Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thoughts on WikiLeaks

I have a few scattered thoughts, in no particular order. Unlike several other topics, I don't really have a clear-cut right/wrong opinion on the organization or what they are trying to do, so anecdotal observations will have to suffice.

Observation, the first: if the US is really so concerned about the information being leaked, why don't they use their new-found (or maybe just newly abused) power to take down the entire domain? I mean, if piracy of music is justification for taking down internet sites, than espionage and exposure of classified material would be grounds for nuking WikiLeaks' ISP from orbit, much less obliterating their DNS entries, right? I mean, if you're gonna be wielding the gigantic censorship stick anyway, and clubbing anyone who your donors are upset with, you might as well just fix the problem you spend so much time complaining about too...

Observation, the second: An acquaintance from school, Patri Freidman, re-tweeted a brilliant observation: as the government keeps telling us, if you have nothing to hide, than you have nothing to worry about. I realize this is not necessarily directly applicable to foreign relations (at least as people perceive them), but the sentiment is spot on: it's utter BS when the government uses it as an excuse to violate people's privacy, and it's immensely gratifying to see the government squirm when the situation is reversed. Particularly in light of the recent expansions of the TSA, both in aggressive violation of the 4th Amendment and in desired scope of control, it seems utterly fitting that the government be subject to metaphorically identical examination.

Observation, the third: the founder of WikiLeaks has a very valid point, that the government hides an immense amount of information behind secrecy laws, and not always because the information is actually secret for legitimate national security reasons. There is no other check/balance for this potential for abuse, and as such WikiLeaks (and to a less direct extent, the internet in general) provide a valuable public service. Until or unless we have some other sort of effective check against abuse, WikiLeaks serves a valuable public service (at least as much as, say for example, NPR).

Observation, the forth: WikiLeaks appears to be practicing responsible disclosure, as far as I can tell (within the bounds of what they are choosing to release). They asked the State Department to provide information on sensitive areas or security concerns, and they redacted information which could compromise people. Sure, there still exists the possibility of people getting seriously hurt as a result, and there will be lots of embarrassment, but there's also a chance people could have more open discussions about real threats in the world (such as Iran) as a result of the disclosures, so on balance it might not be negative. In a perfect world it might also lead to more action to stop the real threats too, instead of just debating them in secret, and maybe more privacy for the people as the government gets a taste of what they do to people every day. In the real world, the government has a long and virtually unblemished history of concealing corruption and abuse of freedom behind secrecy, and to the extent that people can peel away the coverings and expose the disgusting mess to the light of day, the better off we the people will probably be.

Those are my random observations, at least for now.

1 comment:

  1. I agree completely.

    Unfortunately, opposition to your points is one of the few things both political parties agree on.