Pundits: Play Whack-A-Mole with WikiLeaks. Oh wait…

In How to Mirror a Censored WordPress Blog, I discussed how the Mises Institute open-sourcing all of Mises.org and putting its entire literature and media library online as a set of torrents will help ensure the continued existence of this treasure trove of liberty in the event of a natural disaster or a future crackdown by the US government.

Here’s a practical example taking place before us. Some technologically and strategically-incompetent pundits are clamoring for the United States federal government to use its cyber capabilities to take out WikiLeaks before the organization puts online the remaining 15,000 documents of the leaked Afghan war logs.

Kevin Poulsen of Wired.com explains how a previous attempt to take down wikileaks.org has already failed in the past and how future attempts to take out WikiLeaks will fail as well.

In 2008, federal judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco ordered the WikiLeaks.org domain name seized as part of a lawsuit filed by Julius Baer Bank and Trust, a Swiss bank that suffered a leak of some of its internal documents. Two weeks later the judge admitted he’d acted hastily, and he had the site restored. “There are serious questions of prior restraint, possible violations of the First Amendment,” he said.

Even while the order was in effect, WikiLeaks lived on: supporters and free speech advocates distributed the internet IP address of the site, so it could be reached directly. Mirrors of the site were unaffected by the court order, and a copy of the entire WikiLeaks archive of leaked documents circulated freely on the Pirate Bay.

The U.S. government has other, less legal, options, of course — the “cyber” capabilities Thiessen alludes to. The Pentagon probably has the ability to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks against WikiLeaks’ public-facing servers. If it doesn’t, the Army could rent a formidable botnet from Russian hackers for less than the cost of a Humvee.

But that wouldn’t do much good either. WikiLeaks wrote its own insurance policy two weeks ago, when it posted a 1.4 GB file called insurance.aes256.

The file’s contents are encrypted, so there’s no way to know what’s in it. But, as we’ve previously reported, it’s more than 19 times the size of the Afghan war log — large enough to contain the entire Afghan database, as well as the other, larger classified databases said to be in WikiLeaks’ possession. Accused Army leaker Bradley Manning claimed to have provided WikiLeaks with a log of events in the Iraq war containing 500,000 entries from 2004 through 2009, as well as a database of 260,000 State Department cables to and from diplomatic posts around the globe.

Whatever the insurance file contains, Assange — appearing via Skype on a panel at the Frontline Club — reminded everyone Thursday that he could make it public at any time. “All we have to do is release the password to that material and it’s instantly available,” he said.

WikiLeaks is encouraging supporters to download the insurance file through the BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay. “Keep it safe,” reads a message greeting visitors to the WikiLeaks chat room. After two weeks, the insurance file is doubtless in the hands of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of netizens already.

We dipped into the torrent Friday to get a sense of WikiLeaks’ support in that effort. In a few minutes of downloading, we pulled bits and piece of insurance.aes256 from 61 seeders around the world. We ran the IP addresses through a geolocation service and turned it into a KML file to produce the Google Map at the top of this page [go to the Wired.com article or view it on Google Maps — GAP]. The seeders are everywhere, from the U.S., to Iceland, Australia, Canada and Europe. They had all already grabbed the entire file, and are now just donating bandwidth to help WikiLeaks survive.

Cross-posted at Is-Ought GAP.