Frantic internal review of secrecy procedures? Check.
Legal advice on the ramifications of full disclosure? Check.
Demonstrable — but hopelessly futile — attempt to limit public criticism by buying up potentially embarrassing URLs? Check.
Anyone care to guess how successful Bank of America’s medieval fortress defense structure is going to be against an information age attack?
What exactly is the bank doing so wrong? Put simply, it’s fortifying its defenses against…the truth. There are no claims here of falsification, shoddy reporting, or misattribution. In fact, the heart of the story seems to be that even Bank of America assumes that it is the unethical corporation that WikiLeaks has yet to name. And rather than responding with the digital equivalent of a sunshine policy and a round of mea culpas, the financial behemoth is hunkering down to defend, well, something or other. Reputation it ain’t.
Imagine a celebrity deathmatch with fighters from different millenia; in one corner, embattled lords in clanging armor oversee the construction of a massive stone wall while oil-filled cauldrons heat over raging fires. And in the other corner sits Information, impassive, unchallenged, and impervious to arrows. The bell clangs to signal the start of Round 1, and the only activity is the sound of slopping mortar on rock and the screams of another would-be defector being tossed from the parapet. For the fortress to win, it has to be under a crusader-style attack. For Information to win, all it has to do it sit there. Frankly, it’s not much of a fight.
And that, in fact, is the intelligent point that Bank of America and other future leak targets will have to realize in order to live long and prosper. Whatever you may think of how Assange procures his leaks, he’s really as much a harbinger of change as an assailant, and his message is that defensiveness is an antiquated battle tactic. (Really, what nasty online chatter does the purchase of bankofamericasucks.com prevent?) For forward-looking companies, the first step of great crisis management may be to open the doors rather than lock the gates.