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Wikileaks Strikes Again!

Entry 1248, on 2010-12-01 at 21:32:52 (Rating 4, Politics)

The latest release of confidential information from Wikileaks seems to have created a significant stir amongst certain American leaders and some other sectors in society. We are already seeing the demands to shut down Wikileaks and prosecute its staff, especially Julian Assange. And we have heard the usual tiresome claims that this will lead to the endangerment of innocent lives which is ironic when the death toll from official American foreign policy is taken into account! And the demands to make Wikileaks a terrorist organisation are just pathetic: telling the truth makes something a terrorist organization? Maybe we need more terrorists then!

Calling the leaks reckless and dangerous is partly true, but I think they are a lot less reckless and dangerous than the official government actions they describe. Also, not making these devious, behind the scenes deals public is perhaps even more reckless and dangerous.

Hillary Clinton has condemned the leaks but of course she would do that, no matter what the bigger moral factors might be. When the people in power get that uncomfortable it's not necessarily a bad thing. How can there be accountability of senior politician's actions if we don't know what they're doing?

In previous blog entries about Wikileaks I have said that I was ambivalent about my support for it. Freedom of information is important but, contrary to that, unrestrained distribution of sensitive material can lead to significant problems. Currently I think my support for Wikileaks is increasing because I think the claims of negative consequences of its actions have been shown to be exaggerated and the positive aspects of useful political information being made public outweigh the imagined or real problems.

But some people will say these are private discussions and they might point out how I have defended the right to privacy in the past. Am I being inconsistent or even (gasp) hypocritical?

I don't think so. The difference is we are talking about discussions carried out by government figures who are not only acting on behalf of the people of the countries they represent but are also ultimately paid by those same people. If the taxpayer is paying someone to negotiate the future safety and prosperity of the world then surely they have the right to know what's actually being discussed.

And I think it extends to citizens of countries outside the US as well. The US is the only world superpower currently and that position carries some responsibility, including the responsibility of openness and accountability to the world as a whole.

I would further extend this to the private sector. Large corporations also have a responsibility to make their actions transparent. Some large corporations have more influence on the world than small countries so I would also support the leaking of information on possible dirty deals they might be involved in. It's just too easy to claim "commercial sensitivity" as an excuse for not releasing information which is inconvenient. I think the safety of the world - whether that's political, environmental, or social - outweighs the company's right to privacy.

The actual contents of most of the leaked cables so far aren't that surprising. They just confirm what many people already suspected, although some messages are interesting, such as the Saudi's demand for the US to attack Iran which is rather alarming! And the US - our presumed ally - spying on our previous prime minister is also rather intriguing!

Edward Abbey said "A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government." If that's true (and surely it is) then Wikileaks is not a traitorous organisation, it's a patriotic one!

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