Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Julian Assange And That WikiLeaks Leak
Lately, the news has been awash with the story of the Swedish Website, Wiki leaks, which is run by an Australian web hacker named Julian Assange, that has published hundreds of classified United States Intelligence documents. Reactions have been as diverse as they have been many, and I have heard and read them all from the laiser fair - those who think it doesn't matter, to the extreme - those who believe that the perpetrators should face the firing squad.
I have even seen the confused - those who don't know the difference between Mr. Assange and Osama Bin Laden and believe that America should invade Sweden in order to take out the terrorist. In all, it has been a very interesting week of great confusion largely stemming from the novelty of this crime (if I can call it that) committed against the country. People don't quite know what to make of it because this is the first of its kind. Therefore, nobody seems to know under what criminal group to classify Mr. Assange, or what group to classify his crime. Is he a spy or a terrorist? Is his crime treason or is it terrorism against the United States?
And nobody seems to know, which is why you hear all of these references when Mr. Assange and Wiki leaks are being spoken about. Sarah Palin referred to Mr. Assange's crime as a treasonous offense in her tweet, the other day, where she also blamed the Obama administration for failing to stop the leak. Other politicians have called for the arrest and extradition, to the United States, of the Wiki leaks founder to face justice for the commission of this crime.
Even political pundits and news anchors on television don't seem to fully understand what this leak is all about and what risks, if any, it poses to the government of the United States. Many of them fall in the group of people who see no harm, whatsoever, that this leak can cause the country and are actually applauding Wiki leaks for "bringing the truth to the people." I have seen some question the Secretary of State who said that "leaks like this can tear at the fabrics of responsible government."
The truth about this leak is that while Mr. Assange can't have committed treason for the simple fact that he's not a United States citizen, that does not, in anyway, ameliorate the seriousness of his crime against this country and its people. Like Senator Clinton said, this crime can really cause great destruction to a government if it continues unchecked. It's true that the documents that have been leaked, so far, contain nothing that is very harmful to the country but that doesn't mean that the country is home and dry unscathed.
Yes, the leak has not done any physical damage but it has harmed relationships that has been built over the years with blood, sweat and financial resources. The documents in this leak contain trivial stuff like Gaddafi's mistress and a jibe at the French President but that's not the issue. The issue is the crisis of trust that this has brought between us and our allies. How can our allies continue to have faith in our ability to keep our secret discussions secret?
Now, we have our friends and allies wondering what will be the next things to be leaked as we have proved that we are incapable of keeping secrets.That is definitely not how to maintain the trust of others, or earn it. The people who believe that the leaks don't matter say that citizens deserve to know everything their government is doing on their behalf. They, therefore, believe that leaks like this should come more often and some are already calling Mr. Assange a hero.
This, to me, is the most naive of all the positions I've seen taken on this issue. It is bothering on stupidity to think that it's safe to put everything the government does out in the public domain, especially in this day and age. We might as well have our enemies send a representative and put them in the room every time we are formulating a new policy on how to check mate them. That will be better because the representative will not have to take the minutes of such a meeting back and they will have to depend on what he can imbibe during the meeting, unlike this leak which has the ability to give them facts to keep and consult forever, if they want.
A government is like an individual, and every individual has secrets. You have secrets because you are in competition, at all times, with other people for everything, be they jobs, promotion, top spot on the stock market, you name it. You don't want others to know what hand you'll play next because if they knew, they might beat you to that job or promotion, or get on the market and spoil the opportunity. Governments are like that, too, and we don't want North Korea to know what we are planning for their nuclear reactors, nor do we want Iran to know. Therefore, it's simply stupid to say governments shouldn't have secrets just like it is to say individuals shouldn't have secrets.
While I don't subscribe to the extreme beliefs of those calling for Mr. Assange's execution, I believe that he has committed a grievous crime against this country and its people and should be brought to justice. That is why I support the stance of the Obama administration when it says it will find any possible legal means to bring him to justice. What Wiki leaks is trying to establish is a very dangerous precedent and that should not be allowed to happen. This thing, if it is left unchecked, has the potential to be more damaging to this country than Al Qaeda could ever be. It has to be stopped.