Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Leaks - Good or Bad?

I had to stay home with a bad sore throat today, which was a bummer because I missed a bunch of marine biology student presentations at work, as well as big wind for a windsurfing lunch-break I had planned. It turned out to be ok, though, because I got to lay back on the futon and watch a cool Netflix movie that had been sitting on my breakfast table for a month. The movie was a documentary called "The Most Dangerous Man in America, Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers". I didn't know exactly what it was about until I started watching, but I soon realized that even though it described a 40 year old event, it was apropos to the current fuss about WikiLeaks. Check out the trailer...

Did you catch what Nixon said?

"I think it's time in this country to quit making national heroes of those who steal secrets and publish them in the newspaper."

Ellsberg's outing of the "secrets" Nixon was talking about revealed how presidential lies had mislead the US into the awful Vietnam War. Along with the later Watergate Scandal, they contributed to Nixon's ouster and to the long-overdue US withdrawal from Vietnam. Who knows how much longer the war would have dragged on, and how many more millions of Vietnamese and thousands of US soldiers would have died if Ellsberg's leak hadn't exposed the false pretenses and un-winable nature of the Vietnam War. That was a case where the whistleblower was in the right, and the government was definitely in the wrong.

Now check out this quote:

"Some may mistakenly applaud those responsible [for the leak], so I want to set the record straight. There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing great about sabotaging the peaceful relations between nations on which our common security depends."

That was Hillary Clinton, responding to Julian Assange's recent "WikiLeak" release of a bunch of secret correspondence among US diplomats, which revealed, well, nothing new, really, unless you thought that world leaders WEREN'T a bunch of egotistical, conniving sleazoids.

(As an aside, it's interesting that this WikiLeak has garnered much more media attention and government condemnation than the Afghanistan and Iraq "War Log" WikiLeaks earlier this year. The war log leaks showed that the Iraq and Afghanistan operations are horrible, bloody, hopeless grinds, which are accomplishing little in the way of improving those countries, and even less in the way of making the world safer from terrorist attack. But folks don't seem to care about that news nearly as much as they care about the gossipy "she said WHAT about WHO?" world-leader trash talk in the latest release. Sigh.)

Anyway, I think the important question is, who is in the right this time around - the secret makers or the secret leakers? I won't say much about whether Julian Assange himself is a hero, a lout or a terrorist, except that I don't think he's a terrorist. He has some date rape allegations pending from this summer in Sweden, so he might be a lout. Then again, the alleged date rape incidents occurred right after Assange had made himself hated by the most powerful governments and spy-agencies on earth, so he could easily have been the target of a professional frame-up. So I think we need to reserve judgement on the personality of the man for now and focus on the rightness or wrongness of the leaks, starting with Clinton's main arguments against leaking the secrets:

Have the leaked secrets really put diplomats, spies, and other "innocent people" in mortal peril? I doubt it, because WikiLeaks and the news companies like the New York Times that have the secret files are careful about erasing the names of individuals who might be endangered before they release anything. As far as I know, no individual has been outed and done harm through any of these leaks, including the old Pentagon Papers.

Have the leaks really been harmful to the cause of world peace and social justice? I doubt that, too. You can't oppose war and injustice if the war and injustice are kept secret by the government.

Eh, that's about all I have to say now, but I'll definitely be watching this closely to see how it develops.


TonyWind said...

I wouldn't call Assange a leaker; the alleged leaker is Bradley Manning (and possible accomplices). He seems to have received less mediatic attention.....well, let's put it differently, Sarah Palin hasn't mentioned him yet..

Frank said...

heh James, I am about to order a GoPro camera and could not decide which mounting system to get. Do you use the surfer one?
Am not sure about leaks. Which politicly correct had never come about. Just say what you think. I loved Nixon for ending the draft and saving me from the military.

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