Complete access to information isn’t always a good thing; just ask Valerie Plame.
Many of the same people defending WikiLeak’s latest actions, leaking classified US diplomatic cables, were up in arms during the Plame affair. Which is ironic, when you consider it: wasn’t outing Plame as a CIA agent an example of revealing the truth, regardless of consequence?
“But there was a political motivation for the Plame affair,” some might respond.
Wait: WikiLeaks doesn’t have a political motivation?
For a long time the site’s motivation was clear: leaking documents from totalitarian regimes around the world. Much of the media is failing to mention the fact that the intense focus on America is a very recent change for the site. For most of its history Wikileaks primarily strove to increase transparency in states with little to no press freedom at all. The site had no public face; it just made information public.
That changed in 2010, when Julian Assange become the organization’s talking head, and leaking American documents seemingly became the site’s entire purpose. Frustrated staff are leaving WikiLeaks for this very reason, starting their own site at OpenLeaks.org
All of this and more is documented in a recent in-depth report in Vanity Fair. This is a long read, but one with many revelations.
For example: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange threatened to sue The Guardian should it publish cables leaked to it by a disgruntled Wikileaks staff member. That’s right: WikiLeaks, the organization dedicated to leaking protected information, tried to stop The Guardian from publishing information without its approval.
We can discuss the ironies here all we like, but one thing is for sure: secrets being made public in this manner is, so long as the Internet exists, inevitable.
Is it good? I’m not sure.
Diplomacy is certainly going to be tougher in the months ahead – not a comforting prospect in an era of climate change and Iranian mad men pursing the bomb. But, as Congressman Ron Paul points out, the US probably keeps more secrets than it needs to.
Time will reveal whether WikiLeaks results in a more open world, a less peaceful world or both. The web made these leaks inevitable; humanity decides their impact.