Wikileaks: bad guys or good guys?

Wikileaks and it’s figure head, Julian Assange, have been quite topical lately. Wikileaks has been working it’s way through a mother lode of leaked US documents (251,287 apparently) and slowly publishing the results. They say they have circulated an encrypted form of the documents to 100,000 people and will release the key to decrypt the documents if Wikileaks slow release of the documents is interfered with. The entire episode is upsetting a lot of people.

“Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?” – Sarah Palin – former governor of Alaska
“Julian Assange Should Be Assassinated” – Tom Flanagan – Former Adviser To Canadian Prime Minister

Whilst many of the documents are classified as “confidential” and many as “secret” apparently none are in the “top secret” category. What has been aired to date seems to be merely “embarrassing” rather than highly revealing or seriously damaging. The most damning revelation is probably what the leak shows regarding weaknesses in US document security.

Some claim that this event will having a chilling effect on dialogue between US embassies and sources of information. Others seem to view this as an important insight into secretive government. It evokes references to the first amendment.

My own view is summed up reasonably well by surprisingly sensible statements made today by two former Australian Prime Ministers:-

John Howard:-

“To publish some cables containing commentary about political figures, while it’s very uncomfortable for the diplomat involved … and uncomfortable to the subject, you can’t expect a journalist to hold back on something like that,” Mr Howard told ABC Radio in Darwin on Wednesday.

“I’m sure things had been said about me.

“It’s embarrassing when it happens but … you can’t condemn the media for running this stuff.”

Kevin Rudd

“Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network,” said Mr Rudd, who has been criticised in one leaked cable as a “control freak”.

“The Americans are responsible for that.”

21 thoughts on “Wikileaks: bad guys or good guys?

  1. His rape charges are a stitch up and he has done nothing illegal.

    Palin has shown why she is a complete and utter idiot and should give way to Sen. elect Rand Paul and Rep. Paul Ryan.

  2. The rape charges are indeed dodgy but seem to be a result of the extremely broad leftwing femininst influenced definition of ‘rape’ in Sweden rather than some CIA conspiracy. The extent to which these charges were used as an excuse to pursue him is another matter, however.

    Iffy rape accusations aside, there’s no proof he’s broken any laws, but I don’t think Julian Assange is a ‘good guy’ at all. He doesn’t stand for free speech or freedom of information; rather his motivation seems to be an ideological bent against the US and the West in general, and leaking damaging information is merely a tool to weaken them. He also has no regard for leaking information that will put people’s lives at risk.

    Though I agree with Malcolm Turnbull’s piece in the Age – pursuing a vendetta against him will just turn him into an information martyr.

    I don’t mind the idea of a site for leaked info that keeps governments honest, but it should be impartial and ideally exercise some responsibility about sensitive details that put individuals in danger.

    Assange fails on these two counts – contrary to what his (mainly leftwing) cheersquad thinks he actually said one he’s ‘not interested in creating a more transparent society, rather a more just one’ – with the usual lefty definitions of justice.

  3. He also has no regard for leaking information that will put people’s lives at risk.

    This claim gets made a lot and yet I have yet to see any specific examples. Can somebody produce the name of any individual that has come to harm as a result of a wikileaks leak? Assange claims that none exist. And in terms of being impartial I have yet to see anything to suggest that they are not. They seem to leak without fear or favour. Obviously we can’t see what leaks they sit on but speculation on that basis wouldn’t tell us which way they were biased even if they were.

  4. The main individuals that can potentially come to harm are the names of several Afghan citizens acting as informants for the US and Karzai government. Another example is Hossein Vahedi, a US citizen of Iranian origin, who was held hostage on a visit there and was helped to escape by his relatives across the border into Turkey. Ankara was going to deport him back to Iran until the US intervened and he made it home to California. Anyway all this was part of the leaked diplomatic cables with details of his relatives in Iran who assisted him, who are now targets of the Iranian authorities.

    Not to mention Mark Arbib 😉

    As you say, we can’t tell what stuff they’re selectively sitting on, but it’s clear Assange has an axe to grind against the US. He has stated his anti Western and anti US worldview previously – read some of his 2006 essays “State and Terrorist Conspiracies” and “Conspiracy as Governance.”. Also an interesting atricle on his motivation here

    There is also some speculation that Wikileaks (or possibly their source) edited the Iraq helicopter video to make it look more like the US gunship pilots were deliberately targeting unarmed civilians.

    p.s. agree about the Internet blacklist.

  5. Indeed it sounds as though Assange is engaging in passive-aggressive actions against the West, especially the U.S. After all, releasing information that he didn’t obtain personally still makes him a candidate for espionage. Considering the U.S. is technically in a state of war, Assange is walking a proverbial tight-rope. However I doubt if the U.S. get him and sentence him to life in prison or execution that I doubt he’d be a martyr. Most likely people would too scared to follow in his footsteps and those who visited Wikileaks would clear their caches and pretend they never seen it.

  6. MasterCard was apparently offline for six hours due to a DDOS attack described as payback. MasterCard was told by the state department that wikileaks was illegal so suspended donations. I would have thought that MasterCard shouldn’t have suspended service without first getting a warrant of some form. If the state department can simply declare organisations illegal without due process it is a real worry. Not that a DDOS attack entails any due process either.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1336806/WikiLeaks-cyber-war-MasterCard-PayPal-revenge-pulling-plug.html

  7. I don’t see Assange as left-wing at all.

    In fact in a recent interview he said he’s a supporter of markets and is a borderline libertarian.

    Where he differs to other libertarians is that he believes freedom of information is paramount to the operation of markets and he opposes institutions that aren’t transparent- even if said organisations are voluntary.

    He’s anarchist- sitting somewhere around agorists and other anti-corporate market libertarians.

    I’m sure that ideally he’d leak everything. But as a small organisation with limited time he picks the leaks he feels will have the most punch. The US is the biggest institution in the world, so it makes sense that its military, corporate culture would be a first target.

  8. The election of Obama rooted out the fake anti-war and civil-rights progressives on the left.

    The Wiki-leaks rooted out the fake anti-big-government constitutional adhering conservatives on the right.

    Mr. Assange is a hero to all people who cherish liberty.

  9. I agree with Shem’s evaluation of the subject.

    Assange is pro-free-market and views information and transparency as vital bulwarks against corruption and centralization of power.

    I agree that the rape charges are possibly fabricated and we must remember he’s innocent until proven guilty.

    Wikileaks has done something quite phenomenal; it has clearly shown that the leftist mainstream media (CNN, MSNBC) in the US is nothing more than the advertising wing of the Democratic Party (in the same way that Fox News is the advertising wing of the Republicans). The establishment media are rushing to protect their priveliged position by discrediting Wikileaks. Wikileaks is being a genuinely adversarial media; something that the MSM in the United States is clearly not. I would wager quite heavily that if the Iraq War leaks occurred during Bush’s Presidency, MSNBC and CNN would be falling over themselves to champion Assange as a hero, but since Assange embarrassed Obama, they’re uncritically repeating the State Department’s “these leaks kill Americans” trash.

    The MSM probably have some additional grudge against Wikileaks for leaking Climategate as well.

    Whether these charges of rape are correct or not, Wikileaks (and Assange) have made valuable contributions to liberty. He’s demoralized and further discredited the MSM, the Obama administration, and arguably helped increase general distrust in governments (always a good distrust to foster).

  10. Andrew – that may be true but the wikileaks approach relies on the mainstream media to disseminate. You can not read about the leaks on their website (or any of the 1000 site mirrors).

  11. Terje,

    I agree with you. I’m not denying this. All I am saying is that Wikileaks is showing that the MSM is not being an adversarial check on power, but rather enablers of power (when its the party they like in charge).

    It is at least somewhat possible Wikileaks will force the MSM back into an adversarial mode to regain at least some level of popular legitimacy.

    I agree that the information-dissemination infrastructure of the MSM remains functional.

  12. I tend to agree. The MSM is not very good at critical thinking but quite good at taking sides. It somewhat explains why on policy issues we get a rather binary analysis of options. The MSM moves in herds and originality is rare.

  13. I should add, Terje, that you CAN get Wikileaks’s leaks on their website at http://www.wikileaks.ch

    They have torrents of every single file they’ve ever leaked. They also have the US diplomatic cables viewable on the website itself.

  14. You are a little over-optimistic if you feel that MSM could be forced into even objectivity mode, never mind adversarial mode by anything other than a Republican in the White House.

  15. Terje,

    No problems. May I suggest downloading the torrents for the wikileaks archive (just as a little “I’m Spartacus” measure)?

    Jim Fryar,

    You are absolutely correct that the kind of situation I describe (the MSM becoming more adversarial without a Republican President) is unlikely. I think it is “somewhat possible” but I certainly don’t believe it to be probable.

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