Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Threat of Wikileaks

The thousands of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in recent days make interesting reading. The leak's most damning revelation, and one that is being systematically neglected, however, does not concern American foreign policy. This revelation is not even published on the group's website. No, the most damning revelation, the visceral and universal hatred of political elites for democracy, finds its airing in "respectable" news outlets.

Incoming House Homeland Security Chairman Pete King, himself a prominent supporter of genuine terrorists in Irealand, issued a call to the Secretary of State to designate Wikileaks a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Accusing the Australian national behind Wikileaks of treason against the United States, Sarah Palin called for him to be treated like al-Quadea. Not a surprising comment from an individual who thought Africa was a single country, isn't sure which Korea the U.S is allied with, and couldn't name the signatories of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The former Republican Governor and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee demmanded the execution of the leak's source. Others were even blunter in their blood lust. Tim Flanagan, an adviser to the Canadian government, said he would be pleased if Julian Assange disappeared, and called on President Obama to arrange his murder. Support for the murder of Assange is now a mainstream political opinion in the United States. Perhaps we should review the definition of terrorism.

The harsh reaction is hardly the exclusive province of the political right. The Obama Administration opened a criminal investigation into the group for actions which the Supreme Courts has previously ruled protected by the First Amendment. Australia, which has already confiscated Assange's passport, joined the search for a way to charge Assange. A legally flawed arrest warrant already exists stemming from dubious allegations from Sweden. Understandably, Assange is in hiding. Contrast the international support for arresting Assange with the widespread indignation at attempts to apprehend genuine criminals such as Tzipi Livni or Mahinda Rajapaksa. The priorities of power become clear.

The reaction seems less absurd after considering Wikileaks' impact. As Noam Chomsky has noted, "propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state." Wikileaks dramatically offers the public an insight into the operations of power. The former American Bar Association President, Dean of Harvard Law School, and U.S Solicitor General under Presidents Johnson and Nixon, Erwin Griswold, wrote that "it quickly becomes apparent to any person who has considerable experience with classified material. . .that the principal concern of the classifiers is not with national security, but rather with governmental embarrassment." An informed public endangers power and privilege. Wikileaks is a threat that must be eliminated.

As new details about the U.S establishment's hatred of democracy, its affinity for oppressive regimes, and its complete subordination of human rights to cynical real power objectives, is published for the American public to see, often for the first time, Wikileaks is condemned for endangering lives. There is no tone of irony as an array of officials dutifully issue somber condemnations of Wikileaks for having "blood on its hands." For such a serious threat, it seems odd that the U.S refused to assist the group in scrubbing sensitive details from leaked documents, or that no individuals have been harmed as a result of previous releases.

If the leaks mobilize public opposition to the government's foreign policy or the fear of future embarrassing revelations constrain its capacity to disregard human rights, then Wikileaks will save lives and promote democracy. In 2007, Assange wrote that he "cannot escape the sound of suffering. Perhaps as an old man I will take great comfort in pottering around in a lab and gently talking to students in the summer evening and will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them." So far, the actions of Wikileaks have conformed to those sentiments.


Don Emmerich said...

Very well put.

Nice to see you writing again.

Young Activist said...

Thanks Don. Glad to be back!

Anonymous said...

Interesting and intelligent information... Julian makes me proud to be an Australian.

did you know that Paypal won't allow donations to wikileaks??