WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gave us a face that we could assign to the heated and conflicted opinions of millions of Americans. It’s been eye-opening to watch our country react to this on thousands of conversation threads in blogs, on Twitter/Facebook, and news forums. I’ve witnessed heated WikiLeaks discussions in airports, coffee shops, corporate office environments and grocery stores. No matter how you feel about it, in support of or against it, neither side appears to be fully comfortable with the fact that our country’s leadership, military and other key decision makers got caught with its pants down.
I too am conflicted on this.
I have a fairly idealistic side to me that believes in the right to know and the freedom of information. I was born and raised here. I pay taxes and I vote. I’m a natural skeptic of the media. I’m skeptical about the corporate and government influence behind all the dog and pony show maneuvers by several news agencies. I’m aware of the marketing teams set up to create all the logos, graphics and breaking story creative assets we see bum rushing our computers, high-def television sets, and smartphones – all meant to sway us into an emotional tizzy hoping that we latch some emotion onto them so we buy stuff. My default nature is to always wonder, “What the hell is REALLY going on here?” I’d even say my toes are within a few feet of the cliff that leads to the endless abyss of conspiracy theorists. Common sense and my acceptance of the things I cannot control or change are what stop me from going all the way (thank goodness). I want to know what types of discussions were being had about other nations on our behalf and how those may have influenced strategic alliances for the good, bad or otherwise. My American brothers and sisters are put in harms way every day in other countries for reasons that most of us will never know about in this lifetime. Sometimes it’s warranted. Sometimes it’s fucked up and wrong.
On the same token, I am also the son of a former United States Marine. I have not only the utmost respect for our military, but a huge concern for their safety on a regular basis. The trauma they experience, the courage they muster in the face of an adversity that was thrown in their faces by our own country’s leaders, is truly phenomenal. The selflessness of American military knows no bounds. I do worry that the content of the contained in the 250,000+ cables that were released on November 28th of this year, could put our troops in more unnecessary danger as a result of stupid/childish out of context statements made by government officials.
My other issue with it is that we have security clearance levels and background checks for a reason. Sometimes there are things, conversations, plans, military campaigns (where we rescue hostages, etc.) that do less harm to the general population when they’re kept confidential. If that type of info gets out to the general online public (i.e. the entire planet), those fundamentalist neanderthals that oppose the west and it’s way of life will know how we do things. They’ll figure out how we think. If they don’t use that to jeopardize the safety of our own soil, they’ll attack any American presence abroad with extreme prejudice.
A quick note to the hacker that posted the cables
The one thing I do not support is these docs being obtained illegally. For the same reason I can’t stand a bunch of angry hippies throwing rocks at the windows of businesses in their own home towns to protest the war, to me, theft does not make those of us non-hackers with open minds respect you. You don’t get the award for “pulling it off”. You aren’t an American hero. You broke the law. You aren’t a whistle-blower. You are a thief. Just because you can find something others can’t, it doesn’t mean you should publish it.
NOTE: I know there are many hackers that use their skills for good. I’m friends with a few. I’m not talking about them.
The balance between international security and the freedom of information is a complex one. I don’t know how I feel about all of it yet to be honest. What do you think? Does the government need to get it’s technological shit together better so this doesn’t happen again? Do you think the world is a better place having access to the kind of info in the latest release of those cables or not? Time will tell.