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.