Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What I Really Think about WikiLeaks

I know that there are all sorts of practical issues, but on principle I agree with this:
In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble.

- Ron Paul.


Unknown said...

I for one am not sure how to formulate a principle for myself on this, since much comes down to one's own irrational (as you frequently and rightly point out) preferences and allegiances. If Assange spilled a Republican administration's top secret plans to provoke a war against China, I'd be thrilled. But if he had been around in 1944 and spilled the plans to Operation Overlord, I'd be just as thrilled to see him shot, with or without due process.

Assange recently publicized NATO's contingency plans for war in the Baltic. I don't think a war against Russia is remotely likely, nor do I think Putin's Russia is much like the Third Reich. But I equally don't find anything remotely improper about NATO having such plans, which were secret precisely because there was no wish to be provocative. The technical details of such plans are the sort of truth the public doesn't need to know. His publishing of such material radically altered my opinion of him.

John said...

I think that our government keeps far, far too many secrets. I think some things should legitimately be kept secret, such as war plans. But our government classifies so many millions of documents that it is very difficult for citizens to find out important things about our activities. Consider the "Black Budget"; citizens cannot find out anything about what more than a hundred billion dollars a year is spent on, and I am certain much of it is wasted. In this environment, I applaud leakers. If our government would make a real effort to share with the citizens the things we need to know, I would become more critical of leaks. But since the secret government continues to grow no matter who wins elections, I don't know what other tools we have to promote open discourse in our society.

Unknown said...

I agree, and this is why I have trouble making it an issue of principle. Some things I think should be revealed, others not. Certainly it's true the USG marks too much secret, I suspect often because the personnel involved think it is safest for their careers if they follow rules as rigidly and mindlessly as possible. (E. g., I remember learning somewhere that some documents are marked secret simply because they contain a certain word, or because they are issued by a person with a certain job title or clearance rating.)

Some of my reaction has to do with Assange as a person. He's kept some things to himself and threatened to reveal them if, for example, he is extradited to Sweden. So this whole affair is about him living out his paranoid, grandiose fantasies and maintaining himself in a certain position (bad-boy celebrity, etc.), not about fearlessly and selflessly revealing the truth.