Wikileaks Will Hurt Transparency

by Joshua Foust on 12/5/2010 · 8 comments

Considering the discussion we’ve had this week over what the importance of Wikileaks really is, it’s also worth considering what its effects will be. I wrote about it this week for PBS:

The natural reaction to theft is paranoia about security. If a thief breaks into your home because you left a window unlocked, it is natural to become paranoid about locking every single entrance to your home as a result. In a very real way, Wikileaks has participated in the theft of classified data. As a result, we can expect the U.S. government to respond by increasing the security around its data, regardless of classification.

And so on. Comment away.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Schwartz December 6, 2010 at 6:59 am

That was certainly the opinion of several academics with whom I spoke back in July/August when the Afghan War Logs was released. Without a real shift in how we conceptualize the governing and governed, the more intense the cat-and-mouse game over transparency becomes, the more destructive it will also become.

My God, have you seen the cable that lists EVERY site that the US considers important for its national security? As much as I appreciate a great deal of WikiLeaks’ work, I just cannot fathom what positive effect they think this leak will have.

joey December 6, 2010 at 9:18 am

If you read Assange you would understand that his ambition is to make the government more secretive, this he believes will make them less effective, they will collapse under the weight of there security. The end game being the rise of a new more transparent system.
In this he should be viewed as a revolutionary of the information age.
Saying Assange is about making the Government more transparent, is like saying communists want to reform capitalism.
John Robb said one day an individual will be able to declare war on the world and win, Assange is making a fair attempt.

joey December 6, 2010 at 9:21 am

If you havent read it already, this is a good guide to his thinking.

reader December 6, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Many calling for the death/prosecution of Assange on the American Right are hypocrites, such as Peter King (IRA connections), and all the right-wingers that seized on the Global Climate leaks like Sarah Palin, who were happy to rely on wikileaks at that time. And the actions of the Swedish government are curious. Moreover, many of the more respected press outlets in the US are populated by knee-jerk centrists, “guardians of the serious” devoted to the status quo and those in power. And we have the time-honored tradition of leaking information for political reasons, which is arguably worse than complete secrecy or complete transparency. And let’s not get started on AIPAC. All that said, Assange’s defenders calling him a journalist of a sort are incorrect, bordering on disingenuous. Assange is an activist. Therefore, I’m not sure that Assange is covered by the legal protections accorded the press in a strict sense. He could be prosecuted as a spy of sort, that wouldn’t be unreasonable. If the government can catch that rabbit, in a constitutional and legal fashion, then one honestly can’t begrudge them. It’s the nature of the game, and an imprisoned Assange isn’t a martyr of any sort.

If Foust is right and government does become more secretive and less effective, Assange has achieved his stated aim. It’s not a good policy to predict the future. So for those of us in the ideological fever swamps, where Ron Paul meets Noam Chomsky, it’s hard to say if Assange’s goals and motivations are to the good or bad, and if they serve our ideas of what the US should or shouldn’t be, quite independent of the aims of Mr. Assange.

“But the risks and challenges they pose — not to the international system or the nature of diplomacy but to whether America can function as its citizens demand — are so great it’s difficult to argue that, on balance, these will be a net good.”

Which citizens demanding what? Mr. Foust, the system is broken, in case you haven’t noticed. And from what I can see American International policy isn’t doing anything, can’t do anything, to fix the system. And what you are offering isn’t a profound criticism of the system, rather a tweaking here and there.

Perhaps a decade of rough times for American International Policy makers and failed projects might sufficiently discredit the American international status quo, which many of us think does not benefit average Americans, and bring about a refocus of energies and a new set of policies that will ensure the long-term survival of our Republic.

Dinah December 10, 2010 at 10:27 am

There are no human saviours….if you read Assange’s 2006 writings, his goal is to end American power using the sublte means of free speech. It is his agenda coming to light. The right or wrong in this case is used to blind his own agenda to reshape the world to his liking…his interpretation…that is as much an abuse of power….his own conspiracy ….Assange is not doing htis for your rights, he is using our emotions to launch his attack and achieve his agenda. I dare say Mr. Assange has become themonste rhe is pretending to unveil.

KZBlog December 7, 2010 at 2:20 am

If joey is correct about Assange’s goal then he is really beginning to sound like a movie super villian. With the same critique applied, that his plan makes no sense. Sounds a bit like a thief robbing a museum so that they will increase security, eventually going bankrupt due to its security budget, at which point he can rob the bank.

joey December 7, 2010 at 7:21 am

“really beginning to sound like a movie super villian”

I would say he is more revolutionary, a super villian is out for his own gain, Assange is out to remake the system.
Assange is in the Van here, I imagine he will spawn a thousand imitators.

another Joey December 14, 2010 at 4:48 am

The presentation of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. amendments in the US Congress this week certainly bear out the idea that you can’t force transparency with a can-opener.

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