02 December 2010

Wikileaks: friend or foe?

I'm fascinated by the latest controversy brewing over Wikileaks, this time regarding classified diplomatic cables that show embarrassing diplomatic behavior of many countries, including the United States. Wikileaks has previously released damning footage of U.S. behavior in Iraq, and numerous other documents from all over the world displaying all kinds of corruption and human rights atrocities at the highest level of government.

There's a natural reaction to the leakage of classified information, which is that there's a reason some information is classified. There are legitimate secrets needed to ensure the safety of military and government personnel. But if Wikileaks has shown us anything, it's that a great deal of time and money is spent by governments all over the world to keep secrets not because they're necessary to ensure anyone's safety, but because no one likes being exposed as corrupt. The predictable reaction of most governments is to condemn Wikipedia – unless of course it's exposing unethical behavior in a government they don't like.

I've examined these issues to the best of my ability, and my thought, at least provisionally, is that Wikileaks is doing a great humanitarian service. It's one that must be tread with the utmost caution in order to protect legitimate secrets, but I think there's no denying that power corrupts, and we need organizations like Wikileaks to expose unethical behavior of our world's leaders. The following interview with founder Julian Assange did a fair bit to persuade me, though of course you ought to make up your own mind.

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