For anyone not following the story, Wikileaks has begun to publish more than 250,000 secret State Department documents on its website, in one of the largest leaks of classified information in history. Previous to their release, the documents were shown to the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel and several weeks ago, they were also shown to the US government who were given opportunity to help edit and comment. The US government declined, and the White House responded, “To be clear — such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.”
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, commented on this refusal in a letter to the State Department “I understand that the United States government would prefer not to have the information that will be published in the public domain and is not in favor of openness…that said, either there is a risk or there is not…you have chosen to respond in a manner which leads me to conclude that the supposed risks are entirely fanciful and you are instead concerned to suppress evidence of human rights abuse and other criminal behavior.”
In publishing the documents, The New York Times wrote, “The question of dealing with classified information is rarely easy, and never to be taken lightly. Editors try to balance the value of the material to public understanding against potential dangers to the national interest…The Times has taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security. The Times’s redactions were shared with other news organizations and communicated to WikiLeaks, in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents they planned to post online.”
So, what do the documents say?
A number of things, but to explore this would not be what is most on my mind this morning, so feel free to check it out yourself:
What is on my mind this morning is the US governments desire to have things both ways, oftentimes at the expense of its citizens in the name of “National Security,” and how Wikileaks release of the cables effectively does what an American citizen is unable to do, shine a light on a government that seems to no longer feel it is accountable for its actions.
Since 9-11, government abuse of privacy and civil rights in our country has sped up to an alarming degree. Illegal wiretapping, infiltration and monitoring of activist groups including the prior arrests of citizens in New York and Denver before national political conventions, the government monitors the internet, shuts down websites without court order…etc, all in the name of business and National Security. We have our citizens being spied on, inadvertently put on no-fly lists, intrusively screened and patted down at airports, being told they can’t get within shouting distance of politicians and in many other ways restricted, all with little to no recourse at all.
Wars are begun in Afghanistan and Iraq. People are illegally extradited. Large financial institutions are bailed out with our money while the same financial institutions illegally foreclose on our homes, in process making even more money while the government does nothing to stop it. In the Gulf of Mexico there is an alarming and growing health crisis as a result of chemical poisoning from the BP oil spill and the government simply pretends it isn’t happening. Katrina killed well over a thousand people and though everyone knew the levees had been suspect for years, the government did nothing about it and seemingly even less when they broke. We now have torture in this country, we are lied to every day and encouraged to feel afraid by politicians who dismissively speak the phrase, “It’s a new world,” and then justify all by telling us “we don’t understand the real dangers,” all while a complicit media agrees to being embedded with troops, accompanied by the National Guard in New Orleans, and in the Gulf told to get on board or get out.
And we as citizens have no recourse.
The Freedom of Information Act has been gutted, thus enabling the government to be even more secretive as to what it is doing, leaving any concerned American citizen in the dark, and time and time again we are told the same thing:
Its about our safety.
Its about National Security.
All of these arguments hold the same water these days as a parent telling a child to do or not do something, simply because the parent “told you so.” The American government has become so accustomed to manageable reaction, they now engage freely in these acts of lazy parenting where we are told our patriotic duty is not to question, but instead go shopping.
So Wikileaks comes along and does what none of us has been able to do, they shine a flashlight on the whole damn thing by exposing our unvarnished foreign policy goals, our comments about various leaders, our diplomats unfiltered opinions about the actions of our government, their successes, their failures and their embarrassments.
Already various members of Congress are calling for Wikileaks to be declared a terrorist operation as a result of this release because it is, of course, harmful to National Security.
Well, as an ignorant child, I would guess it is not my place to speculate but should I get too upset and decide to throw a tantrum in the aisles of Wal-Mart, I might so respond to these same politicians how they should hope no inside staffer gets a bug far enough up his ass that they go after their secrets and expose them to the country, because as a Guardian columnist writes about the Embassy Cable release: “Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing’s snake-oil salesmen claim. No organization can treat digitized communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.”
And I’d also like to think, like any child growing up, eventually “because I said so,” will finally stop working and the parent must at last begin to explain their reasoning to every American citizen.
Have a nice day.