Wikileaks Basics

Our conversation topic this coming Tuesday is certain to provoke some strong opinions. In the last week, in the interest of Junta promotion, I’ve been engaging people on Wikileaks; in each instance, a thoughtful and spirited discussion broke out, exposing many of the thorns around the issue: secrets, privacy, whistleblowing, the military, anarchy, power. There is a lot we can get into, and we will.

There were a few things I noticed in my talks this week, which I wanted to share with everyone before the meeting.

  • Of the 250,000 State Dept cables that Wikileaks possesses, they have published only 2,846 so far. You can check the updates on their site; they are continuing to release cables. Many on television have said WL “dumped” 250K cables on the internet without restraint, and so lots of people believe this to be true, but it is not. More on this here, along with some other falsehoods debunked (e.g., an Australian cannot commit treason against the US government).
  • Some hyperbolic politicians have called for Wikileaks to be shut down, for other companies to stop doing business with WL, for Julian Assange to be hunted down and assassinated by the CIA. These calls for vigilante justice ignore the fact that WL and Assange have likely broken no laws. Their conduct is virtually indistinguishable from what any investigative journalist routinely does: obtain and publish secret documents. Although some disagree.
  • Many have said that WL has “blood on its hands”, having exposed people named in their releases to possible violent retribution. But Robert Gates himself called bullshit on that: “Now I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought … The fact is governments deal with the United States because it is in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets.”
  • Julian Assange may well be a creep and a rapist, but he is not an anarchist. In fact, he’s avowedly not even anti-war. Watch David Frost interview him and hear him talk about his philosophy. It may surprise you to hear that he believes in the principle of secrecy. 60 Minutes will be interviewing him tomorrow (Sunday) night.
  • Some people are crediting WL releases with sparking the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts now taking place. In his TED interview, Assange talks about WL involvement in a Kenyan election of several years ago.
  • While Assange is out on bail, giving interviews and writing a book, the accused leaker, Bradley Manning, is sitting in the Marine brig in Quantico, VA, in solitary confinement and on “prevention of injury” watch (which severely limits his movements and privacy and may be a form of torture, given that it has persisted for 7 months.)

Join the Junta discussion Tuesday, February 1st at 8:30pm at DOC Wine Bar in Williamsburg. (A cash-only joint, FYI).

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