WikiLeaks: Supplementary Reading

When I was in University, a lot of my classes had a supplementary reading list. You didn't need to read these articles or books to pass, but they were related to the subject matter and might help your understanding of it. As I'm reading more and more about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, I've become reminded of some great articles or stories that I've read over the past few years. Below are a few of them that I think anyone interested in WikiLeaks might also be interested in: The Cypherpunk Manifesto - "Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn't want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn't want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world," wrote Eric Hughes in 1993 as the opening lines of The Cypherpunk Manifesto. And while that was almost 20 years ago, it feels incredibly relevant in the context of the Wikileaks case breaking now. As the text continues, I can't help but feel it must have very influential on a younger Julian Assange:

"Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can't get privacy unless we all do, we're going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all to use, worldwide. We don't much care if you don't approve of the software we write. We know that software can't be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can't be shut down."

Anything about Sealand - While I haven't been following the Wikileaks case closely enough to know where exactly the information is being hosted these days, the talk of finding an independent data haven reminded me of the brief obsession I had with The Principality of Sealand. This off-shore platform was built in international waters during World War II and has had a colourful history of pirate radio stations, pretenders to the throne, secessionists and so on ever since then. For a while, I remember there being talk of it being used as a data haven by online gambling (and more nefarious organizations) wanting to keep their information safe from the prying eyes of government.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson - While it is a work of fiction, the plot of this lengthy tome is about a group of people trying to set-up a data haven somewhere in the South Pacific. Its got historical adventure, techno-babble and the type of writing you can't put down. If you want to have a taste of some the research that went into writing this book, I strongly recommend also reading "Mother Earth Mother Board," an epic article that Neal Stephenson wrote for Wired Magazine in 1996 about the business of laying undersea fibre-optic cables across the world. In the age of Wi-Fi, it can feel a bit dated at times but is still a top-notch read.

Assassination Politics - I feel like there have been a couple of calls for the assassination of Julian Assange, and the whole thing got me thinking about Jim Bell's concept of Assassination Politics (an article I read about the same time as The Cypherpunk Manifesto). The concept is basically that with the right type of cryptography, the type that would allow us to exchange information and money without either side of the exchange knowing the identity of the other, you could set up a sort of assassination market that would easily collapse governments. Jim Bell's article is a great thought experiment, particularly when combined with some of the other articles in this list.

What would you add to the Wikileaks Supplementary Reading list?