assorted prisoners detained in Australia’s prison system. Worse, the effects are felt around the world wherever American organisations are responsible for security, which naturally gives a new meaning to The Land of The Free. Frederick and Gaby become public enemies Nos 1 and 2.

A plan is hatched

A plan is hatched by Gaby’s glamorous mother Celine and Felix Moore, a discredited journalist and formerly a besotted admirer of Celine. The plan is bankrolled by Woody Townes, a left-wing property developer (implausible, but not quite unbelievable), who is a more recent member of Celine’s entourage. Felix is to write an account of Gaby’s life that will save her from extradition to a place where no Angel Worm will gain entry.

Amnesia indeed

Carey chosoes words carefully. The Amnesia of his title indicates the way in which unpleasant and inconvenient truths are denied and forgotten. It was certainly the case for me, and the book sent me back to the story which has scarcely been referred to for half a century. The forgotten crisis demonstrated for perhaps the last time the ultimate control exercised by The British political system in resolving Australian internal affairs. It remains a live issue in Australia, and is a backdrop to the tensions towards self-determination so important today around the world, not least in the United Kingdom in the devolution debates in Scotland and elsewhere.

In Amnnesia, the story unfolds from the perspective of Gaby, as related to Felix, who reverts to type by stubbornly refusing to write anything but the truth. Various factors including the motives and intentions of Gaby, Celine, and Woody make Felix’s task increasingly difficult and dangerous.

More than Wikileaks without Assage

The book makes no mention of Australia’s most notorious hacker. But it is, anyway, more than Wikileaks without Assage. I chose to leak no further, beyond noting that the book was by far the most interesting one I read over the festive season.


Low Status High Security: lessons from the Snowden case

August 19, 2013

By John Keane

The Snowden case has drawn attention to a characteristic of espionage in an electronic age in which high security information is accessible to security-cleared contractors of relatively low status

The phenomenon of electronic espionage by low-status contractors is becoming increasingly discussed after several high-profile leaking stories, which for shorthand sre being labelled as wikileaks. The BBC noted recently that the conditions are well-known, but little has been done to address the problem. The article points to the need to grant contractors high security status. They cite the large consulting firm Booz Allen as having remarkably high numbers for staff cleared for accessing Government information. Of its 25,000 staff, nearly half have security clearance to top secret class information. These are the ranks from which Edward Snowden emerged.

A leadership dilemma

Security analysts recognize that the management of vast information flows requires considerable back-up support. I think of it as a wormhole in the blogosphere through which data can slip. In principle, the dangers can be reduced by greater care in allocating access to highly sensitive data. In practice we have a leadership dilemma of the electronic age.

The author

This post is written by Dr John Keane of Urmston University in Northern England where he teaches and researches into leadership and the history of economics. The views expressed are those of the author.


Wikileaks: Dilemmas in the age of social media

February 15, 2011

One of the first global dilemmas of the age of social media is the tension between individual security and freedom of information. The dilemma is illustrated by the actions of Julian Assange and the Wikileaks website following the release of the Afgan war diaries in 2010

A BBC account provides a brief history of Wikileaks which was founded in 2004. The story as a global issue has become inter-connected with the turbulent private life of its charismatic founder Julian Assange.

According to its own website, the mission of Wikileaks is:

…the defence of freedom of speech and media publishing, the improvement of our common historical record and the support of the rights of all people to create new history. We derive these principles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, Article 19 inspires the work of our journalists and other volunteers. It states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. We agree, and we seek to uphold this and the other Articles of the Declaration.

…The great American president Thomas Jefferson once observed that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We believe the journalistic media plays a key role in this vigilance.

From its origins as a little-known freedom of information site in 2004, Wikileaks became a globally significant source of news in 2010 with its publicising of a vast cache of leaked documents about the War in Afghanistan. Recognising the dilemma of security versus freedom of information, it withheld information its own censored considered would put individuals at risk. It also chose to release news via three traditional news sources, the New York Times, Germany’s Der Speigel and the UK’s Guardian. The process led to Wikileaks being described as the first stateless news organization

The distinguished journalist Jay Rosen quickly noticed the significance of the strategy.

The WikiLeaks report presented a unique dilemma to the three papers given advance copies of the 92,000 reports included in the Afghan war logs — the New York Times, Germany’s Der Speigel and the UK’s Guardian. The editors couldn’t verify the source of the reports – as they would have done if their own staffers had obtained them – and they couldn’t stop WikiLeaks from posting it, whether they wrote about it or not. So they were basically left with proving veracity through official sources and picking through the pile for the bits that seemed to be the most truthful. Notice how effective this combination is. The information is released in two forms: vetted and narrated to gain old media cred, and released online in full text, Internet-style, which corrects for any timidity or blind spot the editors at Der Spiegel, The Times or the Guardian may show.

Daniel Ellsberg, the man who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, has been a frequent defender of WikiLeaks. In contrast,
Reporters Without Borders sent an open letter to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organisation, regrets the incredible irresponsibility you showed when posting your article “Afghan War Diary 2004 – 2010” on the Wikileaks website on 25 July together with 92,000 leaked documents disclosing the names of Afghans who have provided information to the international military coalition that has been in Afghanistan since 2001.

Assange and conspiracy theories

Meanwhile, the founder figure of Wikileaksfaces criminal changes for alleged sexual offences in Sweden. Conspiracy theorists are claiming that the charges are politically motivated. A summary of the Assange allegations can be found in the BBC account.

When partners fall out

The Guardian, one of the newspapers entrusted with a cache of wikileaks, is now [Feb 2011] embroiled in a dispute with Julian Assage. According to its friendly rival The Independent

Mr Assange divides the Left. He appals many women. Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy [a book published by The Guardian] is an attempt to separate the message from the messenger. It may succeed, but probably not completely. If Mr Assange should end up in a Swedish jail, on sex charges rather than because he has infuriated the US government, the reputation of WikiLeaks, and potentially that of its newspaper collaborators, is likely to suffer.


Mubarak watch

February 5, 2011

The events of political turmoil in Egypt in the first two weeks of February 2011 are followed and evaluated for lessons of leadership and the management of change

Saturday February 11th Mubarak is gone. For Egypt there will now be a lengthy period in which the speed of change slows. Mubarak watch concludes. For status reports see
The Los Angeles Times
Aljazera
The Guardian/Observer

Friday February 10th

Friday mid-afternoon. Mubarak’s resignation announced. Much more to follow.

Mr Suleiman said Mr Mubarak had handed power to the high command of the armed forces.
“In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country,” he said.

Thursday evening, the world’s media turned to Tahrir Square. News was the Mubarak would speak to the nation to announce his resignation. Crowds expecting victory. Then dismay as Mubarak offers little. Confusion. Anger. “God help Israel now ” one commentator remarked. Fears for the next 24 hours.

Thursday February 9th

Intelligent discussion on BBC’s Newsnight. Historians plus activist spokesperson from Cairo. Lessons from history: revolutions result in emergence of ‘the strong leader’. Overnight, news of further initiatives, strikes in various parts of Egypt said to be ‘spontaneous’. Newsnight tested proposition that the protest could not bring down the Mubarak regime. Not easy to reduce to a logical proposition. Practically, Mubarak authority has been seriously and irrevocably damaged. He has lost unconditional support of his powerful ally the United States.

Wednesday February 8th Overnight view is broadly that there had been renewed efforts (if only in numbers) by the protestors in Cairo yesterday. Worth checking on the country-wide situation. A wikileaks view assembled by The New York Times mostly confirms what has been written about Mubarak’s negotiaons for US aid in return for his claimed ‘stong’ policies maintaining peace in the region. He viewed the removal of Saddam as a huge mistake which he believed made his own continued rule even more critical.
Tuesday February 8th In search of a leader? Aljazeera reports freeing of Google executive Wael Ghonim, whose facebook page has been considered to have triggered off the protests in Cairo.

Monday February 7th Overnight news indicates that the situation in Cairo has reached an impasse. The New York Times suggests it presents a dilemma for the Obama regime. Stock exchange opening has been postponed for 24 hours, as the government attempts to sell $2.5bn in short-term debt.

Sunday February 6th Muslim brotherhood in talks. Aljazeera suggests these to be ‘critical’ to next stage of events in Egypt. US sends mixed messages regarding the need for Mubarak to oversee a smooth transition of power. Brief opening of banks reminds us of the financial crisis running with the political one.

Saturday Feb 5th Yesterday’s ‘day of departure’ is now evaluated as no clear tipping point. Around 100,000 rather than a million people were reported around Tahrir Square. The possiblity of a longer struggle is now firming up.

One of the leaders of the protesters, George Ishaq of the Kifaya (Enough) movement, told the BBC they intend reduce their presence in Tahrir Square, holding big demonstrations on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“Protesters will remain in Tahrir Square on all days of the week,” he said on Friday [4th Feb, 2011]. “But each Friday, there will be a demonstration like today.”

Friday Feb 4th This was the day announced in advance as the day when a million protesters would symbolically end the Mubarak regime. But the tone of reporting of a few days earlier has been somewhat muted. There is greater concern that there is more of a temporary condition of stalemate.

Another voice was raised in support of Mubarak, President Berlusconi of Italy, himself facing a struggle to survive politically. Like Tony Blair he considers the merits that stability of regime has brought to the wider Middle East.

Feb 3rd Situation is confused. Voice of America suggests that the Pro-Mubarak forces are gaining ground. The BBC however reports gains by the opposition demonstrators. What is clear that there have been fatalities acknowledged. Prime Minster Ahmed Shafiq broadcast an apology for the fighting, which has killed nine and wounded hundreds and promised an investigation. Tomorrow is the scheduled ‘day of a million protestors’.

Feb 2nd Reports a few days ago were talking of repid removal of the President from power. Now the tone is of more organized efforts to resist the revolutionary forces concentrated in Cairo. Jeremy Bowen of the BBC described events

Since I arrived a week ago I have seen no significant demonstrations for President Mubarak. But from the morning there were thousands of his supporters on Cairo’s streets, mobilised presumably by the ruling party, the NDP. The pro-Mubarak demonstrations were well organised, not spontaneous. Numbered buses unloaded supporters. Many placards looked as if they had been made by professional sign writers. Their opponents claim that they are paid to demonstrate. For an authoritarian leader like Hosni Mubarak, the sight of so many people in Tahrir Square calling for his removal must have been deeply humiliating. He will have wanted to reassert his authority over his capital city – and his supporters were given the job.