The long shadow of WikiLeaks

Talk about a wake-up call. If federal officials needed a reminder about the downside of the Internet’s so-called democratization of information, WikiLeaks has provided it, big time.

The whistle-blowing website has also raised numerous questions that the federal government is just beginning to answer.

In the first days after WikiLeaks released thousands of sensitive and secret State Department documents late last year, much of the talk focused on the diplomatic, political and legal implications. What damage might have been done to foreign relations? Has U.S. national security been compromised? And how should Julian Assange and his inside source be prosecuted?

But now the federal government is confronting what many observers say are the more pressing questions: After all the recent advances in information and data security, how did this happen? How confident can agencies be about preventing such incidents in the future? And what are the ramifications for information sharing and government transparency?

Those questions are bigger than WikiLeaks, and the answers could reshape how government operates for years to come. With that in mind, Federal Computer Week contributing editor Brian Robinson asked four experts in relevant fields to discuss the fallout from WikiLeaks' document release and how to mitigate the potential for such incidents in the future.

Here is the lineup of experts.

  • Ambassador David Smith, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va., and the U.S. member of the International Security Advisory Board.
  • Shon Harris, a security consultant, founder of Logical Security and a former engineer at the Air Force’s Information Warfare unit.
  • Anthony Williams, co-author of the best-selling "Wikinomics" and its recent follow-up, "Macrowikinomics," and a visiting fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
  • George Smith, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org and a writer and commentator on the science and technology of national security.
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