Why we need WikiLeaks (The NQL version)

The media has been buzzing lately with talk of WikiLeaks and it’s founder, Julian Assange. While the website has been mentioned by the media before with previous releases, it hasn’t been until the recent “Cablegate” leak that they’ve really seen any major attention. With this current leak, they’ve published roughly 500 US diplomatic cables so far, although they have plans to publish many more.

The media jumped on the story immediately — not reported what was actually in the cables, of course, but instead choosing to focus on a very different question: Is Julian Assange a terrorist?

Sound bites have been played on most of the major networks from various personalities. Some quotes focus around Assange being captured, assassinated or otherwise killed.

Yet very few seem to be focusing on the wires themselves. What do they contain? For starters:

Here’s a story about one that reveals the US was behind an airstrike that killed 21 children in Yemen.

Secret deal let Americans sidestep cluster bomb ban (specifically, on British soil)

“…the Saudis always want to ‘fight the Iranians to the last American…'”

Ambassador reports Sri Lanken President responsible for ‘alleged war crimes'”

…and this is just from me quickly browsing them (basically, surfing their facebook page — not even going to the direct site and sifting through them myself, one by one). Considering an extremely limited amount has been shared with us so far, I’d say that this is pretty significant news, especially to US citizens. Yet most of the “sources” I find regarding the leaks are outside of the border.

Shouldn’t things like an air strike that killed civilians be major news? Shouldn’t the way our diplomats over seas do their job be news?

Instead, we are being “asked” if WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization.

I wonder of the people that say “yes” would’ve said the same about the New York Times? Or if they would’ve considered Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo criminals?

It’s impossible not to draw a comparison between the Pentagon Papers and this leak. While the situations are different, both seemed to highlight government secrets, especially ones that were damning to those with something to lose. The Pentagon Papers pointed out civilian tragedies that were unknown to the American people, along with government dealings that were previously unknown. Cablegate does the same thing — though most of the papers do not directly contain information related to the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.

As anyone who has taken a class in journalism knows, the Supreme Court stood up for Ellsberg, stating that the freedom of the press trumps the secrecy of information when it is relevant. Does the information leaked here not have the same relevance? How about information leaked by WikiLeaks in the past, such as the infamous “collateral murder” video?

We need WikiLeaks because the government sometimes needs a watchdog. I understand the need for secrecy within the military and the government. Lives can be put at risk by some information. In WikiLeaks’ case, though, the information is not threatening lives. I honestly question if it is harming our diplomatic standing in the world. I doubt any other governments thought Americans looked up to them, and I certainly don’t think they expected any of it to be secret.

As citizens, we need to be informed of what is going on within our country. The sort of discourse that has sprung up from these documents certainly makes me wonder. I can’t honestly say that we would have gone to Iraq if an organization like WikiLeaks let loose that the CIA thought Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.

The fact is, quite simply, that information has the ability to make us more informed about the world around us. I would much rather live in a world of free data than one that is suffocated and censored. WikiLeaks is simply a publisher. A tool for the world to better understand itself.

Relevant links:

http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/

Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks

Oslo Freedom Forum: Julian Assange speaks

Note: I just sort of wanted to get my opinion out there. I’ll probably add to this soon.

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