Oops! In order to prevent leaks over the trial of alleged Wiki-leaker Bradley Manning, e-mail filtering for government prosecutors inadvertently screened out messages from the judge and Manning’s defense team. Another reminder that Wiki War, the competition online for safe and secure communications, is like every other kind of competition—a game of action and counteraction where every move has consequences, good and bad.

The challenges are particularly acute for hierarchical systems (like the deliberations in a military courtroom), because the Internet is a complex, non-linear environment that doesn’t play well with slow-moving, deliberate decision making.

As the Cluetrain Manifesto declared back at the dawn of Web 2.0, “hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.” The systems and processes of government and the regular means of doing day-to-day business just cannot keep up.

That is not to say that bureaucratic hierarchical structures are outdated or unnecessary. They have their purposes. Government does not need online social networks to conduct routine activities like cranking out Social Security checks or holding trials. There is also brute power in government processes. They can wear down many problems in a war of attrition. Still, they do not have the creative, flexible, adaptive power of social networks. A good government should want both—networks and hierarchies. The trick of good governance is to figure out how they fit together and then have the capacity to harmonize them.

The government ought to able to figure out how to keep spam filtering from interfering with the deliberation of justice. On the other hand, it should forget the idea that spam filters, putting up firewalls, and changing passwords are going to be sufficient to be dominant in the world wide Wiki War.