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WSJ and Al-Jazeera Lure Whistleblowers 84

Posted by timothy
from the please-log-in-to-continue dept.
jjoelc writes "The success of Wikileaks in obtaining and releasing information has inspired mainstream media outlets to develop proprietary copycat sites. Al-Jazeera got into the act first, launching the Al-Jazeera Transparency Unit (AJTU), and On May 5, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), a subsidiary of Dow Jones & Co., Inc., launched its own site, SafeHouse. According to the EFF though, both sites offer 'false Promises' of anonymity."
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WSJ and Al-Jazeera Lure Whistleblowers

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  • it's a TRAP! (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Majik Sheff (930627)

    First star wars quote.

    • by Larryish (1215510)

      Once WSL and AJ get a long list of whistleblowers, the list will be sold to Google.

      Shortly after, the whistleblowers' inboxes will be full of spam for coach whistles and blowjob videos.

      • WSJ Exec: "Anonymous is just a marketing buzzword right? Let's just make sure the legal team writes it up so that anyone who reads the TOS understands we're doing the exact opposite here."
        • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @02:57AM (#36433040) Journal
          1. Upload the WSJ SafeHouse terms and conditions which demonstrate its lack of confidentiality, lack of anonymity, and related legal problems as a leak to AJTU.
          2. Upload the AJTU terms and conditions which demonstrate its lack of confidentiality, lack of anonymity, and related legal problems as a leak to WSJ SafeHouse.
          3. Sit back and watch the ensuing bitchfight. Karma profit!
        • It's how a conservative politician gets to leak news that the war is doing well and the liberals are all corrupt.

          Lest that sound like picking on the conservatives only, let's make it clean that CNN and the New York Times use anonymous sources all the time as well for things that really should not be anonymously sourced. But I can't help but think that's what a WSJ whistleblower site is really about, as a repository for political figures to say things that they wouldn't want to say to your face.
          • I'm afraid that the "we will cooperate with lawyers" is also a way to protect the reporters from having to authenticate, and verify, the contents. If the reporters and newspaper would put their own names and reputations at risk protecting their informants, I'd give it more credence and be more confident that they had verified the material. But I've read the Wall Street Journal, and watched companies manipulate their hiring practices, their leaking of purchase plans, and their product announcements purely to

            • by sunnydaz (1859658)
              "...a mouthpiece for conservative fiscal leaders who have no interest in their behavior being risked by whistleblowers." Of course you have a handle on the situation. Keep repeating that to yourself and I am sure you will feel better soon. It would be the WSJ that attempts to catch companies who fudge the numbers from one quarter (or period) to the next, for some short term gain. Ultimately, the numbers will bear out the real truth, regardless of your misguided, progressive interpretation of reality, and
          • by Toonol (1057698)
            Libertarians somehow believe that private businesses should be stronger than governments but weaker than individuals.

            That's a rational and coherent statement, if you also believe that governments should be weaker than individuals.
            • by jc42 (318812)

              Libertarians somehow believe that private businesses should be stronger than governments but weaker than individuals.

              That's a rational and coherent statement, if you also believe that governments should be weaker than individuals.

              One could argue that this isn't so much a belief as a trivially observable fact. A government isn't an intelligent being; it's a collection of individuals who may or may not act together. No government can do anything itself; it can only act through the individuals that are its component parts. Those individuals act according to their own wishes, which may well be at odds with the government's wishes (if the government can be said to have wishes).

              It's well understood in some circles that the people ru

        • by sunnydaz (1859658)
          do you have a citation or is this make believe on your part?
  • Anonymity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Monday June 13, 2011 @10:59PM (#36431980)
    I'm not sure why someone would interact in this way with any organization: Wikileaks, the Wall Street Journal, or the local newspaper without first masking any information that could identify them unless the publishing organization demands proof of authenticity. In that case, though, Wikileaks alone has proven it will protect its sources.
    • Re:Anonymity (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @12:20AM (#36432480)

      > I'm not sure why someone would interact in this way with any organization: Wikileaks, the Wall Street Journal, or the local newspaper without first masking any information that could identify them unless the publishing organization demands proof of authenticity.

      Most people don't have the technical skill to report things (electronically) in a truly untraceable fashion, even assuming no SIGINT, etc... There are plenty of ways to reverse engineer whistleblowers' identities. What is the information they leaked? How many people had access to it? How many live in the geolocation of the reporting IP or, if the ISP is helping, who owned the IP? Of the people who had access to the information, how many use the sentence structure patterns associated with the submission? How many use the particular subdialect of English? etc...

      I've never had a reason to submit something truly anonymously--but it's a nontrivial problem, though admittedly trivial solutions might work.

      • Re:Anonymity (Score:4, Insightful)

        by melikamp (631205) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:28AM (#36433154) Homepage Journal

        I would not go over the Net with Wikileaks or anyone else, unless I could find a trustworthy proxy. Wikileaks may be 100% true, but they wouldn't know if the police was sitting on their wire, decrypting their shit with a key gleaned through a hidden camera. But what is a trustworthy proxy? It looks like only criminals have the anonymity on the Net these days.

        But it's not really an issue, since anyone (and I mean any idiot) can put on a new long sleeve shirt, new gloves, wrap their face in a new scarf, buy a used USB stick with cash, and mail it. Knowing that mail came from Boston or Paris or Athens ain't gonna help.

        If I was a whistle-blower, I would worry first of all about my data. How many people had access to it, is indeed the question. Best case scenario is what Bradley Manning had: some old cruft accessible by millions of people. Worst case scenario, dozens of people, and everyone gets a slightly different file, steganographically marked with the receiver's identity. So there is risk of exposure, of course, but the transmission itself is trivially anonymous.

        • How are you going to write the note to explain what the USB stick is about? Worse, how are you going to disguise your editing traces on the Word documents? (A procedure is described at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=834427. [microsoft.com]) Or the serial numbers of the USB stick and purchasing records? Cash is useful, but many stores have video monitors in place now.

          The "somewhat different file" trick that you describe is an old one, and remains popular.

          • by HiThere (15173)

            I can't believe that anyone even vaguely serious about anonymity would use any word processor, much less MSWord.
            A text editor is the correct solution. If you must, you can create an html file, but I'd think that simple text would suffice.

            Now as for the original documents...that's a whole 'nother problem.

            P.S.: They may, indeed, have video monitors in place, but those are frequently more designed to keep the staff honest than for any other purpose. If it worries you, use one that you bought a year ago. Or

    • Re:Anonymity (Score:5, Insightful)

      by flyingsquid (813711) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @12:38AM (#36432532)
      In that case, though, Wikileaks alone has proven it will protect its sources.

      Really? Woodward and Bernstein and the Washington Post kept silent about the identity of Deep Throat for over 30 years. Judith Miller went to jail for three months rather than reveal who leaked Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent to her. It seems like the conventional media do a pretty good job of keeping their sources confidential, if only because nobody would leak information to them otherwise.

      • Re:Anonymity (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:45AM (#36433214) Journal

        The problem is it really depends on how bad the government wants to get you thanks to PATRIOT and "enemy combatant". You see miller was sitting in a nice cell with access to her lawyer, everybody knew where she was, etc. But since you can be labeled an enemy combatant by "giving material aid to the enemy" frankly the government can drop a reporter in a hole and promptly forget where the hole is. How many Americans are labeled enemy combatants? Does anyone even know?

        Frankly if you are betting on a reporter to save your ass when the current administration says they have the right to assassinate Americans on American soil [salon.com] under irrevocable "war powers" I'd say you better be damned sure that reporter is willing to go all the way friend. Frankly even Nixon didn't have the balls to go as far as the last two administrations,and it ain't getting any better folks. I'm sure the next big leaker WILL be made an example of, mark my words. The Wikileaks leak stirred up too much shit for them to allow anybody to pull that shit again without paying horribly.

        • by decora (1710862) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @09:01AM (#36434572) Journal

          there is a case going on -right now- where Obama's DOJ is subpoenaing a reporter over a chapter in his book State of War.

          this is probably the first time this has ever happened, in the entire history of the country, in an Espionage Act case.

        • by naasking (94116)

          American citizens have rights under the Constitution so they cannot be treated as "enemy combatants". The only way the American government gets away with Guantanamo is because none of the detainees are citizens, and there is no internationally recognized constitution that would protect their rights and guarantee due process.

          Citizens can be charged with treason however, whch is just as bad, but the requirements are strict and established by precedent.

          • by elrous0 (869638) *

            American citizens have rights under the Constitution so they cannot be treated as "enemy combatants".

            You just keep telling yourself that.

          • by Wildclaw (15718)

            American citizens have rights under the Constitution

            All due process mentions in the constitution use the word "person" and not "citizen", just saying.

          • by jeaton (44965)

            Tell that to Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was arrested on US soil, then held in a military prison as an enemy combatant for three and a half years.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "Judith Miller went to jail for three months rather than reveal who leaked Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent to her."

        How is it leaking if the person who did the leaking is not with the same organization as the person who's name was leaked?
        And how is it whistleblowing if the person who's name was leaked didn't do anything illegal?

        • see 'Canary in the Coalmine' by former DOJ lawyer & whistleblower Jesselyn Radack.

          'disclosure' is a term that whistleblowers use

          'delivery' is the term that the Espionage Act uses

          'leaking' is the term that Nixon used when he created the 'plumbers'.

    • by elucido (870205) *

      Wikileaks is protecting Bradley Manning?
      It's unclear at this time whether or not Wikileaks can protect it's sources.

    • To assure that the material is genuine. An explanation of how one obtained the material and why one is exposing it can help assure the reporter that it's not just made up lies. Anyone who's been asked to testify at a child custody hearing can attest to the careful manipulation of testimony, and the questioning of how you know the material you're testifying about. While "ad hominem" is a logical fallacy, it's vital to assess the integrity, and reliability, of a source to write good news reports.

  • by Rie Beam (632299)

    Lest we forget why Wikileaks became the sensation it has.

  • by fotbr (855184) on Monday June 13, 2011 @11:02PM (#36432018) Journal

    and everyone has their vulnerability that can be exploited.

    In this case, when confronted with the choice of "fight a massively expensive legal battle" or "turn over the schmuck's details", it should be no surprise which choice ANY corporation makes.

    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Monday June 13, 2011 @11:20PM (#36432162) Journal
      Not everyone.

      You only have a "price" if you aren't willing to drop your anonymity.

      I posted a lot of whistleblowing material this weekend against my former boss - starmedia.ca - about tax fraud, over-billing customers, scamming the government-subsidized job training programs, etc.

      I didn't do it anonymously, because anonymous whistle-blowing has zero credibility.

      Sure enough, he got so scared he contacted my hosting company (iweb.com - if you don't use adblock, you'll see they're a big advertiser on slashdot and youtube), and they suspended my hosting account. He's too chicken-sh*t to sue me because he knows he'd lose.

      So, having my account suspended is a minor inconvenience compared to the price of knuckling under and allowing him to continue to lie, cheat, and steal.

      And iWeb [iweb.com] is now off the list of hosting companies that I would recommend, since they're located in a country that has no 1st Amendment rights.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        ...take that bullshit material DOWN! I knew I fired you for a reason.

        Umm, can you come and reboot the servers.

      • by exentropy (1822632) on Monday June 13, 2011 @11:57PM (#36432372)

        anonymous whistle-blowing has zero credibility.

        Although having the leaker's name can increase credibility a little bit, it is ultimately the correctness of the information that matters. People believe Wikileak's documents because large portions have been verified; having whistleblower names attached to the leaked information wouldn't increase significantly increase the credibility of the docs.

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          Oh, I agree that ultimately, it's the material itself that counts. However, if you're willing to put your name to it and defend it both in public and in court, people are more likely to take the time to read it in the first place.

          After all, how many people even SEE anonymous posts here on slashdot? It's part of how we think - we tend to take things more seriously if we can attach a face ... or at least a name ... to it.

          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:25AM (#36433140) Journal

            It's part of how we think - we tend to take things more seriously if we can attach a face ... or at least a name ... to it.

            That's why a smart whistle blower will stay annonymous and enlist someone else to independently verify the source and play the role of "lightning rod". That "someone" used to be the NYT or similar, nowadays it's Wikileaks or similar. Often verifying material from an annonymous source is as simple as watching the reaction of the "victim", for example; it's obvious to most people that the "diplomatic cables" and the "war diaries" are genuine simply because of the way governments around the world have reacted to them.

            • by tomhudson (43916)

              You have a very good point. Unfortunately, in today's legal climate, it's hard to find someone who:

              a. has personal knowledge of the issues or events,
              b. is ready to stick their neck out, and
              c. won't panic under pressure.

              You'd be amazed at how many people fail the last one. The least bit of pressure, and they cave in.

              Lets look at the immediate facts.

              1. I reported that 770star.com had been used by starmedia communications to, among other things, run an illegal lottery or prize draw.
              2. Alex C

              • It's not easy being a whistle-blower.

                No it's not, and I applaud you for speaking out publicly.

        • by DougDot (966387)

          anonymous whistle-blowing has zero credibility.

          Until the whistle-blowing claim turns out to have been true.

      • And iWeb [iweb.com] is now off the list of hosting companies that I would recommend, since they're located in a country that has no 1st Amendment rights.

        First I dont have any link with Iweb.com and I support you against Starmedia.ca if what you said is true but please dont hide behind your american flag to cry. Canada has the same rules and laws you found in 1st amendment right it's just that we dont use numeral notation to classify laws. Basically American and Canadian laws are the same except the right to wear a shotgun as a decoration in your pick-up truck (4th amemdment) but Harper (our Bush) is working hard to regress us to that level.... Try suing

        • are completely different from those in the United States and they fundamnetally alter what the press and the populace are able to do and say.

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          Whoa ... I'm not hiding "my american flag" - I'm Canadian - in fact, iWeb is located in another part of the city. The problem with Canadian laws is that we have ZERO protection for whistle-blowers. None, nada, zip, aucune, "a rien tabernak", if you want to use the local vernacular.

          They're not too happy with me at the moment, since they've obviously botched this. If they had bothered to look, they would have found out that one of the sites I was complaining about (770star.com - the one that starmedia pr

      • by Tolkien (664315)
        Why not post it all as a submission? I'd vote it up.
        • by tomhudson (43916)
          Thanks - I'm currently working on it, but first I'm giving them a chance to do the right thing and buy a clue.

          Here's their current response

          "Specific activities that are prohibited include, but are not limited to :
          "- Threatening harm to persons or property or otherwise harassing behavior."
          For your information, this is sure that we have no problem that you
          report, for example, some actions that you consider as newsworthy of a
          company that you were a former employee

          I'm in the process of writing the

    • The NY Times, their choice is easy:

      WWRD (What Would Rupert Do?)

  • I often look at 'free web based proxy' sites and wonder if they're just set up by some law enforcement agency to fuel their party-van. Same goes for pr0n sites. Would there be a way for media organisations to do this legitimately? I doubt it could be done here in Australia.
    • I often look at 'free web based proxy' sites and wonder if they're just set up by some law enforcement agency to fuel their party-van. Same goes for pr0n sites. Would there be a way for media organisations to do this legitimately? I doubt it could be done here in Australia.

      Don't be so damn cynical. There are lots of multimillionaire philanthropists out there funding anonymous proxies. Right?

      But seriously, it costs money to host those services so you are right to be wary. Let's not forget that Greenpeace was originally organised by the CIA (part of the English anti nuclear campaign).

      Consider that any connection through the NBN will be traceable back to the origin regardless of how many proxies you go through - proxie protection alone is the electronic equivalent of doubling b

  • Wikileaks was there to "stick it" to the "man", where as these corporations are looking for ways to maximise profit.

    It's pretty disgusting/misleading to promise anonymity when clearly they're not going to think twice about selling you out if they get a gentle nudge.

    Shouldn't journalists with integrity have the inside scoop? The ones that will go to jail instead of giving up their source?

  • Wall Street Journal (WSJ), a subsidiary of Dow Jones & Co., Inc.

    And from wikipedia:

    [Dow Jones & Co., Inc.] became a subsidiary of News Corporation after an extended takeover bid during 2007.

    I'm sure all leaks that get sent to the WSJ will receive equal attention, and that there won't be certain leaks that get prioritized over other leaks. Or "leaks" that could just be pure speculation...

    I'm not trying to spread to much FUD here, and I'm not a huge wikileaks fan either. But if I was a whistle blower I'd be inclined to avoid any corporate controlled entities to give my info to.

    • by sn00ker (172521) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @12:26AM (#36432498) Homepage
      And News Corp is owned bya guy [wikipedia.com] who's notorious for interfering in editorial decisions. If Murdoch doesn't like the story, it won't see the light of day in a single publication over which he has control.
    • by jc42 (318812)

      ... if I was a whistle blower I'd be inclined to avoid any corporate controlled entities to give my info to.

      Some time back, I ran across some histories of the concept of "common carrier" that are probably applicable here. This concept has multiple, complex origins, but part of the story is apparently the common practice in early times of "killing the messenger" who brought news that the local prince didn't like.

      This had some unpleasant side effects, of course. Once a prince got a reputation for killing messengers, couriers would take to opening his messages, reading them, and failing to deliver those that m

  • . . . one of the penultimate journalistic institutions. Therefore, we are all fucked.
  • by camperslo (704715) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @01:42AM (#36432768)

    Wall Street Journal (WSJ), a subsidiary of Dow Jones & Co., Inc.

    Somehow it doesn't seem right not mentioning that the owner of the WSJ and DJ is News Corp (as with Fox)

  • http://boingboing.net/2011/05/05/wall-street-journal-2.html [boingboing.net] - The WSJ site has (or had) basic security holes. These may now be fixed but with this degree of incompetence and the difficulty of writing truly secure web apps, there may well be other holes.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @07:31AM (#36434006) Homepage Journal

    Of course the WSJ's promises are false. It was bought by Rupert Murdoch [wikipedia.org], who owns Fox News, back in 2007.

    I note that the world never needed accurate Wall Street reporting more than in the years starting in 2007. And instead it got Murdoch reporting.

  • Keep in mind, ladies and gentlemen, it's always going like this; shit in, shit out. Since when we trust anyone from either the media or the Internet? I know people in the arabian region saying that Al-Jazeera is the worst channel for broadcasting news. There has been fake reports coming out from those sons of bitches via phone services which made many include it in "GARBAGE CHANNELS" group. Then again, if someone believe in sharing personal information to those channels, they're absolutely wrong.

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