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Amazon Cloud Not Big Enough For Feds and WikiLeaks 204

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-out-of-town dept.
theodp writes "Dave Winer was already upset that Amazon Web Services (AWS) pulled the plug on WikiLeaks for posting classified US government documents. So, he wasn't exactly thrilled to receive email three weeks later from an AWS PR flack boasting that 'the US federal government continues to be one of our fastest growing customer segments.' Writes Winer: 'It makes perfect sense that the US government is a big customer of Amazon's web services. It also makes perfect sense that Amazon wouldn't want to do anything to jeopardize that business. There might not have even been a phone call, it might not have been necessary.' Amazon, which wowed the White House with its ability to scale video slideshow site Animoto, was able to get its foot in the Federal door as a Recovery.gov redesign subcontractor."
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Amazon Cloud Not Big Enough For Feds and WikiLeaks

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  • by countertrolling (1585477) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @02:41PM (#34701488) Journal

    And Amazon is it? Why aren't we all making our own little clouds? Oh yeah, the ISPs are trying to stamp that out. I guess there can only be one.

  • Nepotism and corruption remain major factors in business decisions the world over.

    • by GigG (887839)
      While you might be right I'd like to see how this qualifies as either.
  • They can't even handle their own server farm? What does that say about technical competence of those employed by the government?
    And you would think in these days of leaked this and that the government would try and keep their data a little closer to home.
    AWS shut down wikileaks why can't they do the same for the US gov or al the very least do some snooping?
    • They can't even handle their own server farm?

      Because the government NEVER contracts out ANYTHING. Its all in house right?

      No seriously, where have you been?

    • They can't even handle their own server farm? What does that say about technical competence of those employed by the government?

      And you would think in these days of leaked this and that the government would try and keep their data a little closer to home.

      They do! However, they probably determined it's cheaper to move some of their non-sensitive sites to Amazon EC2 (not AWS) and consolidate their sensitive servers into less data centers.

      AWS shut down wikileaks why can't they do the same for the US gov or al

      • by TheLink (130905)

        They do! However, they probably determined it's cheaper to move some of their non-sensitive sites to Amazon EC2 (not AWS) and consolidate their sensitive servers into less data centers.

        And it's probably easier for the US Gov to censor stuff if it isn't hosting it.

    • I don't know about you, but I'd rather the government not be spending money on maintaining an infrastructure that industry can do far more cost effectively.
      • but I'd rather the government not be spending money on maintaining an infrastructure that industry can do far more cost effectively.

        I don't know about you, but I'd rather not let the government have the power to decide what businesses do unless they're breaking a law. I'd rather not let government censor information or operate in secrecy. I'd rather not have to recite Martin Niemöller's [wikipedia.org] First they came [wikipedia.org]. Nor do I want to stick my head in the sand.

        Falcon

    • by alen (225700)

      things probably changed but back in the day it took permission from God to buy a server. and months of waiting. one time at one base they spent $200,000 on new switches that sat around for a year because the project to install them wasn't funded. and you can't keep the money for next year.

      AWS is awesome. you pay Amazon a fee and you get flexibility. Clinton and Bush tried to fix things but the government unions kill any reform attempt

    • They can't even handle their own server farm? What does that say about technical competence of those employed by the government?

      Nothing, really, I believe that the reason that the government is farming out hosting duties is to consolidate the thousands of little servers that are hosted and maintained by separate agencies and departments together. It is just a change to save the cost of hosting a distributed mass of servers.
    • And why exactly is the US gov using Boeing?They can't even handle their own fighter jet construction? What does that say about technical competence of those employed by the military?

      Want to reconsider your comment?

  • Amazon Response (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @02:45PM (#34701564) Journal
    I've been upset at Amazon since the 1-click patent, but if you're going to delve into conspiracy theories, you might as well give Amazon's side as well (it's at least as likely to be true as what is said by Dave Winer, who "was already upset that Amazon Web Services (AWS) pulled the plug on WikiLeak").

    Amazon response found here [amazon.com], excerpt quoted for the lazy:

    AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating. For example, our terms of service state that “you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.” It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy.

    Judge for yourself what is true, but be not hasty in judgement.

    • And the government doesn't put innocent people in jeopardy? Or is the government bound by the TOS or are they once again exempt from rules they make for others to live by?
      • Re:Amazon Response (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @03:01PM (#34701822) Journal
        I don't know, what do you think? Let's look at the link from the OP [amazon.com] that lists the government usage of AWS.

        Do you think the government's recovery.org website is putting innocent people in jeopardy? Or perhaps the Open Energy Information Initiative (from the DOE)? Or are you thinking of the Department of Agriculture's website? Do you consider NASA's website to be harmful, since it contains the word 'jet propulsion' which sounds kind of like a weapon?

        People are getting too steamed up about the Wikileaks thing and need to chill. As far as we can tell, no one's died because of them, the US government really hasn't been hurt. On the flip side, nothing shocking has been revealed (and if you're thinking of replying to this post saying, "the US spied and pressured!" save your fingers, oh naive one). To an observer of international politics they are like candy, and I'm looking forward to the bank releases (which may actually be damaging), but so far it's just entertainment.

        Relax, world.
    • Re:Amazon Response (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dominion (3153) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @02:54PM (#34701712) Homepage

      U.S. federal government documents are not covered under copyright, so when you're talking about "ownership", there's no legal basis for this argument. Those documents, now leaked, are in the public domain. Wikileaks "owns" them just as much as anyone else.

      Also, this part:

      Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren't putting innocent people in jeopardy.

      Is a really dangerous precedent for Amazon to set for themselves. If you're going to cancel members accounts based on not just the potential danger of known information held within, but on the possibility that information not yet discovered could potentially put someone in danger, that's making a decision based on an extraordinary amount of hypotheticals.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by geoffrobinson (109879)

        Yeah, but it is perfectly fine precedent for WikiLeaks to judge that they aren't putting anyone at risk.

        • Re:Amazon Response (Score:5, Informative)

          by dominion (3153) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @03:07PM (#34701910) Homepage

          Yeah, but it is perfectly fine precedent for WikiLeaks to judge that they aren't putting anyone at risk.

          Less than 1% of the cables have been released. Wikileaks is working with around a dozen news services from around the world to sift through the data. Wikileaks gave The Pentagon the option to redact sensitive information, and they refused.

          There has not been a full dump of the 250,000 cables, they have been slowly releasing them alongside the news agencies they're working with (New York Times, The Guardian, etc). What we've seen so far is only a small fraction of the cables.

          The idea that Wikileaks has been indiscriminate with releasing the cables is simply not true.

          • The idea that Wikileaks has been indiscriminate with releasing the cables is simply not true.

            Erm, this time. The last release, not so true. Glad to see that they *have* learned something from that debacle though.

            • by MoonBuggy (611105)

              I thought that the Pentagon investigation of the war docs concluded that the release as performed by Wikileaks did not put anyone in danger?

          • by iammani (1392285)

            Wikileaks gave The Pentagon the option to redact sensitive information, and they refused.

            Pentagon actually did reply, claiming everything wikileaks had was sensitive.
             
            /ducks

          • Wikileaks gave The Pentagon the option to redact sensitive information, and they refused.

            Yeah, "Hey, Pentagon, why don't you identify the most sensitive parts of the documents we stole and save us the trouble of sifting through them". This keeps getting brought up as if it makes Wikileaks some kind of beneficent and thoughtful organization - but lets be honest here, it's not like Wikileaks has shown any evidence of that. Asking the Pentagon to redact the documents for them is like asking the parents of th

      • Re:Amazon Response (Score:5, Insightful)

        by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @03:15PM (#34702002) Homepage Journal

        Especially as the statement you quote is an outright lie by Amazon. While this "fact" is a standard pro-Government talking point, it simply is utterly untrue that Wikileaks is releasing 250,000 leaked cables. They are, indeed, only releasing those that have gone through a review process (and they're involving a small group of selected, highly respected, journalists, who are familiar with the redacting process, to do this review.)

        The fact Amazon.com needs to resort to a bald-faced lie to distance itself from the allegations of government pressure says a great deal about the truth here.

        • A bald-faced lie? They said Wikileaks was violating several of the terms of service. One of the terms of service is "don't use our service to break US law". It's pretty clear that Wikileaks was violating US law. Ergo, not a lie.

          At any rate, you're nitpicking over the wording used by the Amazon representative. Perhaps "doesn't own or otherwise control the rights to the classified content" was not the clearest way to put it, but unless you're deliberately being dense, the meaning is clear: Wikileaks is n

          • Re:Amazon Response (Score:5, Informative)

            by amentajo (1199437) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @04:00PM (#34702568)

            A bald-faced lie? They said Wikileaks was violating several of the terms of service. One of the terms of service is "don't use our service to break US law". It's pretty clear that Wikileaks was violating US law. Ergo, not a lie.

            Nearly every legal expert who has spoken on this topic has argued that Wikileaks has not violated US law.

            At any rate, you're nitpicking over the wording used by the Amazon representative. Perhaps "doesn't own or otherwise control the rights to the classified content" was not the clearest way to put it, but unless you're deliberately being dense, the meaning is clear: Wikileaks is not permitted by US law to distribute these documents. Clearly, distributing documents in violation of US law qualifies under "don't use our service to break US law".

            Publishing classified documents is not illegal, unless the documents fit certain criteria that (so far) these leaks do not. The person or organization who leaks the documents does have some liability, but not Wikileaks. As has been said many times before, Wikileaks is analogous to the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers incident.

          • What. The. Fuck?

            Beyond identifying the fact I found some kind of lie in Amazon.com's "explanation" as to why they did what they did, your comment is completely unrelated to anything I wrote. There is no way to read my original comment as being about anything other than Amazon.com's assertion that Wikileaks is publishing 250,000 wires.

            Extraordinarily, not only did you miss that, but you managed to quote every other part of Amazon.com's explanation except the publishing 250,000 wires part in defending Be

            • Did you read the middle paragraph of my post? I specifically addressed the "250,000 documents" portion of Amazon's statement.

          • by vux984 (928602)

            You don't appear to understand what "classified" means. It is instructions to the government charged with taking care of the documents to ensure that they don't get released to people who don't have the right clearance. If they get released or leaked, they aren't "classified" anymore, they are in the public domain. The public is not generally responsible for enforcing or respecting "classified".

            It's pretty clear that Wikileaks was violating US law. Ergo, not a lie.

            No, its not clear that Wikileaks was violat

            • Care to cite a law which backs that up.

              Sure.

              Under 18 USC 793, persons convicted of gathering defense information with the intent or reason to believe the information will be used against the United States or to the benefit of a foreign nation may be fined or sentenced to no more than 10 years imprisonment. Persons who disclose that information to any person not entitled to receive it are subject to the same penalty. Classified documents may remain within the ambit of the statute even if information contained therein is made public by an unauth

              • Sure.

                Under 18 USC 793, persons convicted of gathering defense information with the intent or reason to believe the information will be used against the United States

                I see that uses "intent" and "against". Care to prove Wikileaks intended to use the information against the USA? Having served in the US military and being a registered voter, I say what Wikileaks did was give me information on what my government has done without my knowledge.

                Falcon

          • They did not say that Wikileaks has published 250,000 documents, they said that Wikileaks is publishing 250,000 documents.

            Exactly what they said was "...the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted..."

            They are using "publishing" in the present tense. That's clear because they said that the documents "could not have been carefully redacted" [emphasis added]. They didn't say wikileaks "won't be able to carefully redact these docume

          • It's pretty clear that Wikileaks was violating US law.

            Really? What, exactly, is the charge? And why haven't an arrest order for Assange been issued in U.S. yet?

          • A bald-faced lie? They said Wikileaks was violating several of the terms of service. One of the terms of service is "don't use our service to break US law". It's pretty clear that Wikileaks was violating US law. Ergo, not a lie.

            Yes, a bald faced lie. See we have this thing called "Innocent until proven guilty". Unless you can show where the court documents and jury verdict is no US law have been violated.

            Falcon

        • The fact Amazon.com needs to resort to a bald-faced lie to distance itself from the allegations of government pressure says a great deal about the truth here.

          Where are people going if they don't want to use Amazon anymore?

          • Where are people going if they don't want to use Amazon anymore?

            Exactly what I was thinking. When I've ordered from Amazon it's because doing so has saved me money compared to buying somewhere else. I was going to say I could order books from Bookpool [bookpool.com] but it's now part of Amazon. There are Barnes and Noble as well as Borders but Amazon is cheaper and being on disability I need to watch my money.

            Falcon

      • ISPs and other service providers are considered not to be liable for illegal content placed on their networks, precisely because they do not actively police the material. They only take action if requested to do so by the rights owners or a court order.

        As I understand the situation, if they actively police the material on their networks - as Amazon has done in this case, they surrender these protections - and must actively check for illegal material. IANAL - but it seems to me that Amazon has dug themselves

    • by LingNoi (1066278)

      So it starts off reasonable.. "copyright violation against terms of service" then turns into a "we're saving innocent people" speech which makes them loose all creditability. So yeah, I'm not buying their story with that saving lives part tacked on the end.

    • Interesting terms of service. How many customers could possibly be thrown off Amazon capriciously by invoking those terms? How many things you can do that you can warrant "will not cause injury to any person or entitiy"?

      If I were thinking of doing anything potentially controversial, I'd take this as a warning not to use Amazon.

    • by drolli (522659)

      In the TOS Amazon also explicitly states that they will shut your service down if asked by an US official institution. Nothing about a court order or such. I guess that is to prevent costs for lawyers checking every request.

      I guess the whole TOS of Amazon scream the following between the lines: Our main business is not web-hosting, let alone bullet-proof webhosting. We have computing centers which we had to build for other purposes. We are reselling the unused capacity really cheap, and many people liked it

  • by mewsenews (251487) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @02:47PM (#34701590) Homepage

    ie. non-story

  • You don't insist that Pepsi's bottling company also provide bottles to Coke?

    In addition, Amazon is probably too much a part of the culture to be appropriate for a counterculture website like Wikileaks.

    It would be kind of like Fox Broadcasting owning the New York Times (or is that the other way around?)

    In other words, Wikileaks needs to be able to report leaks ABOUT Amazon.

  • comes after profits, in united states of capitalica ... i dont know there is an economic system which encourages lack of spine more than capitalism.
    • If you don't like it, make your own cloud. Hell, look at all the usenet providers - they're independent from Amazon and seem to host far scarier things than wikileaks. Or so I've heard.

      Hell, if you want to guarantee the life of wikileaks, just post it to usenet.

    • vcomes after profits, in united states of capitalica ..

      Wait, now it's up to businesses to enforce freedom and liberty? I thought that was the citizen's jobs via their elected representatives?

      . i dont know there is an economic system which encourages lack of spine more than capitalism.

      A much more challenging proposition is to name one that encourages having a spine more than capitalism.

  • screw over customers to get favors (read: money and favorable legislation) from the federal govt. How many lobbyists does Amazon have again?
    • by Ksevio (865461)
      The Government IS one of their customers, and a very large one at that. Amazon is dropping a relatively minor customer in favor of a major one.
      • by jmerlin (1010641)
        Sounds like the kind of thing we should address with good regulation. "We .. uh.. stopped your service because... uh.. one of our really big customers decided they didn't like what you had hosted.. so yeah....... buh bye." Indirect censorship is cool.
  • I'm sure it would be much more appropriate as "Dave Whiner". I know it's the end of the year and all, but somebody's whine about how Amazon is a business and is acting to protect its interests as a business is news? Not to mention the mistaken (or misrepresented) info that Winer included in his commentary.

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