In the center of this storm is the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, who is now getting the top vote for being the Man of the Year in Times. Like most regular folks, I don’t know this man until recent days of news bombarded by his whereabouts, his surrender to British Police for his alleged crime of rape charged by the Swedish government. The whole saga is still unfolding. The world is staying tune for his fate in the coming months. I guess I’m gonna keep track of his news in due course.
Well, the whole Wikileaks saga will certainly be written in books in future. Assange is though reported to be the founder of Wikileaks, I think that he has become the figurehead of a greater technological movement (revolution?) that is due to happen no matter what.
Back in the old days, secrets of government were kept in physical hardcopy which could be secured by locks and bolts. Those information would not be disclosed until the government deems suitable, if ever. Like in the U.S., government records can’t be openly access by the public until 30 years later from the occurrence of the incidents, the content of many of them would still be scratched with black inks. For other governments, that may never open at all. I can understand that for some non-democratic governments as they sought power through various dirty means. While they were in power, they abused their powers and did many bad things to their people. Granting access to those government secrets simply invites investigation, compensation, and punishment of the wrongdoers, and many of them are probably still in power and have significant influence behind the scene. Thus, in order to get access to those secrets, you would need thieves, spies, and probably insiders. Also, obtaining the information is one thing; subsequent transportation, storage, and distribution were also substantial tasks themselves.
Fast forward to these days and age, internet changes everything. Web 2.0 and the upcoming 3.0 level the playing fields for all cyber netizens to be involved. Government secrets are kept in digital form and the cyber-security development is still the cat chasing the mice. Hacking technology is widely spread. On top of the reality that governments are still conducting activities that they want to keep from the public. The whole Wikileaks saga is destined to happen soon or later.
The disclosure of government records itself is not a bad thing. It holds the government to be accountable for its activities. We all know that lying and disguise are part of human nature, that applies to governments as well. Nobody would like their disguise being pull down to show what is hidden behind. However, as governments are getting more and more powerful, it would be hard for them to voluntarily tell people what they have been doing unless they are under pressure to do so. Technology is certainly a timely and effective tool to do just that. I would not defend any person in particular, Julian Assange in this case. But, the cause of disclosing government activities itself should be supported on the basis that governments should be accountable for its activities since they would directly affect the people who are being governed.
There were saying that some of the disclosures with names attached would put some ‘spies’ in personal threat and disclosures of some military activities would put troops in danger. Well, I’m not sure that would necessary be true. Since those who so-called would be threatened are under the strong protection of governments. Whereas, Wikileaks and its informants in this case are more likely to be threatened for real. Just read the news that Julian Assange has been charged by some ‘alleged’ sex ‘crimes’ which sounds to be more being ‘fabricated’ than for real. Also, Wikileaks’ technical and financial supports have been blocked, and the image of this organization is being attacked by some politicians and mainstream media. You can see how the whole international government and financial structure is trying to squeeze this tiny organization to death. Yes, there are some ‘anonymous’ hackers are carrying out counter cyberattacks on sites of Sweden Government, PayPal, Visa and MasterCard, etc. I don’t think they would do much real damage to those powerful entities. The biggest arsenal on Wikileaks’ side is the not-yet-disclosed documents that they still have on hand, in which contain what more explosive secrets. Nevertheless, I really doubt how much actual realistic damage such so-called ‘Information nuke’ can really do.
There is one thing that I really want to raise that I consider to be the most important but there seems to be missing in the news. i.e. what are the follow-up actions or repercussion of the disclosure so far to those who have been reported with wrongful activities? For example, Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of States was reported to instruct staff of embassies to collect personal information and even DNA from diplomats in various countries and organization. It was reportedly against the law or something. But, I’ve not heard that anyone has raised any investigation or file any charges to her. How about the U.S. military’s assaults to civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq? Same thing is happening. Namely, nothing happens!
I would say that down the road when we will look back the whole saga. It will be concluded as: Truth was told, shame was casted on the wrongdoers (if they ever care), history recorded these activities in open records, some moral lessons can be taught, but justice wasn’t served.