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Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”
“ To use The Wire as a ready-to-hand example, imagine if Avon Barksdale was communicating directly with Bodie. All you would ever have to do is turn one person — any person — and you would be one step away from the boss, whose direct connection to everyone else in the conspiracy would allow you to sweep them all up at once. Obviously, no effective conspiracy would ever function this way. Remember Stringer Bell’s “is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy?” To function effectively, the primary authority has to be disassociated from all other members of the conspiracy, layers of mediation which have to be as opaque as possible to everyone concerned (which a paper trail unhelpfully clarifies). But while the complexity of these linkages shield the directing authority from exposure, they also limit Avon Barksdale’s ability to control what’s going on around him. Businesses run on their paperwork! And the more walls you build around him, the less he might be able to trust his lieutenants, and the less they’ll require (or tolerate) him.

This, Assange reasons, is a way to turn a feature into a bug. And his underlying insight is simple and, I think, compelling: while an organization structured by direct and open lines of communication will be much more vulnerable to outside penetration, the more opaque it becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to “think” as a system, to communicate with itself. The more conspiratorial it becomes, in a certain sense, the less effective it will be as a conspiracy. The more closed the network is to outside intrusion, the less able it is to engage with that which is outside itself (true hacker theorizing).

His thinking is not quite as abstract as all that, of course; as he quite explicitly notes, he is also understanding the functioning of the US state by analogy with successful terrorist organizations. If you’ve seen The Battle of Algiers, for example, think of how the French counter-terrorist people work to produce an organizational flow chart of the Algerian resistance movement: since they had overwhelming military superiority, their inability to crush the FLN resided in their inability to find it, an inability which the FLN strategically works to impede by decentralizing itself. Cutting off one leg of the octopus, the FLN realized, wouldn’t degrade the system as a whole if the legs all operated independently. The links between the units were the vulnerable spots for the system as a whole, so those were most closely and carefully guarded and most hotly pursued by the French. And while the French won the battle of Algiers, they lost the war, because they adopted the tactics Assange briefly mentions only to put aside:

‘How can we reduce the ability of a conspiracy to act?…We can split the conspiracy, reduce or eliminating important communication between a few high weight links or many low weight links. Traditional attacks on conspiratorial power groupings, such as assassination, have cut high weight links by killing, kidnapping, blackmailing or otherwise marginalizing or isolating some of the conspirators they were connected to.’”
readmeannually  julianassange  wikileaks  structure  organization  conspiracy  politics  secrets  communication  from twitter
september 2012 by migurski
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