With great power… comes great potential for screw ups…

Posted on September 3, 2011

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So. As anyone who has watched the news would know, the emergence of the WikiLeaks drama began as a firestorm of controversy and condemnation – as well as dangerous security breaches – and died into a simmering coal bed of red-hot fury; never quite going away and sprouting spotfires here and there.

 Well, ladies and gentlemen, this certainly takes the damn cake. But let’s begin with a bit of backstory, shall we?

 As you know, I was idly browsing the Advertiser on my snack break on Wednesday when I came across an interesting article that ruffled my feathers slightly (see below). Little did I realise that another article I rather glossed over has become somewhat of a hurricane of controversy due to the source.

 The article appearing in the Advertiser on the 31st of August, 2011 showed that our intelligence and espionage agencies told the US that 23 Australians should be placed on either a ‘no fly’ or ‘selectee’ list, including “…a grandmother with diabetes and arthritis, an English teacher, a Sydney cleric and a surfer who converted to Islam…” (Sydney, 2011, pp.11). Dangerous as all hell. And the source of all of this is the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks, who has released the US cable containing this information, revealing it to the public. Now, though I can sympathize with the 58-year-old mother of six who appeared on the list for no reason other than AISO brought her to Australia from Iran in 2008 (Sydney, 2011, pp.11), the absolute inundation of hysteria that has followed these events – be they directly influenced or not – is astonishing.

This guy here

 The same day of the release in the Advertiser, the Australian released an article stating that Julian Assange, creator of WikiLeaks,  has slammed the Australian Government for ‘ratting out’ those 23 Aussies (Maley & Vasek, 2011) in a snide little Twitter comment directed at our Attorney General, Robert McClelland. I advise the article be read. The Twitter comment is actually snide. As stated in the article, the issue is not that the people were put on the list, as most of them are apparently legitimate security concerns (we want to hope our Intelligence Agency is doing its job and not just trying to get the attention of the big kids in the playground, after all), but what McClelland has condemned is the lack of censorship on people’s names. Assange’s only defense here is that he thinks Australia is a bit red-cheeked for being caught out. Caught out for what? Being concerned for national security, whilst also protecting the names and identities of those they are concerned about, knowing that they may not truly have any designs against Australia or her citizens? If there was any reason for me to dislike Julian Assange, this is it.

 Don’t get me wrong. I believe that a government should indeed be held

Sometimes it's for a reason...

accountable for their actions, and that their actions should always be for the benefit of their people. But war is war and bad things happen. Terrible things. Horrific things. But there is a difference between keeping the Delta Force operation to take Osama Bin Laden down a secret, and covering up the Mai Lai Massacre. Actually, the main difference would be keeping the spec ops operation a secret fifteen minutes before it happensas opposed to twenty years after the tragedy at Mai Lai.

 As McClleland said, as presented in an article, again in the Advertiser, the next day, WikiLeaks often censors or redacts the names in the cables it releases, but it was not the case for the 23 Australians, and that “[t]he publication of any information that could compromise Australia’s national security, or inhibit the ability of intelligence agencies to monitor potential threats, is incredibly irresponsible.” (Stewart, 2011). The same article goes on to state that Canberra is concerned with the fact that WikiLeaks is growing increasingly careless with their releases (as we have just seen), and the fact that they had only published 114 000 of the 250 000 confidential US documents they possessed is not a comforting thing when they are now starting to arbitrarily release names of suspects as well as informants(Stuart, 2011). As the article states, Australia will most likely come out red-cheeked when it comes to informants being named, but when it comes to places such as China, the penalty for ‘ratting out’, as Assange has stated, could result in that person being killed.

 Again, I want to reiterate that it’s important that we keep our governments accountable, but people are risking their lives to try and keep other people safe. Julian Assange’s noble ideals could get them killed. This is not a game.

 And, if only to make matters worse, whilst browsing news sites for more information, I encountered this headline:

Media condemns as WikiLeaks reveals all: WIKILEAKS has disclosed its entire archive of US State Department cables, much if not all of it uncensored – a move that drew stinging condemnation from major newspapers which in the past collaborated with the anti-secrecy group’s efforts to expose corruption and double-dealing.’(Satter, 2011).

Tantrum, anyone?

And just to clarify, that means that WikiLeaks has posted their entire archive of 251, 287 confidential US cables, both censored and not, to the internet (Satter, 2011).

 Ladies and gentlemen, I believe this is a WHAT THE F- moment. That’s right. WikiLeaks has effectively chucked a hissyfit. But instead of being the embarrassing child on the floor of the supermarket wanting its toy, it is a website that has decided to breach the security and safety of numerous countries because it didn’t get its toy of a monopoly on global security. Satter (2011) states that WikiLeaks apparently released the cables because they had already been leaked online. So WikiLeaks got leaked, and because they didn’t have the world’s government intelligence agencies by their sensitive areas anymore, they decided to spit the dummy.

 How stupid can you get?

 Not only is the world now sifting through the wreckage, wondering how their country is going to be affected, but I am sure there is more than one person sitting somewhere, waiting to die for ‘being caught out’ for ‘ratting out’ others, as Assange would put it.

 Perhaps this won’t be as bad as it could be, or perhaps I’m overstating or overestimating the fallout here. I don’t know. I’m not a politician. I’m not a terrorist suspect (to my knowledge). I’m not an informant. But I can say this; when you want to tell the world that you know its deepest, darkest secrets, the ones their government doesn’t want them to know, and you want to hand them out like sips of water to a dying man, then you need to take responsibility for that. You don’t get to be an egotist, Mr Assange. You don’t get to be the god-king of conspiracies and coverups. Because the moment you start toting your power, you just become another tyrant of fear, although you hid it well. But you’ve just proven that you’re a child playing knowledge king, and when push comes to shove, leak comes to leak, you’d rather make everyone suffer together than lose your precious crown.

How's that house arrest treatin' ya?

References

 Maley, P & Vasek, L 2001, ‘Fairfax recycles terror cable’, The Australian, 31 August,  <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/wikileaks/fairfax-recycles-terror-cable/story-fn775xjq-1226126433168&gt; viewed September 3, 2011

 Satter, R 2011, ‘Media condemns as Wikileaks reveals all’, The Advertiser, 3 September, Adelaide Now < http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/breaking-news/media-condemns-as-wikileaks-reveals-all/story-e6frea73-1226128579746&gt; viewed September 3, 2011

 Stuart, C 2011, ‘A dangerous game-changer’, The Australian, 1 September, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/a-dangerous-game-changer/story-e6frg6z6-1226126779337&gt; viewed 3September, 2011

 Sydney, J 2011, ‘Australians on terror list’, The Advertiser, 31August, <http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/InfoWeb?p_product=AWNB&p_theme=aggregated5&p_action=doc&p_docid=13973C4B8E5AE958&p_docnum=2&p_queryname=1&gt; viewed September 3, 2011

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