Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is WikiLeaks a terrorist group? - The Week

Is WikiLeaks a terrorist group? - The Week

The WikiLeaks documents may superficially - at least to those who don't actually take the time to peruse them - seem to be detrimental to our national security. I found nothing surprising in the material that I have read so far. What nations and their representative say publically is generally at odds with the actual facts. And there may be some facts that should never see the light of day - but don't kill the messenger. (Some conservatives propose this action.)

One has to wonder what kind of security is in place if these documents seem to be so readily available? One wonders how many news organization had previously had access to some of these documents and chose not to publish them? Remember the Pentagon Papers?

The Pentagon Papers provided by Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo and published by the New York Times in 1971 ""demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance"".

It was about the Vietnam War. "The most damaging revelations in the papers revealed that four administrations, from Truman to Johnson, had misled the public regarding their intentions." Ironically the source for the papers was the Vietnam Study Task Force, created by the Secretary of Defense McNamara,  whose ostensible purpose was the writing of an "encyclopedic history of the Vietnam War". [Wikipedia].

Julian Assange is sort of  today's Daniel Ellsberg - no Internet in the 70s, but it was the days of good journalism. Like Assange - Ellsberg and his associate Russo were accused of treason. Suffice to say they were not convicted and arguably they did a great service by releasing the documents that at least in some part led to the end of the Vietnam War.

There is a difference between Ellsberg and Assange's role. Ellsberg was an insider and had direct access - Assange is an outsider given the documents. Thus, Assange is further removed form any potential culpability.

The WikiLeaks documents are unlikely to have the impact of the Pentagon Papers. Embarrassing is the only fair characterization of these leaks. Clearly the US ought to be embarrassed for the fact of these disclosures but not their content.

Of course, it is not surprising that document security is so lax given the many stories of government employees leaving their laptops with highly sensitive material where anyone can and do steal them. Thus, focusing on Wikileaks is at best an attempt to cover up the faults of those whose responsibility is to secure documents such as these.

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