Here’s a good background on Wikileaks by NPR. It covers the release of the Collateral Murder video and the history of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The story also ponders the future leak featuring some 140 Afghan civilians (many women and children) being killed by American troops. Look for this video within about the next month.
Wikileaks efforts to make information available to the public that would be secret otherwise. The intent is to provide a transparency regarding damning information that corporations and governments would prefer you did not see. The rationale for this appears that this information being available acts as a deterrent for such bad behavior. This makes enough sense to me. What do you think?
Assange admitted that Wikileaks may very well end up with “blood on its hands” for releasing sensitive information. He seems content with releasing classified military and intelligence data. So, collateral murder during war is certainly unacceptable, but collateral murder for the sake of serving his own political ideology is okay? This doesn’t make much sense to me. It seems Assange will stop at nothing to protest censorship and cares little about actually deterring bad behavior.
Free flow of information sounds good on the surface. ”Collateral Murder” and the upcoming video should be available for public scrutiny, and their releases should shake up the military and prevent such activity from repeating. However, a point was made during the broadcast that Wikileaks is providing biased, not free, information. Just titling the video “Collateral Murder” limits the freedom of the public to decide for themselves (though I’m not arguing that there’s any acceptable excuse in that instance).
Also, Wikileaks only provides piecemeal information (though perhaps that’s all they have available). Leaking information without context can cause the public to jump to dangerous conclusions. Wikileaks was responsible for the “Climategate” email scandal. What could have possibly been their intent, in an environment that is already distrustful of science? To teach embattled scientists a lesson? Though the emails showed nothing to dispute anthropogenic climate change, and the scientists were cleared of any wrongdoing, the damage has already been done. When transparency sets us so far back, it becomes tough to recognize this as a noble cause.
I think Assange has two passions within Wikileaks. One (1) is to prevent (any?) censorship at (almost?) any cost and the second (2) is to prevent injustice. Sometimes, the two overlap. Other times, they do not. I’m under the impression that they overlap when it counts.
(1) With regard to blanket release of information, perhaps Wikileaks goes too far. Wikileaks released a free copy of “It’s Our Turn to Eat” on Kenyan corruption, which was written by investigative author Michela Wrong. This hurt the author’s ability to make money and produce more research. To Wikileaks’ credit, it did take the book offline (so there’s some kind of check there somewhere).
Releasing the “Climategate” e-mails in itself wasn’t damning if there was no damning information to begin with. If anything, I see that as saying to the world that if there’s something there, then find it. If not, then there ya go.
I haven’t seen any genuine national security issues come up. You’re right that Assange did mention the possibility of getting blood on his hands. It seems that blood may be a necessary cost in releasing some information. There may be a greater harm that would arrise had that information not been made available. I do not know if Wikileaks would release information on say where some president or leader would be vulnerable.
(2) I think Assange really does want to prevent injustice and that he does want to deter bad behavior. That’s why the man behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, openly respects Assange so deeply. For instance, with the Collateral Murder video Assange built up the tension before releasing it. He did this to give it maximum impact.
And yes, Assange framed the Collateral Murder video as murder. And it was annotated. But he must provide some kind of interpretation of the video. He tried just releasing documents and information without framing it, and it didn’t work. Press didn’t pick it up and neither did bloggers. Wikileaks has piles of information available that is just waiting to be picked up. Yet, it goes largely untouched.
Regarding the name of the recent video, it fit because because it clearly was murder. And the title was part a tactic to get the video more attention. Interestingly, persuasion is more effective when we don’t perceive that there’s an attempt to persuade us. So maybe Wikileaks would be more persuasive if it wasn’t as obvious. But then, maybe it wouldn’t get the same audience/impact (The Collateral Murder video has over seven million views not counting copy-cat uploads.)
The reply and comments are here: Caramel Baloney: NPR on Wikileaks