On journalism

The unredacted Wikileaks cables are out, due to the Guardian publishing the key to them in a book (and assorted other events that caused the file to be circulated on Bittorrent). (Presumably, various defensive measures could have been taken on the Wikileaks side too, some kind of two factor for example.)

One of Bruce Schneier’s commenters writes:

I think someone on Boing Boing said all journalists should have basic tutoring in crypto. A novel and good idea.

It is a good idea. It would also be a good idea if journalists have a high level of knowledge of law, politics, police procedure, ethics, media history, media ownership, advertising, applied statistics, experimental design, the Internet and associated technologies, social justice, neurological findings about bias in eyewitness accounts, and any number of other things. Whether they can is another thing entirely.

Some of those are more or less reasonable and more or less in place. But past a point it’s impossible to demand that this level of knowledge be widespread among professional journalists. I have six years of generalist undergraduate education and it didn’t get me across as wide a variety of fields as that. And trust me, I tried. (I have undergraduate majors in pure mathematics, computer science, philosophy, linguistics and semiotics. Yes, majors.) At some point, there’s a limit, and frankly, I think it’s prior to crypto. People wanting to do controlled release of sensitive documents to the media are going to have to make sure their crypto measures stand up to the practices of utter non-experts.