I was never aware of Wikileaks, established in 2006 by Julian Assange, until Bradley (at the time) Manning released the Iraq War Logs and put them on the map.  At first, I found it amazing that it was even able to exist.  It seemed like the sort of shadowy group who would serve as decent villains in a Clancy novel and I might even have turned a blind eye to Obama dropping a Hellfire missile or two to in the third act of that story to put a stop to it.

Since then, my view of Wikileaks has shifted, and not just because it made such a wonderful circus of the 2016 Election and may have cost Clinton the election (I don’t personally believe it mattered, but you know, muh Russians).   Wikileaks doesn’t “hack” anybody nor (to my knowledge) does it approach its sources and attempt to blackmail them in exchange for information.  It takes information that’s freely given to it and distributes it as it sees fit.

Even though I’m not comfortable calling Wikileaks a completely legitimate journalistic outfit, I do believe there is great value in what it does.   It has a well-deserved record of accuracy and has demonstrated that it’s willing to spread the truth about issues and government practices which I believe should be subject to public scrutiny regardless of which party finds it politically inconvenient.

Given the leaks we saw this week coupled with the threats of what’s to come, Trump will probably be threatening to have Assange hung, drawn, and quartered by the end of the year.  Democrats will laugh at the sudden reversal from last year when Assange and Trump and Alex Jones were the League of Extra-Paranoid Gentlemen, but it’ll only be a matter of time before they once again find themselves in Wikileaks’s crosshairs.

Now, I should say that even though I do give a pass to Wikileaks for posting classified information, it doesn’t mean that I support placing our national security at risk.  Leakers from within our intelligence community and the military or elsewhere within the government should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law +10.  These leakers, I’m sure, hide behind noble and moralistic reasons when they dump classified information, but they know full well that doing so is illegal and a breach of trust.

Beyond the national security implications, we should be extremely wary of analysts, spies, and other intelligence professionals who believe that it is in any way their responsibility or duty to use their secrets for the purpose of undermining government policy–no matter which party is in charge.  Whether that information finds its way to Wikileaks or CNN, I blame the leaker for any crime or unethical behavior, not the medium which tells me about it.  I’m consistent on this with regard to Wikileaks or traditional news outlets such as CNN repeating what leakers who would attempt to invalidate a fair presidential election tell them in violation of the leakers’ positions of trust.

That’s not to say that I think Wikileaks is squeaky-clean.  It isn’t.  Its record on protecting the personal sensitive data of real, everyday people identified in its releases is atrocious.  Further, it does not show the same level of concern about the implications of releasing what it has, as mainstream news outlets do.

Wikileaks proudly claimed that it helped end the US presence in Iraq with the release of Manning’s leaked intel.  Well, if that’s true, it’s not something I think Assange would want to boast about to the faces of Sunnis who were victimized by the Baghdad government once US forces were no longer there to restrain it or to a Yazidi sex slave who was abused by the maniacs who filled the vacuum left by our military’s withdrawal.

Wikileaks, in the course of challenging the powerful, has itself become powerful and it isn’t clear by any stretch that it has the wisdom to always wield it responsibly.

Nevertheless, I think suspicion of government is healthy for a society like ours–or any society, really.  Wikileaks and similar outfits are necessary because they can turn those suspicions into knowledge.  We need it now, more than ever, particularly because it is independent and willing to expose how comfortable the mainstream media has become with the ruling class.  We’re dealing with a government that probably can and would hack anything in your home for whatever purpose it considers appropriate.

I feel like I have the right to know if my toaster is spying on me, don’t you?  Thanks for that in advance, Wikileaks.

10 comments

  1. My issue, aside from the lack of concern they show for the damage they cause in the name of the greater good and my personal distaste for Assange, is the obvious bias.
    I can see the argument for releasing NSA and CIA data, although I am not sure why anyone is surprised that spy agencies are doing spy stuff.
    Maybe, maybe you can make an argument for releasing diplomatic cables and DNC emails, but I am not sure how you justify releasing someone’s Gmail emails, no matter how much you hate Podesta. There has to be an expectation of privacy, otherwise what’s the difference between that and the celebrity nude pix release?
    But the timing and the obvious glee and self-importance of Assange really take away from overall effect, especially if you believe that they have equall amounts of stuff on the RNC, but choose to suppress it.

  2. I don’t think they did have equal stuff on the RNC though. The DNC was specifically warned by the FBI that they were vulnerable and it doesn’t appear that the DNC didn’t go far enough to resolve it. The RNC apparently did.

    My opinion on hacking is that if don’t take reasonable measures to protect your systems, you’re fair game. In the DNC and Podesta’s case, it’s pretty clear that they need some training on social engineering techniques and how not to fall for them.

    Does it mean I think it’s right that Podesta’s personal emails got out there for the world to see? No, but he did conduct official business on his Gmail account and we did get some fascinating insights into how the Democratic Party works closely on messaging with the media. It confirmed a lot of things that I have long believed to be true, so, worth it.

    And yes, Assange does think far too much of himself. He really needs to fade into the background more and let Wikileaks work without it being about him.

  3. I think the DNC leaks confirmed your bias plenty without having Podesta’s communications with his family be exposed. And even if it didn’t, since when do the ends justify the means?
    I just don’t see how people (not you, specifically) get all bent out of shape because the NSA might want to see someone’s Gmail account with cause and a FISA warrant, but have to issue with Podesta’s Gmail being out there for all to see. Again, you might not like him as a person, but that doesn’t invalidate his expectation of privacy.
    That was my celebrity sext analogy. Being a celebrity, even a celebrity I don’t like, doesn’t invalidate someone’s right to privacy in their personal communications.

  4. For me, the funniest part of the Podesta bit is the story of how he checked with the IT guy to see if the phishing email was kosher and the guy wrote ‘that’s legitimate’ when he meant to say ‘that’s illegitimate.’ I do believe that this contributed to the election outcome, so it’s amazing how so much changed because of two little letters and a second of proofreading. Butterfly effect, indeed

  5. Their total ambivalence, to the harm they could cause by leaking names of operatives in the field, is one thing that sours me to Wikileaks… as to personal letters and such, well.. it is a shame, but i have this weird twitch that public officials should really not have much privacy, given the power they have handed to them… and expectation of privacy only works when it si the government investigation you. The exposing of a persons private life seems to be a duty of any celebrity reporter of gossip monger these days… not right, but as with any thing else, its something that happens…

    The Snowden revelation, was a great boon to libertarian types. It solidified the case that the Government had become big brother, or at least was on its way…

    Good or Bad, Wikileaks is now another card in the game.

  6. My bias wasn’t the only one that was confirmed. The DNC leaks also confirmed what Sanders’s supporters had suspected about the DNC aiding Clinton. One of my friends was what would you would call a “Bernie bro” and did refuse to vote for Clinton in the general election.

    Thing is that he had said he wouldn’t support her before the leak hit, so I can’t say I know any Democrats who were influenced to vote for someone other than Clinton because of Wikileaks. I also don’t know of any independents who voted against Clinton because of Wikileaks.

    However, there is evidence that Comey’s 11th hour reopening of the investigation into the Clinton emails influenced the election, at least as far as 538 is concerned. But that had nothing to do with Wikileaks.

  7. My problem with Snowden isn’t that he came forward, but that he seems to have deliberately put himself into a position in which he could leak classified information and then refused to go through the proper steps to be a whistleblower. Then he fled the country. I think he’s a coward.

    It also doesn’t make him look any better that he’s had to suck up to Putin while trashing our own government.

    Intel people who have moral objections need to have the courage to bring it forward through legitimate channels. If that fails, then I can see leaking to the media or Wikileaks. What Snowden and the Vault7 leaker did is treason. It’s gutless. It’s wrong.

  8. The same way that I don’t get why people are surprised that spies are spying, I don’t get why people are surprised the the DNC supported a Democrat.
    Hillary’s been raising money for them since time immemorial (1990s, at least.) Bernie is officially an Independent and has no allegiance to the party, doesn’t fundraise for the downballot candidates, etc. I don’t believe they actually rigged the machines for her, or anything, but of course then tried to influence the media in favor of their own.
    The RNC did the same in re: Trump before the became the de facto nominee.

  9. Sanders status as an outsider is completely valid for the DNC to have failed to ensure a level playing field, but the bigger issue is that the DNC’s rules are specifically designed to keep people like Sanders from getting the nomination.

    It’s what the super-delegates are for.

    The fun part is going to begin when rank-and-file Democrats start fighting the DNC establishment on its rules that are perceived as blocking real “change” candidates.

  10. The irony of getting stuck in Russia (yes, I know that wasn’t the plan) because you find the US government too controlling is rich. I would almost say that being stuck there, with the FBS watching his every move is punishment enough.

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