Watchdog Blog

Barry Sussman: Orwell Got It Backwards. But then, Who Could Envision Hackers?

Posted at 11:33 am, December 22nd, 2010
Barry Sussman Mug

A world-wide thriller is taking place right now. We are all in the middle of it. These are the elements, more or less:

Julian Assange began Wikileaks a few years ago and released important, secret documents, getting some attention but not a great deal, and attracting some followers. One of them was a young American soldier, Bradley Manning. Manning then gets enormous numbers of secret documents to Assange.

Manning, informed on by someone he trusted, is put in a military prison and held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, with additional restrictions on what he can do. This is psychological torture.

Assange, having learned something over time, begins circulating his documents via the NY Times and leading European news organizations: Spiegel, Guardian, El Pais and Le Monde. This begins to attract enormous attention, and scorn and fear from governments and corporations.

As the news organizations write stories and post the documents, corporations begin ‘denial of service’ to Assange, removing his postings from some Internet sites and blocking money transfers to him to an extent.

In response, hackers obstruct corporate websites, a warning to them not to go too far.

There are good stories all the time but rarely any with the drama of this one. Some of the details are mind-wrenching. There is sex — in the form of assertions of rape. And there’s no end in sight.

I sent this outline to my nephew Daniel Sussman, a script writer. He said he agrees a thriller is taking place but that Hollywood moves slowly and not to expect a movie soon. And he offered this gem:

“It is also interesting to me how Orwell got it backwards in 1984. He predicted a world in which big government watches everyone, and instead we get a world in which the Pentagon can’t keep it’s database secure from little Johnny who’s still in high school. He didn’t realize the hackers will always have the advantage. There was no way for him to even imagine hackers.”

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