WikiLeaks and Secrecy
The whole WikiLeaks thing is becoming a bit ridiculous. Whatever you think of the leak itself, the nature of diplomacy, and the motivations of Julian Assange, how the government is handling the incident is somewhat absurd. I am not speaking of the rather heavy-handed way Assange is being treated–you may find it excusable or even a good idea so as to discourage interruption of diplomatic efforts. Instead, I refer to the way the government is dealing with the spread of the information.
So far, WikiLeaks has been removed from a variety of servers, and various URLs have been revoked. Sorry, but this is rather stupid. If I wanted, it would be child’s play to get the data. Not only did they find an alternate URL (U.S. news outlets link to it in their articles), but mirror sites have popped up all over the Internet. Additionally, file-sharing sites are spreading the documents as well. If you can’t stop the recent cam of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from spreading like wildfire, how can you stop this? It’s a practice in futility, makes Assange into a martyr, and steels the resolve of people who believe this stuff should be made available. In this day and age, once information is out, it’s out.
Worse, there’s the reaction against Americans reading the WikiLeaks documents. Federal workers and contractors, including all members of the military, have been warned that they must not view the documents. Even college students have been given notice that the documents are off-limits to them as well, and could kill their career prospects–especially if they demonstrate that they have viewed the cables through their posts on social networking sites. Government contractors, trying to stay in line with this campaign, are blocking any URL with “WikiLeaks” in the address, like they’re the Chinese government trying to keep foreign influences away from its people.
This also is nonsensical. Not just because the information is out there, and not just because it would be near-impossible to monitor home usage (or would it?)–instead, it is bizarre because everyone else in the world knows this data, and has access to it. All they’re doing is trying to keep Americans from knowing what their government is doing–which is supposedly the reverse of what such secrecy is usually about, namely keeping the information out of foreign hands. It’s like it was back in the Cold War, when information was already well-known by the Soviets, but the U.S. government kept it classified from its own people. It didn’t make any sense back then, and it makes no more sense now.
All that is being accomplished is that the U.S. government is coming across to its citizens and the world at large as being both inept and oppressive. Were it to simply now treat the information as being “out there”–which it undeniably is–and focus solely on investigating the origin of the leak and the prosecution of those who released it, then they would at least come across as reasonable and responsible in their reaction to the event.