Friday, October 29, 2010

What WikiLeaks leaks mean to the rest of us

Being a tech journalist makes for interesting days. I often wake up early and lie in bed, BlackBerry in hand, mulling over a constantly shifting landscape of topics. I narrow 'em down to the ones that jazz me most, and more importantly that I think will jazz readers. Then I put the pitch together, fire it off to my editors, and wait.

My wife, bless her, puts up with this tech-driven restlessness.

Some of my favorite topics are the ones that stick in my head for days, weeks or even months on end. WikiLeaks, a web site that publishes anonymously submitted, leaked documents, has been bouncing around the back of my brain for much of the year. I've commented extensively on it, but had kept my pen down until this week, after the site released some 77,000 "Iraq War Diaries" files. It dawned on me in the early morning darkness that this wasn't just about the military. It was about us.

Yahoo! Canada published my resulting article, WikiLeaks leak a wakeup call for business, today. A nice way to end the writing week, no? I hope you enjoy the read.

Your turn: Is WikiLeaks heroic or villainous?

16 comments:

Chanel said...

I've only ever looked at WikiLeaks once, after a bunch of unarmed civilians and a photographer were gunned down by a helicopter somewhere over in the war zone.

I was horrified by the video, and since I've always been "anti-war", or as my father calls me "anti-anti-terrorists," I appreciated a little more confirmation that this war has gone on far more than long enough.

As for WikiLeaks' other documents, I've never seen them, but I can see how some classified information could put soldiers at risk. I guess that I really feel that it goes both ways. Information is neither good or evil, it's how you use and react to information that can cause problems.

Bruce said...

Carmi-

i read the article 2x. at first blush i think heroic, as an informed populace is ideally an intelligent populace

but then i get hung up on the whole idea of anon. leaks and the credibility of the anon. sources...

the ConfirmedConspiracyTheoristsSympathizer in me then thinks it is all subterfuge and diversion to mask the real issue and actual atrocities being perpetrated somewhere for profits sake...

from a business standpoint i see little difference in the agenda or direction that conglomerates and the WarMachine operate.

at the end of the day, as much as i would want this to be heroic its heroism relies on the informed populace to be able to decifer the intel and make rational decisions.

judging from the things i see on a daily basis, i find little evidence that our populace is intelligent enough to handle the *truth* (whatever it may be)

however, when it all comes down...i end up on the villainous side of the spectrum, because in one way or another it merely theft of ideas, concepts, stradegy, and personal information.

TheMuddledMarketPlace said...

whichever it is...it's most certainly made ordinary people sit up and think about whether or not they are happy with things being done In Their Name.

this is... i submit....no bad place to start

Traisas said...

The answer should be heroic. That it is even debated is a testament to the need for such a service as this. There used to be a time when "journalists" were the ones doing the undercovering and reporting. Not only does that not seem to be happening anymore, but instead they've taken to publishing articles that vilify those that do it.

Your government and your military is LYING TO YOU and COVERING UP MURDER and CORRUPTION.

Any apologists for such behaviour are CORRUPT and on the take themselves or IGNORANT and PASSIVE and should thank their god every single day that they are not the ones whose homes and families are being bombed and dragged out into streets and raped and murdered.

There is no justification for that under any circumstances. Only rationalizations made for personal, economic gain.

For shame, all of you.

Carmi said...

Um, OK. Thanks for your reasoned contribution to the debate, "Traisas".

I'm not sure why I'm bothering to share a comment, as I doubt you'll ever be back to read it. But from where I sit, rational debate begins and ends with an ability to make your point without tarring others in the process.

Why any of us should feel "shame", as you put it, is beyond me.

Traisas said...

I'm a big proponent of rational debate, don't get me wrong. That said though, my primary point (and answer to your question), was that this issue is one that doesn't deserve/need debate. It is one among few that I feel we could/should all agree on. Clearly you disagree with that and that is your right - another issue that should never be debated.

I apologize for the harshness of my comment, though this is an issue which strikes me, personally, as ridiculous.

My logic is simple: Wikileaks promotes transparency without the government and the military. The only two reasons I can think why anyone would oppose this is either a) They stand to lose something if/when transparency increases, or b) They do not realize what they lose by allowing the government and military to operate with no checks and balances.

The biggest expenditure of the US government is on the military. In your names, these people are overseas (out of sight and out of mind apparently), committing acts that you would Never, Ever accept your government/military (much less a foreign entity) committing in your own city or town. They then do everything they can to cover up such incidents and when a single non-profit organization begins calling them out on it, the media spin and propaganda machine goes into effect causing people to doubt whether or not this information is something they actually Should be aware of?

I understand that it's not the civilian population that are making these decisions, but every single person who feels that a site like Wikileaks should be shut down because they think it's wrong to be informed about attrocities being committed in their name is culpable to said atrocities.

I stand by what I said. People are suffering horribly.

Willful ignorance is shameful.

Traisas said...

And by the way "Carmi", my name is Dan.

Carmi said...

Thanks, Dan. Kinda hard to tell when your link leads to oblivion.

Still not sure what prompts you to paint everyone here with the brush of shame.

Has it occurred to you that a resource like WikiLeaks, as capable as it is of providing an outlet for dissidents and those who would otherwise have no voice, can be similarly abused by those who would hide behind the cloak of anonymity?

No one's denying the massive con job inherent in any war effort. But any good journalist knows a "source" is only credible if it can be validated. Mass posting of leaked documentation leaves ample room for abuse, and WikiLeaks comes with as many cons as it does pros.

Carmi said...

BTW, Dan, did you read my article? As in read it and understand what the core point was?

Traisas said...

I am not calling Everybody shameful. I am calling the willfully ignorant shameful. Them, and people who profit off of the suffering of others and subsequently try to hide it.

I did read your article (though to be honest, it was a less-than-thorough read). My initial reaction and comment were intended to address the question on this blog of "Wikileaks: Hero or villian?" more than the argument for security in business. Now that I have read it again, I still have little to comment on it, except to say that the headline is a bit sensationalist. Personally, I wouldn't say Wikileaks is a "wake up call" for businesses as data security has been an issue since the dawn of the digital economy. I'm not sure you're reporting on anything new, though coming from a business background myself, I appreciate that reminders and suggestions about data security are always a good idea.

To your question of whether or not it has occurred to me that Wikileaks can be abused by dissidents… I’d ask you to define the word “dissident.” If it means someone who disagrees with you, or the policies of your government, then I fail to see what is wrong with that. Furthermore, I believe anonymity is of the utmost importance, particularly when it comes to political discourse or the exposure of controversial materials. People Do get “punished” for going against the status quo after all.

And finally, I agree fully that a “source” is only credible if it can be validated. But I think Wikileaks has proven itself pretty good at vetting its sources. We trust most newspapers in this regard, why shouldn’t we trust Wikileaks? In fact it seems like they’ve had a better track record in recent years than most major papers. Disagreeing with the things they publish should not lead you to distrust them.

This is a very passionate issue for me because I feel like any rational person who does not have a vested interest in secrecy, should want transparency. Am I wrong to feel that way? Is it wrong to hold the willfully ignorant responsible for things they could have known about and possibly prevented?

Salim Kanji said...

Carmi,

Regarding your article on wikileaks in the yahoo/finance, you have just approved that lies are okay when coming from the military and that the bussinessmen should take actions to protect themselves from the "businemen's lies"

You may want to think this one over again.

Carmi said...

Salim: Um, I haven't "approved" anything. That was not the thesis of the article. If I had pitched a piece on "businessmen's lies" (whatever that is) then THAT'S what I would have written about.

But I didn't. So that's not how the article played out.

And if you manage to sell an article on "businessmen's lies", please let me know. I doubt it has much of a market.

Which is the entire point: Writers sell ideas, get them approved, then write articles about 'em, then get paid. If the idea doesn't sell, we won't pitch it. That's how the business works.

Salim Kanji said...

Carmi and Dan(Traisas)

re: Wikileaks

Please understand that LIES are never acceptable - Country - business - family - or with any situation.
Remember: Character Counts!

Salim Kanji said...

Sorry Carmi,
I thought it was about Wikileak and its work, I had no ideal it was all about getting paid for writing and article.

Therefore, I will put this away as that we differ on our opinion on wikileaks activities.

Karen Sather said...

After having some relatives deployed to Iraq and during the worst of times, I have learned that leaks can cause pain and horrible consequences. Not being funny but when is a leak good? You've heard the line, "What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas." Well that's what I've come to terms with for many who have served in the Army or Minnesota National Guard, etc. their missions, and jobs/duties are safer untold. What happens in the Army stays in the Army for everyone's own good. Is somebody doing this to cover up wrongs? Probably so, and Bush always comes to mind, both of them. But when my loved one's life was on the line, I'd rather not be in the know if it means keeping them safe. If only our world could learn to live without war. I'm going to read your article, and check out wikileaks..thanks!

Karen Sather said...

I'm very confused by Traisas and his belief about murder being covered up.....Going to war means murder. What else can it be called? It's so annoying when I hear people ramble off statements they read somewhere else, and offer no credible source to back up what they say. Murder is what war is all about. If you have war you have death. Always. Perhaps I missed something.