Monday, November 29, 2010

WikiLeaks sucks

Deliberately hyperbolic headline aside, I'm evolving my feelings toward WikiLeaks. What was first launched as a somewhat altruistic endeavour designed to give political dissidents and whistleblowers a safe haven, a voice and a place to share their message without fear of reprisals from oppressive governments, regimes and organizations, has evolved into a somewhat different, more malevolent animal.

As the world watches the third major release of sensitive documents - this time it's U.S. diplomatic docs, while earlier this year it was the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts that had their inner workings shared with the world - I've been watching founder Julian Assange explain the rationale for his organization's actions. And I find what I'm hearing to be somewhat disturbing.

On the surface, there isn't anything in any of these documents that comes as a surprise. International sniping is a hallmark of the diplomatic process. Is this embarrassing? Sure. But shocking? Hardly.

What raises my antenna is the fact that we now have a process, a pipeline if you will, for disgruntled employees of any entity - government, military, private organization, whatever - to hoover huge amounts of data onto a flash drive, then upload it to this site. Got an axe to grind? The Web now has an answer for you. And Mr. Assange will happily accommodate you under the umbrella of "transparency".

Never mind that this is a pretty grotesque bastardization of proper journalistic process. Never mind that the checks and balances that have long governed the craft are nowhere to be seen. Never mind that no one seems to care whether the greater good is being served here. Make them public, says Mr. Assange. Let the world see what they're really like, he adds, and who really cares about the consequences, anyway?

I do. I spoke with CTV Parliamentary Correspondent Richard Madan yesterday, and he included a clip from the interview in a report he ran on CTV's national newscast at 11. Newscast link is here. Report link is here, and I've embedded the report below.

I also discussed it with Craig Needles from London's AM980, Gary Doyle of Kitchener's 570News, and Jessica Samuels from Kelowna's AM1150. Yahoo! Canada Finance published my article - Wikileaks leak a wakeup call for business - on October 29th. I suspect the discussion - and the leaks that spawned it - will continue for some time.

Your turn: Is WikiLeaks a force of good, a force of evil or something in between?


Kalei's Best Friend said...

This is NOT a good thing at all!. OMG can u imagine what could get leaked out?? this is beyond scary...Big Brother gone bad- for sure..

DocRichard said...

Back in the day, people used to think "I will have to render account of what I say unto God" Now the account cod be to Wikileaks. Seems fair to me.

srp said...

Big Brother with an axe to grind and with no thought to whom it might hurt or kill or to what lengths nations will start going to conceal even more. There used to be a time when being a traitor was punishable by death... now they seem to simply become millionaires.

Unknown said...

I'm glad to read your excellent post on the wikileaks thing because it's been on my mind since yesterday or early this morning, I don't recall now. I've only listened to NPR's coverage of it and now I intend to look further into it so I can adequately answer your question.

Have you read Chris Hedges' (NYT) Empire of Illusions? Somehow I am connecting Hedges' ideas to the wikileaks and I haven't yet read the book. It's on my list.

I will share this with my daughter who is a journalism major at university.


Tabor said...

I personally have not seen much in the way of good things happening from shining a light on the activities of governments. It is done in such large amounts there is no way they can predict the ramifications or dangers! I do think it will slow things down, begin greater misunderstandings...who among us wants our laundry (dirty or clean with all the lacework) hung for everyone to see!

Mike Wood said...

I blogged about it yesterday, but essentially this is just classic espionage. Disgruntled government employee of some sort offers intel to a foreign power for profit or ideological reasons. Only this time it is to a NGO/private person.

It's on a massive scale and whatever the outcome or the intent behind the breach, the US should act as if it was a cold war spy selling secrets to the Soviets. Prosecute the thumb drive toting employee, and as there is little diplomatic recourse available, take it online the way Wikileaks did.

I am pretty sure that the NSA could easily do a cyber attack that would melt the Wikileaks servers. And I think they should. And do it publicly. Might make others hesitate.

Anonymous said...

Surprising? No. But I certainly agree with you.
The anonymity is worrisome to me, because there is no accountability. And frankly, if someone wanted to be a whistleblower, it's not hard to get the media on board. (But of course then there would be accountability!)

that guy said...

I agree that it is bad business...

i am parnoid enough to not need another way for the gooferment to find a way to force and needle the powers of others in and out of office...

bruce johnson jadip
stupid stuff i see and hear

MrIndieDay said...

Wikileaks provides a view into the government unparalleled to anything that's ever existed. No, it isn't journalism is the truest sense, but I don't believe it ever set out for that. We have to appreciate it for what it is, despite how its information is received.

I mean, honestly, would you rather the world go without Wikileaks?

Anonymous said...

An interesting balance of love/hate with this whole thing. If you boil it down to a personal level, imagine there was a site that had EVERY secret about you on public display. In the short term, fire and brimstone type pain... but after that, maybe life would actually be better without the skeletons in the closet. Imagine our governments acted as if they knew they would be held accountable in the future.