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With Better Sharing of Intel Comes Danger 287

Posted by timothy
from the always-a-tradeoff dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Ellen Nakashima writes in the Washington Post that after the intelligence community came under heavy criticism after 9/11 for having failed to share data, officials sought to make it easier for various agencies to share sensitive information giving intelligence analysts wider access to government secrets but WikiLeaks has proved that there's a downside to better information-sharing. To prevent further breaches, the Pentagon has ordered that a feature that allows material to be copied onto thumb drives or other removable devices be disabled on its classified computer systems and will limit the number of classified systems from which material can be transferred to unclassified systems, as well as require that two people be involved in moving data from classified to unclassified systems. The bottom line is that recent leaks 'have blown a hole' in the framework by which governments guard their secrets. According to British journalist Simon Jenkins 'words on paper can be made secure, electronic archives not.'"
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With Better Sharing of Intel Comes Danger

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  • Leak DRM? (Score:4, Informative)

    by markdavis (642305) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @04:27PM (#34453616)

    >"To prevent further breaches, the Pentagon has ordered that a feature that allows material to be copied onto thumb drives or other removable devices be disabled on its classified computer systems"

    Yeah, like that is really going to make THAT much of a difference. Oh- make sure to remove all printers too, prevent all Email/IRC/IM, cut and paste, CD/DVDRW, etc. I suppose I can't criticize them for trying, but no amount of stuff like that is going to prevent information leaks if someone wants to leak information. It is no different than DRM.

    • Re:Leak DRM? (Score:4, Informative)

      by omni123 (1622083) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @04:45PM (#34453752) Homepage

      It's not that it is impossible to leak information--that's never a goal--the idea is to increase the difficulty and risk to such a level that it is not worth it for the average employee to attempt to leak whatever mediocre information they have access to and that the employees the skill and access are more loyal and less likely to attempt it. In this way it is different to DRM because there is no inherent risk associated (for most people) as you are not going to lose your job or risk federal/military prison for your actions and thus there is nothing to dissuade you from attempting it.

      For the record it is not particularly easy to use a printer to duplicate, say, 250,000 diplomatic cables and walk out with them under your arms. It's not particularly difficult to prevent the average employee from accessing IRC/IM either and the obvious risks attached to e-mail are far too high. The approaches do need to be more sophisticated.

      • The approaches do need to be more sophisticated.

        You mean like using a cell-phone camera to take a picture of a screen?

        You can also encode a LOT of info into just one jpg or png of the family dog.

        As for printing, you can use a 600dpi laser to output the whole bible in encoded format on 5 sheets of paper. So yes, you could walk out with 250,000 cables pretty quickly.

        • by omni123 (1622083)

          The approaches do need to be more sophisticated.

          You mean like using a cell-phone camera to take a picture of a screen?

          You can also encode a LOT of info into just one jpg or png of the family dog.

          As for printing, you can use a 600dpi laser to output the whole bible in encoded format on 5 sheets of paper. So yes, you could walk out with 250,000 cables pretty quickly.

          Not every office has the kind of hardware (or every person the skillset) required to minimise documents at the drop of a hat like that. While I concede that methods for this are readily available on the internet a lot of people with access to this intelligence just don't have the expertise to step through it and that is a strong enough deterrent in a lot of cases.

          Keep in mind I am limiting my discussion to internal patriotic staff members 'freeing America' etc and not a well placed terrorist or foreign inte

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            600 dpi printers are no big deal. As well, encoding the info doesn't mean literally shrinking the fonts - there are other ways to encode the information - you can even encode it as "defects" in the regular fonts so that an apparently innocuous email contains the actual data. Anyone with a web browser and the ability to run some javascript can do it.

            So it's one of those cases where unfortunately, stuff is going to leak no matter what. There are some problems that are simply not solvable.

        • by fishexe (168879)
          Yeah, but would Bradley Manning have figured out how to do anything of these things? Remember, this was the guy who thought listening to Lady Gaga at work was such a clever ruse.
        • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2NO@SPAMgdargaud.net> on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:44AM (#34457558) Homepage

          As for printing, you can use a 600dpi laser to output the whole bible in encoded format on 5 sheets of paper. So yes, you could walk out with 250,000 cables pretty quickly.

          Do you know of any printer/scanner software that can do the encoding/decoding so as to do printed backups ? Something with redundancy like rar or turbo codes that prints out a page of pixel soup... I'm not sure how useful it would really be, just curious.

      • by Mogster (459037)

        For the record it is not particularly easy to use a printer to duplicate, say, 250,000 diplomatic cables and walk out with them under your arms.

        True, however if said documents were already in deadtree format then all one needs is a camera.

        And a microSD card is a lot less painfull than a roll of film... or so I would imagine ;-)

      • the idea is to increase the difficulty and risk to such a level that it is not worth it for the average employee to attempt to leak whatever mediocre information they have access to

        I can tell you from experience in government offices that adding any process raising the difficulty of getting to information, lowers productivity. Not a little, a lot.

        Stovepiping data also prevents "connecting the dots" another frequent criticism of pre-9/11 handling of intelligence information. It's deja vu all over again

        • So they loosen restrictions to promote shareing, then there is a breach, so they tighten restrictions for security, but then inefficiency grows and connections are missed, so they loosen restrictions....

          It reminds me of the cycle of child protection laws. Laws are found to be too restrictive, to the point where people are afraid to look at a child without a government background check, so protections are slowly loosened... then some school caretaker murders a girl, and overnight laws are passed that requir
      • There is no method of storage that is absolute proof against maliciousness. Since the dawn of civilization governments have had to deal with traitors and moles. The Wikileaks situation underlines, in general terms, that you can never trust anyone absolutely, that giving out a certain degree of access to state secrets is an act of trust that comes with the accompanying risk.

        The chief difference between events like the Pentagon Papers and the latest Wikileaks trove and espionage is that in these cases the i

      • Re:Leak DRM? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RazorSharp (1418697) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @09:47PM (#34455888)

        Or just don't participate in corrupt activities. Whistleblowers almost always leak information because they feel morally obligated to do so (leaking information puts one's future and safety at risk, no one does it for kicks or b/c they hope to make money). Many whistleblowers (especially in the corporate world) fall victim to strange accidents or they find themselves blacklisted from employment. When people decide to leak information like this they've made a conscious decision that doing so is more important than their own life.

        Whistleblowers aren't spies, they're just people with morals. If our government is concerned with protecting itself against the ethically conscious, then perhaps there's no hope. The government has become everything it was designed to prevent: a tyranny. The only reason I haven't reached this conclusion yet is b/c Obama has been so hands-off with this Wikileaks mess. It's been the usual band of psychos that have called for Assange's arrest/assassination: Lieberman, McConnell, ect.

        • by omni123 (1622083)

          It is not a perfect world and the reality is that "don't participate in corrupt activities" is extremely naive. The issue I have is that everyone has a different definition of corrupt activities and leaving it up to the individual to leak classified material on a whim is impracticable.

          I don't know how you think that works. One very cautious person considers a highly classified mission to be immoral, and thus leaks details, which the majority considers acceptable. Vigilante justice rarely works.

    • Yeah, like that is really going to make THAT much of a difference. Oh- make sure to remove all printers too, prevent all Email/IRC/IM, cut and paste, CD/DVDRW, etc. I suppose I can't criticize them for trying, but no amount of stuff like that is going to prevent information leaks if someone wants to leak information. It is no different than DRM.

      All printers on a secure network are also classified with big colored stickers on them. They may or may not log exactly who did what when on them. You decide.
      BTW, everything else you said is entirely within the realm of possibility and/or already being done.

      I suppose I can't criticize them for trying, but no amount of stuff like that is going to prevent information leaks if someone wants to leak information. It is no different than DRM.

      At this level, "leaking" is no different than "spying"
      You're pretty foolish to think nothing can be done about it. BTW, DRM works, this is why year old console games cost the same as new. PC games depreciate faster not because they are "old" because

      • by markdavis (642305)

        >You're pretty foolish to think nothing can be done about it.

        You could, perhaps, protect a secret from being disclosed by 99.99% of people. But all it takes is one person and the secret is out. I never said they shouldn't try. Making it harder should be their goal.

        >BTW, DRM works,

        And you were calling ME foolish?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How are they going to block usb flash media? In the old days you could epoxy the usb ports and then just use ps/2 keyboard/mouse. But those are legacy now and you are forced to use USB on modern systems. Also, it's not exactly difficult to gain access to the usb headers to install unbroken ports.

      I suppose you could write a filter driver to prevent access to removeable media... of course then all you have to do is make hardware that doesn't report itself as removeable.....
      Alternately you could write a fil

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        I suppose you could write a filter driver to prevent access to removeable media... of course then all you have to do is make hardware that doesn't report itself as removeable.....

        Then you code the OS such that any USB attached device which reports itself as non-removable doesn't get mounted and sends an email to the admin. It's USB. You write the USB drivers to not send anything out the USB port that isn't whether or not to turn on the CAPS light on the keyboard.
        • by Zerth (26112)

          You write the USB drivers to not send anything out the USB port that isn't whether or not to turn on the CAPS light on the keyboard.

          Hrm... I've got this macro that blinks the caps light according to a text file and I've got this photodetector on a chip that stores the readings in a tiny amount of flash, only 128 megs, paltry amount.

          Clearly, I could not break security with this.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      Something I'm not sure you are giving enough credit for is that when they make it harder, it also makes it harder to not get caught.

      Hopefully, they are not ignoring other avenues to get the information off the systems. If they are smart, they should be monitoring traffic more and attempts to bypass the restrictions put in place. The more complex it becomes to commit an act, the more complicated avoiding detection becomes. With this in place, it might make it easier to find people attempting to make the leak

    • These sorts of restrictions are a daily part of any defense contractor's day (one who handles classified data/info.) The fact that the Pentagon and the government itself doesn't (until recently) hold itself to the same standards it holds its contractors is very telling.

      It tells me they don't give a shit. So, let's take the DoD's clearances away until they can demonstrate good data handling of classified information. They do that to contractors they deem "incapable" of keeping secrets all the time. Time f
    • Re:Leak DRM? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AJWM (19027) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @05:20PM (#34454000) Homepage

      feature that allows material to be copied onto thumb drives or other removable devices be disabled on its classified computer systems

      Here's a question: Why the hell was that stuff ever enabled in the first place?

      A place I worked a while back -- we did QA for voting systems and for games -- was a lot more secure than that. Only one system on the LAN had a CD burner, and that was passworded and the media use logged. Cameras everywhere. Firing offense to have your own thumb drives (or to plug in a device like an MP3 player), etc. Cell phones forbidden without express authorization. Everything logged. Air-gap -- and you had to know the passwords, including to the cypherlock on the door -- on the machine that could access customers' code servers. Defeatable? Sure, but not without leaving a trail a mile wide. And this was on the voting side of the company, security on the gaming side was even tougher. (Hey, now we're talking about real money!)

      Apparently the government doesn't take security as seriously as game software companies do.

    • Oh- make sure to remove all printers too, prevent all Email/IRC/IM, cut and paste, CD/DVDRW, etc.

      Don't forget to confiscate everbody's crayons!

    • Re:Leak DRM? (Score:5, Informative)

      by evought (709897) <evought@@@pobox...com> on Sunday December 05, 2010 @11:43PM (#34456534) Homepage Journal

      The other problem is that this was already policy in the '90s when I worked in AFSAA in the Pentagon. You were not allowed to copy data to non-classified system without the approval of specific officers who were tasked to examine the data. The data was copied onto a zeroed disk in a clean system, examined directly and in a hex editor. Then, if approved, it was copied for you onto a disk marked unclassified. There were also strict rules about the use of pads of paper (remove the top sheet, put it on a hard surface, write your note; that way you did not leave stray impressions on the pad which might be distributed. In the vaults, they often had pads stamped "SECRET" or "TOP SECRET" to make this less likely.) And there were quite a few applications we used where cut and paste was disabled or limited.

      This obviously slowed things down, but that was the whole point. There had been several incidents where people had bypassed the rules and classified data were nearly leaked (the affected unclassified systems had to be scrubbed). Even if you just know that a document contains no classified information, it is quite possible that a file does. Problems were specifically discovered with MS Word files where random data from the system could end up in non-visible portions of the file. Once on an Unclassified system, the classified data might end up in swap space or otherwise be copied to where it should not be and remain after the offending file was wiped. Therefore the entire contaminated system would usually be wiped and reinstalled from a clean image. And, often the offending person would have their career shortened considerably. We dealt with nuclear deployment data and WINTEL (data which could reveal the identity of intelligence sources), so courts martial was always a possibility even, perhaps especially, for inadvertent release.

      Personally, I consider release of classified data through idiocy to be a higher offense than doing so on purpose through act-of-conscience. The procedures exist for a reason, and often it is not to make things convenient. Carelessness gets people killed.

      About when I stopped doing work there (1997-98) was when they were really going gung ho on the "classified Internet" where classified networks were tunneled over the DoD Unclassified Internet. That made for a lot more mixing of systems and cables which, I think, made it much harder to enforce strict separation. It used to be that there had to be 6' between the Top Secret network cables and the Unclassified network cables (and the cables were color coded). Ostensibly that was to prevent electronic feedback from leaking signals, but I think the real reason was to make absolutely sure the wrong network cable never went to the wrong hub and that someone lost their job if it did. It was absolutely forbidden to patch a classified cable outside of the designated rooms and areas. Classified printers, copiers, and CD burners were usually in designated areas as well. (You were allowed to make Unclassified copies on a Classified copier as long as you ran three blank pages through first to clear any residual images on the drum; you were never allowed to copy Classified data on an Unclassified copier outside the designated areas). Trash, of course, was separated by classification level and classified electronic waste (e.g. bad hard drives) were destroyed. Some manufacturers insisted that we return bad drives for warranty replacement, which was fine, as long as they understood that the platters would be physically destroyed first.

      In any case, I am not surprised at this rule as much as surprised that it was allowed to lapse. You cannot 100% prevent leaks of data, but you at least want to make sure it is deliberate, that people are aware of what they are doing and of what the consequences will be.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 05, 2010 @04:27PM (#34453622)
    Come on, using a headline with Intel in it meaning something other than the company, on a geek site? Avoid the jargon and it becomes unambiguous: "With Better Sharing of Gov. Intelligence Comes Danger" (though using the words intelligence and government in the same sentence keeps making me do a double-take)
  • Words on paper can be made secure because they're fucking worthless for replication and transfer.
    They'd be even more secure if chipped into clay tablets in cuneiform.

  • What I don't understand is why a low level intelligence guy in a forward base in the middle of nowhere had access to diplomatic cables from say, China.

    Information is traditionally doled out on a 'need to know' basis. Yes, the intelligence agencies got nailed for closeting information before 9/11 but surely the answer to that is not 'information wants to be free'.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      Indeed. What they were having trouble with was having nobody in the agencies sharing information. I'm surprised that they weren't limiting access to specific individuals that are in charge of coordinating operations. And probably only showing it outside the agency. As in looky but no touchy unless it's determined to require more than a bit of looking.

      Then from there the folks that are doing that can decide sort of who gets access within the department. Providing it to everybody in the agency is neither n
  • Actually, they're only disabling "write" capability on the thumb drives, so they'll still be able to get viruses from reading them. Didn't they learn anything from Buckshot Yankee? How about no flash drives or portable media? How about not bypassing controls? Although I do feel bad for the Pentagon. They've created a "secure" network with 3 million users. It takes just one schmuck to make it insecure.
    • That's the thing; I'm sure that there's way more than one leak in their dam. If wikileaks managed to get a hold of this information, why would anyone believe that every intelligence agency on the planet didn't already have all this information? I'm perplexed at the persecution that wikileaks has faced over this cable release as all they really did was expose the U.S. government's inability to keep classified information out of the hands of, well, anyone and everyone. I mean, the government would try to shif

    • Write-access-only for USB devices could only be done via a software patch. So they are still vulnerable to:
      • emailing
      • ftp/etc
      • burning a CD (like the current WikiLeaks was done)
      • booting linux from a thumb drive and doing what you want

      and I'm sure many more.

      Last time I was at the Pentagon, all of their USB ports were physically disabled - either via breaking the socket with a pair of pliers, or by filling the socket with hot glue. What happened to that mandate?

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Last time I was at the Pentagon, all of their USB ports were physically disabled - either via breaking the socket with a pair of pliers, or by filling the socket with hot glue. What happened to that mandate?

        Probably the insistence on the computer manufacturing industry and keyboard/mouse makers on not providing PS2 ports or equipment capable of using them. It's even getting hard to find printers that can be connected to a parallel port anymore.

        Most likely what happened to that mandate has a lot to do with

      • by detritus. (46421)

        I have a feeling that the machines on the classified network didn't have USB ports.
        From what I've read, Pfc Manning went into the secure area and carried with him CD-RW's that when he checked in and out, had Lady Gaga and other artists written on them. The machines had a writable CD-ROM drives in them, and the people overseeing security apparently allowed soldiers to listen to music CD's on the drives, as access to the public internet wasn't possible from the classified network. He even said he lip-synced

  • by Homburg (213427) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @04:29PM (#34453646) Homepage

    This is precisely the outcome that Wikileaks was looking for [wordpress.com]: Assange's plan has been to leak information in order to make those who wish to keep secrets paranoid, so that they clamp down on their own internal communications and become less effective:

    The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Might could be, but the reality is that those measures should have been in place before now. If that's his goal, he's done a real favor to the US government that now has to actually handle the materials responsibly. And without a whole lot of real secrets being revealed.

      Sure this stuff was leaked to everybody, but for god's sake we've had Israeli intelligence looking through or stuff on the sly, just imagine what the enemy is managing to get.
    • This is precisely the outcome that Wikileaks was looking for: Assange's plan has been to leak information in order to make those who wish to keep secrets paranoid, so that they clamp down on their own internal communications and become less effective:

      The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive "secrecy tax") and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

      I'm sorry, but the next time someone pops the question about why so many hate Assange as opposed to Wikileaks, this is it. The man is crazy.
      So steps will be taken to ensure secret information is even more tightly controlled, which is basically the goal in the first place, and "you win" ?
      This is the definition of insanity, friends.

      "The more secretive or unjust an organization is"
      He is absolutely convinced that secrets are bad. Wake up folks, that isn't Gotham City out your window.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This is precisely the outcome that Wikileaks was looking for [wordpress.com]: Assange's plan has been to leak information in order to make those who wish to keep secrets paranoid, so that they clamp down on their own internal communications and become less effective:

      So the point is to make the United States' efforts to stop terrorist attacks less effective?

      I know that's not what you're trying to say; it's not even what Assange is trying to say. But it's *one* of the effects of this process -- not the only one, I know, and people will argue that more good than harm has been done by these leaks. But it can't realistically be questioned that harm has been done. The question is essentially whether one believes that governments should ever keep secrets. The position of

      • So the point is to make the United States' efforts to stop terrorist attacks less effective?

        I think it would be hard to make them less effective; they're pretty ineffective already. Some attacks proceeded anyway -- anthrax, the IRS guy -- some were stopped by civilians on the scene -- the fourth 9/11 plane, the shoe bomb -- and the ones that appear to have had the most government involvement are usually schmucks that never could have accomplished anything to begin with, and required help from the government

        • So the point is to make the United States' efforts to stop terrorist attacks less effective?

          I think it would be hard to make them less effective; they're pretty ineffective already.

          How do you know that? I presume, since you're making this assertion, that you're cleared and have access to information most people do not on U.S. anti-terrorism operations? Or are you concluding that stuff you haven't heard about must therefore not exist?

          Either way, the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of U.S. anti-terrorism operations had very little to do with the point I made in the post to which you replied.

          • It is in the best interests of all those anti-terrorism organisations to announce any success they have. Vocally. It justifies their future funding and expansion, and furthers the careers of those in charge. Sure enough, they do announce all the attacks they have prevented - but those are a rather unimpressive collection, like the shoe bomber. Why would they keep quiet about any successes they have, once they have enough evidence to make an arrest? (/disappear a suspect to a secret military tribunal)
          • Or are you concluding that stuff you haven't heard about must therefore not exist?

            This, chiefly. I am an American citizen. I have the right to judge how well the government that works for me is doing. And, since it only is legitimately empowered to govern if it has the consent of the governed, I have the right to grant or withdraw my consent as I see fit. All Americans have these rights.

            I'm obviously not going to just trust them. The entire structure of the government is founded on distrust of power. If th

            • This, chiefly. I am an American citizen. I have the right to judge how well the government that works for me is doing. And, since it only is legitimately empowered to govern if it has the consent of the governed, I have the right to grant or withdraw my consent as I see fit. All Americans have these rights.

              I'm obviously not going to just trust them. The entire structure of the government is founded on distrust of power. If they keep secrets, then not only is it wholly appropriate to judge them on the basis of what information we do have, it is also fair to condemn them for keeping secrets.

              I think it's perfectly sensible to say that you can only judge on the information you have. I think it's also important to consider the possibility that you may have incomplete information, particularly given that we're talking about organizations that we already know keep secrets. That doesn't require "just trusting them" -- not at all. I'm not suggesting a conclusion to draw -- I'm suggesting drawing no conclusion at all.

              On the other hand, I think it's naive at best to "condemn (the government) for kee

              • I'm not suggesting a conclusion to draw -- I'm suggesting drawing no conclusion at all.

                In which case you could have a rogue government that did obvious evil things, claimed to do secret good things, and was not subject to whatever cures democracy could provide, since everyone would be paralyzed by the claims -- which might very well be false, in keeping with the known evils of the government -- of good.

                That's not acceptable. This is the real world, and we are going to have to draw conclusions based upon wha

                • I'm not suggesting a conclusion to draw -- I'm suggesting drawing no conclusion at all.

                  In which case you could have a rogue government that did obvious evil things, claimed to do secret good things, and was not subject to whatever cures democracy could provide, since everyone would be paralyzed by the claims -- which might very well be false, in keeping with the known evils of the government -- of good.

                  That doesn't follow at all. In the scenario you describe, my conclusion would be "I don't know the status of what, if anything, they're doing behind the scenes; but I know they're doing bad things right in front of my face. So the kindest thing I can say is that maybe, *maybe*, it's a wash. Time to go."

                  Believing that the government should never, ever keep secrets? That point-of-view seems unrealistic.

                  Oh, I don't think that it is realistic to expect a totally transparent government. OTOH, I do think that deviation from total transparency is at least not good, when justified, and usually bad, as it isn't.

                  If it's "justified", then by definition, how is it "not good"? That seems a contradiction.

                  So I see nothing wrong with condemning a government that keeps secrets from its people, and spitting upon the officials who engage in this. If they've done something wrong, and are cowering behind the claim of secrecy, they deserve it. And if they've done something good, but are tragically forced to conceal it, and are condemned nevertheless, the Super Chicken rule applies: They knew the job was dangerous when they took it.

                  I bolded the part to which I wanted to reply. Your statement here suggests that the only harm of considering all

                  • That doesn't follow at all. In the scenario you describe, my conclusion would be

                    Weren't you all about not drawing conclusions at all?

                    If it's "justified", then by definition, how is it "not good"? That seems a contradiction.

                    Think of it in terms of 'least bad.' If you had a gangrenous arm, it might justifiably have to be cut off, but I'm sure you wouldn't view the benefits of losing an arm to be all that good, and wouldn't like to have a perfectly healthy arm taken away.

                    I bolded the part to which I wanted to

      • by evought (709897)

        But it can't realistically be questioned that harm has been done. The question is essentially whether one believes that governments should ever keep secrets. The position of Assange, and most people here, appears to be "no, they shouldn't, ever." The kindest thing I can say about that position is that it's naive.

        I think Assange's point is more that it is much easier to keep a small number of secrets than a large number and that this is incompatible with a manifestly unjust system. If that is his point, I would have to basically agree: you cannot use classification to cover up blatant crimes and violations of your own rules in a leaky intelligence environment. You cannot effectively control a global oppression network without secure communication. At some point the system needs to balance the costs of the two extrem

        • I think Assange's point is more that it is much easier to keep a small number of secrets than a large number and that this is incompatible with a manifestly unjust system.

          I think that's a perfectly reasonable statement, from which most of the rest of what you wrote logically follows. However, I don't think your statement of Assange's point is consistent with the quote from him linked-to and cited above.

  • by cenobyte40k (831687) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @04:32PM (#34453658)
    If we didn't mark everything under the sun as classified it would be a lot easier to keep the stuff we need to keep secret that way. Only about 5% of what WikiLeaks has put out ever needed to be classified to begin with, and 95% of that didn't need to be classified anymore.
    • by vxice (1690200) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @05:03PM (#34453874)
      Actually only 46% was indeed marked classified. 6% was marked secret. None top secret. That is the whole point of classification levels.
    • by tomhudson (43916)
      Sorry, citizen, but how we determine what IS and is NOT classified is classified information. So we tell them to classify everything, because they are not cleared to have this obviously sensitive classified information as to how we determine what is classified.

      Now please do your duty and burn your eyeballs out with bleach, because even this information is meta-classified. Your government thanks you - and remember, we're watching!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by thesaurus (1220706)

        Sorry, citizen, but how we determine what IS and is NOT classified is classified information.

        It's fun to be snide, but sometimes the facts get in the way. How the U.S. Govt. determines what should and shouldn't be classified is spelled out in Executive Order 13526, the text of which is not classified.

        Sec. 1.4. Classification Categories. Information shall not be considered for classification unless its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security in accordance with section 1.2 of this order, and it pertains to one or more of the following: (a) military plans, weapons systems, or operations; (b) foreign government information; (c) intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology; (d) foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources; (e) scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security; (f) United States Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities; (g) vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to the national security; or (h) the development, production, or use of weapons of mass destruction.

        http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/executive-order-classified-national-security-information [whitehouse.gov]

  • by kawabago (551139) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @04:35PM (#34453672)
    The real problem is the US government killed innocent people and covered it up. A soldier with a conscience decided his government should fess up and released all the documents. If the US government had been honest about it's mistakes and misdeeds, there would have been no motivation for a leak. When the US government breaks it's own laws and goes to great lengths to obstruct justice, it can expect this kind of release of confidential information because American soldiers have also been taught to do what is right. Forcing the government to admit it's illegal actions is the right thing to do.
    • by ScentCone (795499) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @04:49PM (#34453774)
      A soldier with a conscience decided his government should fess up and released all the documents

      Ah, so because you don't like how a particular combat event played out, you think it's appropriate for diplomats dealing with very difficult foreign governments to not be allowed to frankly discuss the situation with their co-workers, out of the public eye (and away from monitoring by the very government being discussed)? You don't think that an important protest and opposition figure in Iran should be able to retain his anonymity while discussing circumstances inside that regime's thugocracy, because ... what, it's better he's dead at the hand of that government than that he rely on non-public communication with foreign diplomats and supporters? So glad you have the big picture, here.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NoSig (1919688)
        So because you don't like how some frank discussions were revealed, you think it's appropriate to cover up killings and who knows what else under a veil of "classified"? So glad you have the big picture, here. That's a particularly unproductive way of arguing as perhaps you now appreciate.
        • by ScentCone (795499) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @05:35PM (#34454126)
          No. Non-public communication and record keeping is a necessary part of running a government. It's absolutely productive to point that out and recognize that it's true. The argument being passed around, here, is that nothing the government does should be out of instant, continual public reach. That's wrong in principle and in practice. It's not that I don't like how some frank discussions were revealed ... it's that I don't like the contention that no diplomats should be allowed to have frank discussions at all. That bit of absurdity is so sophomoric that it has to treated as a troll.
      • by jc42 (318812)

        Ah, ... you think it's appropriate for diplomats dealing with very difficult foreign governments to not be allowed to frankly discuss the situation with their co-workers, out of the public eye (and away from monitoring by the very government being discussed)?

        Red Herring Alert!

        Does anyone really think that anyone in their country's diplomatic corps isn't fully aware of what sort of talk goes on "in private" among their cohorts in other countries? C'mon; these leaks didn't have any effect at all on any diplomatic discussions anywhere. That's just a ruse by the politicians to try to discredit the wikileaks folks. And those of us who are at all familiar with the situation just laughed at it.

        If anything, it's this sort of clumsy propaganda effort that discredits

        • by ScentCone (795499)
          If anything, it's this sort of clumsy propaganda effort that discredits our diplomats.

          You obviously haven't been actually paying attention to the information that's coming out. This is public disclosure of cables from our own diplomats back to officials in the US, detailing - among other things - topics like how we're interacting with foreign governments as we conduct actions against terror cells, or what sort of cover a counter-terror operation is being given by another government. Or the identity of op
    • by t2t10 (1909766)

      The real problem is the US government killed innocent people and covered it up.

      That may well be the case, but it is not what Wikileaks has shown. Wikileaks showed that Iraqis killed more Iraqis than we previously suspected and the US didn't keep a full tally.

      Forcing the government to admit it's illegal actions is the right thing to do.

      It is the right thing to do, but Wikileaks hasn't done that.

      • by grcumb (781340)

        Forcing the government to admit it's illegal actions is the right thing to do.

        It is the right thing to do, but Wikileaks hasn't done that.

        No, you're right. WikiLeaks hasn't done that. They just distribute the information. What happens after that is up to you.

    • by mdsolar (1045926) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @06:20PM (#34454496) Homepage Journal
      It is illegal to use classification to cover up a crime or even a mistake. But you are really supposed to take the issue up with the classifying authority and then their superiors if that does not work. Each branch has an Office of Inspector General which ought to be able to deal with the misuse of classification. Further,. a person with a clearance is sworn not to reveal secrets. But, there have certainly been times when the abuse of classification has been so pervasive that only leaking could serve to rectify the wrongs. Don't know it this is one of those times. Most of what has been reveal so far seems to have been secret for a good reason: protecting sources or methods. Another aspect is that it is pretty hard for someone in the Army to object to the misuse of classification by the State Department. It is not in the chain of command. One could be right of wrong that classification has been abused but have no internal way of addressing the issue and perhaps be frustrated enough to leak.
  • by Chris Tucker (302549) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @04:35PM (#34453678) Homepage

    " 'words on paper can be made secure, electronic archives not.'"

    Really? Really? You really said that and seriously meant it?

    • by tomhudson (43916)
      They were probably thinking of "burn bags" - even shredders are useless.
    • by jc42 (318812)

      " 'words on paper can be made secure, electronic archives not.'"

      Really? Really? You really said that and seriously meant it?

      Oh, c'mon; securing words on paper is trivial. All it takes is a small fire. Do you know of any way to reconstruct the text from the ashes?

      This provides really high security. It makes the text secure from decoding by anyone.

      [Emboldening mine, of course, for emphasis.]

    • Burning paper does not secure the words and images thereon. It merely destroys THAT particular paper the words and images are on. If there's even one copy, then the information in that particular destroyed document is not 'secure'.

      The Pentagon Papers were secure... until Ellsberg loaded them into photocopier and sent copies to the NY Times.

      Securing information is difficult at the best of times. It needs to be available to authorized parties and yet kept safely secured from unauthorized eyes.

      Burning only sec

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Of course it has to be a binary switch. You must either share all documents and be insecure, or not share any documents and be totally secure. Any middle ground is impossible. Thus the correct response to WikiLeaks must be to lock down all the documents and make sure nobody reads them at all. Only this will keep us safe!

    That sounds like the same kind of logic that comes from a town that sends troops to Iraq in response to a threat from a man in Afghanistan, or that would like to repeat the policies of H

  • While I was serving in the military and handling classified material on computers the regulations on data handling were quite clear. Classified material was never to be stored or manipulated on an unclassified system. Furthermore, even on classified systems the classification of the system set a maximum clearance level, material classified secret could not be handled on a classified confidential system, etc. You could handle confidential on a secret system but then it could never be put back on a classified confidential system. I can understand, in light of the 'connect the dots' problem that you need to have access to pretty much all material in the hopes someone will get the 'Eureka' moment but storing, even allowing access the wrong way is what gets you into this kind of mess and supposedly we had procedures to prevent it. Obviously not after 9-11.

    And on that topic, post 9-11 changes, the Republicans, and Democrats when they wake up to this fact, can stick it. The post 9-11 changes to the handling classified material happened under a Republican administration at the behest of (severe pressure from) Congress on both sides of the aisle. As with the mortgage meltdown, Congressional members are pointing everywhere else but at themselves.
    • by vlm (69642)

      While I was serving in the military and handling classified material on computers the regulations on data handling were quite clear.

      Of course this changes in both time and place... I was in the us army early 90s era so your experience will probably vary.

      You could handle confidential on a secret system but then it could never be put back on a classified confidential system.

      Obviously allowed, not never, although it happened via certain procedures not just randomly shuffling data.

      For an obvious close personal example, the fact that my ASP had a particular crate of 5.56mm rounds with a certain NSN and lot number is not sensitive (more like, "duh") but an aggregated report of all ammo supply stocks for the entire theater, held a much higher classification.

  • More sharing is needed, and clearly they've done that to at least some extent. The problem is they included too many people in that sharing. Full access to "everything" should be limited to specific analysts with top clearance, and years of experience doing work under clearance (and thoroughly background/personality checked). It should NOT be for front line soldiers, which instead should have limited NTK access.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @05:01PM (#34453852)

    So we should invest in AMD then?

  • Forward and fast, or backward and damn slow? Information sharing and collaboration have pluses too, denying it you are probably doing more damage for sure, and in a far broader area than the eventual leak of it could do. You have to take a compromise between security and functionality, and being aware what will cost those security restrictions.

    Politics would be simpler if we could peek into our future to see what will bring our choices, too bad those damn blue butterflies are waiting for us right there.
  • The bottom line is that recent leaks 'have exposed gaping wide security holes' in the framework by which governments guard their secrets.

    TFTFY Timothy

  • For example, officials said they were disabling all "write" capability to removable media such as thumb drives or disks, on DoD classified computers,

    Can someone take pity on me and explain what the heck they are talking about here? Unless a "classified" computer is very different from a regular one, I don't understand how that is possible. I guess you could try to desolder and remove all of the external USB and/or esata and/or firewire ports from the motherboard in addition to removing any pins on the motherboard that are made to give you additional ports. Wouldn't you have to also remove any unused PCI slots as well? Even after doing all that someone c

    • None of that is hard to do. The US government could buy custom systems with exactly the external interfaces they need. They could install an OS which does only what they require. They could use thin clients everywhere and not provide a screen shot function.

    • by mmcxii (1707574)
      You can do it with software. Look over this [lmgtfy.com] for starters.
    • We used to remove all writeable removable storage devices from machine and their corresponding drivers from the operating system. We found that two-part epoxy was an expedient method of disabling physical USB, firewire, and unused network interfaces. Ultimately this was only a precaution because the machines concerned spent their entire life inside a PC-sized safe bolted to a desk, with only the necessary network, keyboard, mouse, and video cables exiting.
  • You really want to tell me that up to now anybody could put in his 64GB USB drive and copy all the data he/she wants to copy? Seems relaxed to me taken into account that probably the entrance is guarded by an armed guard.

    • by evought (709897)

      At one point I was responsible for transferring four classified laptops (they were fully loaded Sun Solaris laptops (by Tadpole, I think) and therefore rather expensive), external hard drives, and a pile of DAT tapes out of the Pentagon to a new secure facility elsewhere. All of the laptops and all of the (4-8GB) tapes were Top Secret. I had all of the paperwork, it was a legitimate transfer, and I followed all of the rules. When I got down to the Metro Station entrance (there is a DC Metro terminal connect

  • You can make words on paper secure? Really? Are you sure about that? I seem to recall at least one time when that wasn't the case. I seem to recall some "Top Secret" level documents that got out. You may better remember them as the "Pentagon Papers". Oh and then I remember another time someone leaked information and a few papers to the newspapers. You might remember it better as the "Watergate Scandal".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_papers [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watergate [wikipedia.org]

    Now what was that about

  • WikiLeaks is showing that there are multiple problems with the government in the US. There is a problem of making sure people aren't walking out of buildings with information that they shouldn't. There is the problem of our government telling us one thing, and the truth being something completely different. Everyone thinks the leaks were this super secret, bad for the troops and the country, information. Remember none of this is "Secret" or above. This is all stuff classified "Sensitive". So I can't imagine

    • by t2t10 (1909766)

      WikiLeaks is showing that there are multiple problems with the government in the US.

      And you needed WikiLeaks to figure that out? Of course, the US government lied, just like it has for every war that we have ever entered. To anybody with half a brain, that was clear before we even entered these wars, as was the fact that lots of civilians would lose their lives and that US soldiers would commit war crimes, like all soldiers in all wars. Bush went into these wars with high approval ratings. Americans want

  • http://pcast.ideascale.com/a/dtd/76207-8319 [ideascale.com]
    http://groups.google.com/group/openmanufacturing/msg/2846ca1b6bee64e1 [google.com]

    Imagine these sorts of things applied to, say, medical research and trying to understand how a money trail affects research results...

  • by paulsnx2 (453081) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @06:40PM (#34454634)

    "With better sharing of Intel Comes Danger"

    I love this stuff. What Danger?

    We are being told that this release of information has harmed the ability of the U.S. to carry out diplomacy. In what way? That we tell lies and other governments tell lies, and now some of these lies have been exposed? What was the "Danger"? Wasn't the danger in the telling of the lies in the first place? Better sharing of Intel didn't bring about this danger.

    Besides, if this data dump was so easily acquired (I am assuming the obvious here, that Wikileaks never had to go all "Tom Cruise/Mission Impossible" to get it), surely the data dump was no surprise to various other governments. I'd even guess that this is a fraction of what our enemies know about what we have been saying to ourselves for decades. How could it be otherwise?

    So the "Danger" is that increase sharing might also include the public? If there is a change here, it is that the public got into the loop. Is it possible that they might have to abide by a higher level of ethics to avoid embarrassing lies coming out in future leaks? Is it possible that this is the "Danger"?

    I am struggling here. So far I haven't heard about anything leaked which can be properly described as a "Danger" appeared with the leak itself. All of the best tidbits I have heard so far that might cause some diplomatic ruffle are due to actions that either 1) Should not have occurred (agreements to lie to the public), or 2) Need not have occurred (Let's call Putin "Batman").

    I don't like to negotiate in business with people that live in secret worlds. I don't like the fact that our government loves secrets. The default for government should be to play their cards on TOP of the table, face up. When secrets are really necessary, they become easier to keep if their numbers are few, and the period of secrecy is of very short duration.

  • Which downsides? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ljw1004 (764174) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @07:09PM (#34454860)

    So far we haven't actually seen ANY downsides of the wikileaks...

    * We saw a german official get fired for leaking information to a foreign state
    * We saw the Yemeni government conspiring to lie to its people
    * We saw the UK foregin office trying to lie to the UK parliament about breaking international commitments on cluster bombs
    * US secretary of defense Bob Gates explained that the leaks haven't hurt the US

    There have ben only upsides so far.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @09:46PM (#34455884) Homepage

    I was in the US Navy for nine years, and the system we were using was WinNT.

    That was later shifted to an OS called "IT-21". It was a custom version of WinNT that had been cobbled together by SPAWAR. MS actually let them have the source code, so they could customize it. There were all kinds of tweaks, dibbles and fidgets added to it, but the biggest was to disable the USB ports, COM ports, and prevent the system from writing any info to the pagefile.

    Now, blocking off the pagefile was a touch of brilliance, but blocking the COM ports meant we couldn't hook a teletype to the computer. So when we were doing HF teletype exercises, messages either had to be loaded using Win98 or done by hand.

    And once the newer printers started coming out, blocking the USB ports gave everyone conniptions.

    For a while there, they played around with preventing the OS from writing anything at all to the floppy drive, but that lasted all of 1 day when comms shacks all over the WORLD started calling SPAWAR support, screaming about how they couldn't load the CO's traffic to disk.

    Soon, the patches came out, and IT-21 became just another hunk of crap we had to deal with. As time went on, we dumped it for Win2K. Before I left, I saw people using Vista Premium for classified traffic, so I doubt things have changed all that much.

    At the end of the day, it comes down to three things:

    1. Don't do shit that will make your people question your ethics.
    2. Screen out people who are, themselves, unethical.
    3. Trust but verify.

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

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