December 1, 2010


The recent release of U.S. (diplomatic) information on WikiLeaks caused quite a stir. The U.S. immediately went on the diplomatic offensive, warning friends (and sometimes foes) that classified information was about to be released and that some things weren't that pretty. The information contained mostly diplomatic email traffic and assessments of foreign leaders but I don't know if many people have realized this, the information itself is not top secret. It is rated below that. Most of the information is rated confidential and a small portion is labeled secret. Basically what this means is that the real juicy stuff hasn't been released yet.

The assessments of foreign leaders are quite hilarious actually, especially since embassy staff made those comments. Putin and Medvedev are described as Batman and Robin, Berlusconi is said to be vain and ineffective and "Teflon" Merkel is said to be risk avoiding and uncreative. Not very flattering such comments. What's more troublesome are other tidbits of information. King Abdullah suggested the U.S. should attack Iran and that Guantanamo detainees about to be released should be electronically chipped and put on surveillance. Then there's the directive by the U.S. State Department ordering diplomats to spy on UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

Now, I know that the act of releasing classified information itself is fiercely debated. Lots of government officials say that by releasing sensitive information people's lives are put at risk. This is not however an introspective way of looking at matters. Spying on foreign leaders and collecting classified information is already part of an 'action - reaction' situation. In other words, you make a move and you can bet the other party will make a move as well. Secrecy is an invitation for trouble. That's partly how I see it. While I don't want to see anyone getting killed, playing the spy game will already make that a possibility. I'm for releasing classified information. The primary reason for that is that it shows the truth. It shows how corrupt and calculating governments really are.

It's painfully obvious that patience with WikiLeaks has run out and that they have been targeted in many ways. An hour prior to the planned release of the initial documents there was a massive distributed denial-of-service attack on the websites servers, but that didn't stop the information already leaked out to newspapers. You can wonder who instigated the cyber attack in the first place. Julian Assange, the spokesperson and editor-in-chief for WikiLeaks, has an arrest warrant out in Sweden for suspicion of rape and sexual harassment. Interpol issued a 'red notice' against Assange, meaning they are looking for him and can arrest and extradite him. Which in itself is strange since Assange is formally wanted as a witness and for questioning, he's not officially charged yet.

I presume most people can see the witch hunt underway right now. Governments are going to clamp down on websites like WikiLeaks because it exposes them. They'll do it anyway possible depending on the severity of the leaks. This is the democracy you live in. As a citizen, when you're pulled over by the cops, you'll often get the request to show your bags and open the trunk - because you got nothing to hide, right? The same thing doesn't seem to work for those in power. Realizations such as this one will hopefully make a person aware that there is still much to be improved in our world.

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