Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Exposing Secrets the WikiLeaks Way

Some ludicrous, hysterical and poorly informed rantings and ravings have been made about the massive dump of U.S. diplomatic communications via the WikiLeaks organization. Reading and close examination of these documents has been taking place for some time by several news organizations - and while I (like you dear readers who might be interested in such matters) have barely begun to explore the information, there are some folks who are screaming for execution and murder even though these folks have not a clue and have not had anywhere near the time to explore what these documents reveal (and don't reveal).

Americans, by and large, are more concerned with issues close to home. Most of us cognizant of history and government know that diplomats and spies have been partners as long as there have been diplomats and spies. In essence, these leaks pose two very challenging questions -- Do you know what your government does? and Do you even care?

A most illuminating discussion of these documents and their impact is here, between reporter Amy Goodman and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg; Greg Mitchell, who writes the Media Fix blog at The Nation; Carne Ross, a British diplomat for 15 years who resigned before the Iraq war; and As’ad AbuKhalil,
a professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus.

Some excerpts:

Daniel Ellsberg: "
So it’s very early to judge, really, the value or the dangers, if any, of releasing that. Back in October when we were releasing or when he was releasing I think it was the Afghan documents at that point, they were still new to the process, and I think they made some mistakes in terms of releasing some names that they shouldn’t have released at that time and were properly criticized for that. As a result, it appears that the last batch before this one was redacted fairly heavily by Assange- by WikiLeaks- with the result that when the Pentagon said that there were 300 names that were endangered by that release, they said right away, based on their own files and their own knowledge of the cables, it turned out within a couple of days that WikiLeaks had released none of those names, that none of those had been redacted. They were not endangered. The upshot right now appears to be that as of now, with the hundreds of thousands of documents that WikiLeaks has put out, the Pentagon has had to acknowledge that not one single informant or soldier has been endangered. In fact, they have not even felt the need to protect one or inform one that he or she was in danger. So that risk, which we’re hearing again, now, right now has obviously been very largely overblown and is a lot of blather."

Carne Ross: "
The trouble with all of this is we tend to place government in this sort of superior, elite position; that they know things we do not know; that governments are entitled to know things that the public do not know. I think the balance is way too far in the government’s favor. Far more information should be released and made transparent. I’m not sure, however, that the way WikiLeaks has done this is the right way. This is a very random, blunt instrument to attack the problem of a lack of transparency of government. This should ideally be done through the mechanisms of democratic accountability. Of course, it’s not been done that way so far. Hence, WikiLeaks."


As'ad Abu Kahalill: "Yesterday, the main Saudi news organization, Arabia, kept promising viewers the leak of the document was imminent: "Ten minutes from now, we’re going to see all these documents!" And then once the documents were out, there was complete silence in that news organization. They figured that all these documentations are, in fact, an utter embarrassment to the image of their ruler the they try so hard to prop up in the eyes of the public. I think the Arab public today woke up wiser than before, more cynical than before, and certainly more critical of the government."

There is so very much to consider, obviously. And yet, hysterics, not surprisingly, flow from some corners of the Right. Sarah "I read everything I can get my hands on" Palin (ha!!), who, I promise you, has not read any of these documents, opines, as do others, some completely reckless reactions.

Tennessee radio shock talker Steve Gill says kill the leakers.

Tennessee blogger Doug McCaughan urges people to think before they advocate killing.

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