04
Dec
10

Wikileaks

I can understand not liking what Wikileaks does, but how exactly is this illegal any more than if a major news outlet publicized the info (which many did)?  It was illegal for the US private who gave the info to Wikileaks to download and share it and the young man who did it (Private Bradley Manning)  is currently awaiting trial on charges of treason. It is not illegal for a private media outlet to publicize it.

It is of far more concern to me, on the ‘burgeoning fascism’ scale, when the government uses its force to control the operations of private American companies like Amazon and PayPal and these private companies agree to capitulate to govt pressure.  Bill Keller of the NYT acknowledged that the govt had ‘advised’ them on which cables should not be made available to the public prior to publication and that the Times took those recommendations to heart.  The govt ‘advised’ them?  Are you kidding me?  In a democracy, the media’s role is to be the watchdog the ensures govt transparency–thus the primary of the FIRST amendment–not to provide marketing consultation for whatever administration is in office. This is the NYT essentially admitting that the fourth estate no longer exists, that independent media take their marching orders from their govt overlords and that the modern American press is simply a PR arm of the US govt.  The founders would be crushed.

Time mag had some pretty good analysis of the ridiculous escalation in the US govt marking everything ‘classified’ or secret.  Much of what was in the cables was already well-known and the cables only confirmed this unspoken common knowledge.  The author rightly points out that the actual problem is secrecy bordering on paranoia and the knee-jerk response of the govt and media (and an illiterate public) that Assange committed treason (he’s not a US citizen and Wikileaks is not based on US soil, so that is not actually even possible).

I agree with several commentators that it’s interesting there is a backlash now. The hideous revelations about troop activities earlier in the year didn’t cause Congress, Amazon and PayPal to punish Wikileaks. The govt had been pre-warned about the current cable leak, yet they didn’t feel the need to pressure PayPal and Amazon to cut off Assange prior to it happening (but are certainly pretending to be outraged now). But with the announcement that the next target is a major US bank, all of the sudden Wikileaks must be cut down at the knees before any information can get out.  Really? Why is it that military incompetence/malfeasance and diplomatic drama are allowed to be leaked, but the potential that a bank’s dirty secrets will be revealed prompts a major effort to destroy this org?  You have to wonder what it is the govt doesn’t want revealed.  Or is it possible that the US govt is now so beholden to private banks they will go to extraordinary efforts to do their bidding?  Thanks to the cowardice of Congress, the Obama administration and companies like Amazon and PayPal’s, we will probably never know.

Again, I am not defending what Wikileaks does. I have no opinion on it one way or the other, but I do know that it is wrong for the US govt to pressure media and private industry to keep govt secrets. That is exactly opposite of the proper role of the media.

Update: Great article in the Atlantic regarding the chilling response of the government to these leaks and the personal attacks on Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange.

 

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