Why the Pentagon's War on Wikileaks Is Like the Music Industry's War on Napster

The Pentagon is super mad about Wikileaks leaking 70,000 classified Afghanistan war documents. So mad that they have made the ridiculous demand that Wikileaks "return" the data. A massive organization willfully misunderstanding how the Internet works? Sounds familiar!

New Yorker staffer Raffi Khatchadourian argues that the current Pentagon war on Wilieaks is a lot like record companies versus music pirates. The analogy is pretty apt in that a body with a monopoly over a certain type of information is furious that a decentralized upstart is threatening its control. Only it is classified documents rather than music in this case. Katchadourian goes so far as to suggest that the Pentagon might better off viewing Wikileaks as a competing clearinghouse for classified information and adapt its mechanisms of secrecy to the new information flow, speeding up FOIA requests and striving for greater transparency. Like what the RIAA should have done when Napster came on the scene instead of whining and suing everyone.

The Pentagon certainly approaches Wikileaks with record-industry-level tone-deafness. Officials sternly demanded that Wikileaks "return immediately to the U.S. government" the classified Afghanistan documents, a demand which—even if Wikileaks hadn't immediately rejected it—would be about as effective at removing these secrets from the Internet as suing college students was in removing illegal music from the Internet. And the Pentagon banned military personnel from accessing the info obtained by Wikileaks because "doing so would introduce potentially classified information on unclassified networks," even though any schmuck in a Cleveland internet cafe can look it up.

(So far, the Pentagon hasn't taken any real steps against Wikileaks. Probably a good idea given that the just posted a massive encrypted file called "insurance" on their site.)

We even learned today that a server provided by an ISP linked to notorious file-sharing site The Pirate Bay helps host Wikileaks. It's only a matter of time before Apple starts selling top-secret incident reports for 99 cents a piece on iTunes.

[Photo of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by Getty Images]