Most security companies, I like to believe, are noble and ethical enterprises. Yes they make good money out of the fact that the online world is a dark, scary place, but they also provide an invaluable service: protecting innocent individuals and organizations from the dangers that lurk in the shadows.
But when the hacker group Anonymous recently leaked a stolen slide deck that revealed how three security and intelligence firms (Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal and Berico Technologies) planned to silence WikiLeaks, and its proponents, including a journalist, in the name of a possible lucrative contract from Bank of America, I was deeply offended and insulted.
(Palantir's CEO has since apologized).
My emotions did not just stem from the fact that the presentation's section on "potential proactive tactics" alluded to conducting illegal activities in order to bring down WikiLeaks, though that certainly raised some ire in me – especially when I consider that federal law enforcement only seems interested in going after those cybercriminals engaged in pro-WikiLeaks conduct, never the other way around.
But a major source of my frustration also emanated from the fact that the presentation suggested targeting arguably one of the world's most truth-telling, roving, talented, cogent and investigative journalists: Glenn Greenwald of Salon. Yes, he is one of my favorites, but that is not the reason I am here defending him.
In a blog post today, Greenwald did an admirable job of not just acknowledging the absurdity of the three companies' proposal but also defining how this situation ultimately reflects the class war being waged by society's most powerful and rich in order to get, you guessed it, more powerful and rich.
Greenwald is offended. Journalism is his livelihood. He is in the business of free speech. I am too.
So when security firms seemingly bent on winning a big contract essentially offer up their firepower, likely at the encouragement of the nation's biggest bank, to infringe on one of the most inherent rights of all Americans, we've got big problems.