Bruce Sterling has popped up at Medium with a great essay (following up on an older one called "The Blast Shack") on Manning, Assange and Snowden - The Ecuadorian Library.
First let’s consider Bradley Manning, who is not at all close to the NSA. Bradley was a bored and upset minor military technician who burned a zillion US documents onto a DVD, and labeled that “Lady Gaga.”
The authorities finally got around to convicting Bradley this week, of some randomized set of largely irrelevant charges. But the damage there is already done; some to Bradley himself, but mostly grave, lasting damage to the authorities. By maltreating Bradley as their Guantanamo voodoo creature, their mystic hacker terror beast from AlQaedaville, Oklahoma, they made Bradley Manning fifty feet high.
At least they didn’t manage to kill him. Bradley’s visibly still on his feet, and was not so maddened by the torment of his solitary confinement that he’s reduced to paste. So he’s going to jail as an anti-war martyr, but time will pass. Someday, some new entity, someone in power who’s not directly embarrassed by Cablegate, can pardon him.
Some future Administration can amnesty him, once they get around to admitting that Bradley’s War on Terror is history. The War on Terror has failed as conclusively as Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations failed. There’s terror all over the sands now, terror from Mali to Xinjiang, and a billion tender-hearted Bradleys couldn’t stop that bleeding, no matter how much they leak.
Thanks to the modern miracle of fracking, though, the mayhem in the oil patch means a lot less to K Street. Someday, Bradley Manning will be as forgotten to them as Monica Lewinsky is. Then they’ll yield to the hornet-like, persistent buzz of the leftie peaceniks, and let Bradley go. He’s not dangerous. Bradley Manning will never do anything of similar consequence again. He’s not a power player. He’s a prisoner of conscience.
However, unlike poor Monica Lewinsky, Bradley Manning will never lack for passionate adherents who admire him and love him. Before Bradley went into his ugly maelstrom, he didn’t have that. Nowadays, he does. Maybe it’s worth it.
Then there’s Julian Assange. Yeah, him, the silver-haired devil, the Mycroft Holmes of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Bradley Manning’s not at all NSA material, he’s just a leaky clerk with a thumb-drive. But Julian’s quite a lot closer to the NSA — because he’s a career cypherpunk.
If you’re a typical NSA geek, and you stare in all due horror at Julian, it’s impossible not to recognize him as one of your own breed. He’s got the math fixation, the stilted speech, the thousand-yard-stare, and even the private idiolect that somehow allows NSA guys to make up their own vocabulary whenever addressing Congress (who don’t matter) and haranguing black-hat hacker security conventions (who obviously do).
Julian has turned out to be a Tim Leary at the NSA’s psychiatric convention. He’s a lasting embarrassment who also spiked their Kool-Aid. Crushing Julian, cutting his funding, that stuff didn’t help one bit. He’s still got a roof and a keyboard. That’s all he ever seems to need.
There’s nothing quite like a besieged embassy from which to mock the empty machinations of the vengeful yet hapless State Department. House arrest has also helped Julian with this obscure struggle he has, not to fling himself headlong onto Swedish feminists. The ruthless confinement has calmed him; it’s helped him to focus. He’s grown and matured through ardent political struggle.
Julian Assange is still a cranky extremist with a wacky digital ideology, but he doesn’t have to talk raw craziness any more, because the authorities are busy doing that for him. They can’t begin to discuss PRISM and XKeyScore without admitting that their alleged democratic process is a neon façade from LaLaLand. Instead, they’re forced to wander into a dizzying area of discourse where Julian staked out all the high points ten years ago.
More astonishing yet: this guy Assange, and his tiny corps of hacker myrmidons, actually managed to keep Edward Snowden out of US custody. Not only did Assange find an effective bolthole for himself, he also faked one up on the fly for this younger guy.
Assange liberated Snowden, who really is NSA, or rather a civilian outsourced contractor for the NSA, like there’s any practical difference.
It’s incredible to me that, among the eight zillion civil society groups on the planet that hate and fear spooks and police spies, not one of them could offer Snowden one shred of practical help, except for Wikileaks. This valiant service came from Julian Assange, a dude who can’t even pack his own suitcase without having a fit. ...
While Julian Assange, to do him credit, has the street smarts to behave as if he’s in a situation of feral realpolitik. Because he is. And how.
However, Assange now knows that. He’s a hardened veteran of it. And he’s gonna stay imperiled for the immediate future, because the upshot of this is pretty easy to see.
The inconvenient truth about the NSA is lying there on a table in the Ecuadorian Embassy, as stark as a poisoned crow. But it’ll join our planet’s many other inconvenient truths.
Snowden told the truth to the public — but then again, so did Solzhenitsyn, and even Al Gore lets on sometimes. The truth doesn’t do the trick for anybody, the truth is just a complicating factor. The present geopolitical situation is absolutely cluttered with amazing lies that didn’t work out for their owners.
The Iraqi weapons of mass destruction never existed. Climate change does exist, and could drown Wall Street any day now. The abject state of global finance is obvious, yet it makes no difference to the ongoing depredations. Drones are stark assassination machines, and they don’t stay classified. Anyone could go on.
And, yeah, by the way, Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Google et al, they are all the blood brothers of Huawei in China — because they are intelligence assets posing as commercial operations. They are surveillance marketers. They give you free stuff in order to spy on you and pass that info along the value chain. Personal computers can have users, but social media has livestock.