This week we are focusing on the organisation WikiLeaks. Firstly, what is WikiLeaks? It’s an international non-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks and whistleblowers (Wikipedia 2011). They claim their main objective is to expose oppressive regimes Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but they also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations.
This week the debating question for our group regarding WikiLeaks is:
WikiLeaks gives power to the people.
The main argument for WikiLeaks is that it provides a voice for the people, allowing citizens to have access to information they have the right to see. What could be wrong about exposing oppressive governments and regimes?
People think it’s their right to see the information that governments and corporations have hidden from the public. If there wasn’t anything wrong with the classified information, then why would it be hidden? WikiLeaks is only exposing what these corrupt organisations don’t want the public to see, but as a democracy, we have a right to do so, and this is what WikiLeaks is achieving. It allows us to see extra information that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen, allowing us to form our own opinions on certain matters, which definitely gives power to the people.
On the other hand, there have been cases where it’s putting lives in danger by releasing certain information. Perhaps these governments and corporations have a legitimate reason for hiding certain documents from everyone else. For example, WikiLeaks put American troops in danger (Muhammad 2010) .
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that since WikiLeaks began to publish these diplomatic reports, they are harmful to American troops stationed on four continents, as they exposed vital American positions (Muhammad 2010) .
In the opinion of American officials, this publication is equivalent to arming terrorists. In order to demonstrate what these positions may be, American officials say the cables that were published include ongoing negotiations throughout the world, communications with countries in Europe regarding the establishment of new American military bases, recruitment of spies to chase al-Qaeda, current action against Iran and the position on Iraq, as summed up by more than 400,000 documents, as well as around 70,000 documents about Afghanistan (Muhammad 2010) . The image below shows how many cables WikiLeaks has leaked recently:
WikiLeaks is a danger to global peace and threatens American lives all over Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world. This is in no way, giving power to the people. (Here is a video below regarding WikiLeaks and their publishing of certain documents about the war in Afghanistan:
WikiLeaks also damages U.S. relations with friends and allies across the globe. In 2010, WikilLeaks released sensitive U.S. diplomatic files that the Obama administration said could damage U.S. relations with friends and allies. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests”. “They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world” (Washington 2010)
The release of confidential communications about foreign governments will probably erode trust in the United States as a diplomatic partner and could cause embarrassment if the files include derogatory or critical comments about friendly foreign leaders.
“When this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television or radio, it has an impact,” Crowley said (Washington 2010).
When WikiLeaks started to publish classified documents of detailed correspondence between the U.S. State Department and its diplomatic missions around the world, there were mixed reactions. Some western government officials expressed strong disapproval and criticism, and condemned WikiLeaks for potentially jeopardizing international relations and global security. The leak also created interest from the public, journalists, and media analysts. WikiLeaks received support from some commentators who questioned the necessity of government secrecy in a democracy that serves the interests of its people (Wikipedia 2011).
The question has to be asked why certain information is classified. Is it because governments and corporations want this information to be buried and hidden because something illegal or unethical has been committed? Or is it to keep citizens safe and not jeopardise citizens’ safety?
Muhammad, A.,13 Dec. 2010, “WikiLeaks and Its Negative Effects on America’s Role”, Watching America, http://watchingamerica.com/News/82422/wikileaks-and-its-negative-effects-on-americas-role/
Washington, Nov. 24 2010, “U.S. Warns of Likely Harm from WikiLeaks Release”, CBS News, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/24/national/main7086416.shtml?tag=mncol;lst;1
Wikipedia 2011, Wikileaks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiLeaks
Wikipedia 2011, United States diplomatic cables leak, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_diplomatic_cables_leak