Granted, this isn't exactly a surprising revelation, nor was Heartland hacked, exactly -- more like it was played for a fool. Climatologist Peter Gleick pwned the Institute by pretending to be one of its board members and politely requesting that his "new" email address be added to Heartland's email list.
He then received Heartland's 2012 fundraising plan and other documents, which he shared with various blogs and news outlets. Heartland fired off nastygrams to sites that had published the documents, demanding they be taken down. At least one, DeSmogBlog, has refused, citing public interest in keeping the documents available.
A week after leaking the docs, Gleick fessed up to the ruse. He has since resigned from a number of prestigious posts, and his legal troubles are just beginning.
My question: Why didn't he just feed the files to WikiLeaks -- or Openleaks, Cryptome, or Pastebin, for that matter -- and let the nature of the InterWebs take its course? After receiving the Heartland files from an anonymous source (apparently Gleick), ThinkProgress posted the files to Cryptome, where they will likely remain in perpetuity. Pastebin now features a copy of the "Heartland Institute Climate Strategy," which Heartland claims is a hoax. It's unknown who put it there.
My advice to Heartland: Google "Streisand effect," then let's talk. You can't put the data toothpaste back into the InterTubes after it's been squeezed out, but you can keep people from stepping in it every time they go online. By loudly proclaiming its victimhood and aggressively pursuing the leaks, Heartland has done far more than Gleick to publicize the things it would rather keep secret.
Are hacking and phishing the right ways to obtain and spread information? No. But you could make a strong argument that the ends outweigh the means, in these cases, at least. Your moral outrage may vary.
One thing is clear: Stratfor and Heartland could use serious rebranding -- because their actions in these matters betray little in the way of intelligence or thought.
Do the ends (leaks) justify the means (hacking)? Deposit your thoughts below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Extremely hacked and incredibly dense," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.