View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 9 December 2010


The Wikileaks saga is moving into new territory. Its founder, Julian Assange, presently in custody, awaiting a court appearance prior to possible extradition to Sweden. Charges have been made against him in relation to alleged sexual offences, which he is said to have committed in Stockholm four months ago. There is concern in certain circles that after any court appearance in Sweden, the USA could apply for his onward extradition; a totally different ballgame.

Objectively speaking, releasing government files marked "confidential" or "secret" is against the law, and certainly placing them on the Internet makes it pretty blatant. However, I do grant that having such poor security in place that allows the leaking of such material is a serious matter in itself. If the USA chooses to prepare a case against Julian Assange, I would imagine that it would have a pretty strong body of evidence. To an independant observer, Mr Assange (and his Wikileaks organisation) would stand on stronger ground if they also leaked government files from other countries. It was put to me over the past week that (e.g.) releasing Russian or Chinese "cables" would probably lead to the discovery of Mr Assange in a lifeless state. Rumours circulate that certain circles in the American government would like that to happen. Very much.

Several companies, e.g. Visa, Mastercard and Paypal, have withdrawn their financial services from Wikileaks. Webhosting companies have also ceased to host the website, and it is presently on a Swiss webserver. These companies have now been subject to a "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attack, which floods the website with so much traffic that it becomes inaccessible. Malware is being distributed to people, who then become part of a network of computers which carry out the DDoS. DDoS is illegal in most countries. Furthermore, the very word Malware should be a warning to anyone who might be tempted to participate. It causes all sorts alarmbells and red flashing lights to go off with me - you are NOT in control of your own computer.

The whole Wikileaks saga is a shady affair, hovering on the boundary of what is legal and what is not. When the release of American diplomatic cables first began, I was inclined to laugh at a government that did not have its security in order. My favourable inclination towards Wikileaks is beginning to fade fast.
There is a parallel, you see.

Back in 2002, a Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn, was shot dead outside a radio studio. He was popular for daring to raise the issue of immigrants, up to that time a taboo subject in Dutch society (reason: WW2). I was appalled at the murder, and decided to sign his on-line condolence register. However, when I read the rabid, extreme-rightwing claptrap on said register, I could not be seen to be associated with it. So I did not sign.
Same here. The illegal DDoS attacks, perpetrated on behalf of Wikileaks (even if not overtly condoned by the organisation) are putting me off. Big time.

Thursday 9 December

The cold spell has come to an end here in the Western Isles of Scotland, with the thermometer at the dizzying heights of 6C / 43F this afternoon. There was some drizzle earlier on, but it is now dry. The sun will be setting in the next 20 minutes (it's 3.20pm) and it's getting dark. The ice on the pavements is melting, fortunately, as it was rather a nuisance over the past 10 days. The cold weather will return by Sunday or Monday, but the Met Office is not specific as to what shape it will take.

The Met Office has come in for rather a lot of stick, as it is being given the blame for the travel disruption in central Scotland on Monday and Tuesday. The Scottish Government says the Met Office did not indicate that the amount of snow would fall that did come down; however, the fact that were was going to be a substantial fall of snow (up to 5-10 cm) was forecast on Sunday evening. However, the role of coordinating the response to the severe weather was not taken up adequately by the Scottish Government, which is deplorable. It says enough that the First Minister was more interested in presenting his Christmas Card rather than in dealing with the emergency; by 9pm on Monday, people had been stranded for up to 12 hours in their vehicles already.