There’s a global electronic battle going on, we’re told, between those who support Wikileaks and those who oppose it. Mastercard, PayPal, and Visa are under attack for refusing to process contributions to Wikileaks, their web sites periodically unavailable because of a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack by thousands of zombie PCs all over the world.  Nothing about this makes any sense to me. It’s stupid.

The so-called cyber war (more of a cyber rumble, really — one posse against another) is stupid because neither side can win as they are playing it and neither can lose. Pain can be inflicted, but mainly on innocent bystanders, rather than combatants. And those who caused the war have, for the most part, no idea what they have actually done.

At this point some partisan on either side might start throwing words about like treason, but I think that is inappropriate for many reasons.  What it is is embarrassing for the U.S. and other governments.  It is inconvenient. It is awkward. But from what I have read so far nothing that has been released goes past those words.

Now look on the other side.  Julian Assange is an idiot when it comes to how he, as a would-be world figure, should behave in his private life.  He, more than anyone else on Earth, should know there is no privacy, nor should he expect any.

Now to the structure of this current brouhaha between Wikileaks, the Department of State, and the collateral damage it has caused.  For the most part, State has handled this all wrong.  Retribution is not a smart move here, nor does State have much, if any, power.  There are limits to what most governments can do in cases like this. U.S. law prohibits what’s called prior restraint, for example. If I publish something libelous you can sue me for damages after it is published but you can’t sue me to prevent publication. This assumes, of course, that all things can be worked out in a court of law, including putting back into his pants the reputation of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Not likely.

Nor is it any more likely that asking Mastercard, Paypal, and Visa to stop processing Wikileaks payments will prevent Assange from publishing further. Wikileaks isn’t Cuba or Iran that governments are trying to blockade, it is a few people and a few web servers, that’s all. Sending-in the 8th Air Force to take-out Wikileaks won’t do anything because a single donor could easily support the whole operation. Heck, a garage sale could support Wikileaks.  Kim Jung-Il could fund it from his designer sunglasses budget alone.

So the State Department mandated actions of these financial companies are really an expression of U.S. Government anger. It is Patriot Act bluster that is inappropriate and unwise in a case where terrorism is not the issue. Bin Laden may be laughing his ass off in Afghanistan or Pakistan but Wikileaks is not a terrorist enterprise.

These aren’t viable efforts to coerce or undermine Wikileaks in any way. If anything it helps Wikileaks.

And while we’re being so upset, what has been the effect so far of this DDoS attack?  From what I heard this morning, it was only the main web sites and some customer service portals that were having problems. DDoS attacks are well know and understood. The funds transfer networks of these companies were completely unaffected.  Touring the USS Alabama, you’ll notice large food stores on the outside of the ship.  The less critical parts of the ship are more exposed and the critical areas are very well protected.  Hit the USS Alabama with a shell and you’ll destroy a lot of potatoes.  It is my understanding these DDoS attacks have mainly messed up Mastercard’s potatoes.

The question that isn’t being asked here is whether there is in fact any way for governments to control Wikileaks and what would that way be? I think there are techniques that could be used to effect such control. Want a demonstration? Just get Wikileaks to do what I firmly believe it never will: release 250,000 secret documents from Israel.