21 March, 2011

Transparency, Truth and Treason; Wikileaks and It's Aftermath

"To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not." - Julian Assange

          In November 2010, Wikileaks, the website founded by Julian Assange and his team, began to release over 250,000 classified state documents that were leaked to them by a disgruntled pentagon employee. What ensued was a political witch hunt, with words like espionage and treason being thrown around like it was confetti. Julian Assange was later arrested for an alleged account of rape in Sweden. His arrest for a different crime led to calls from the international community to have him extradited to the United States and be tried for treason and crimes against the state. 
        What most of these lawmakers and politicians don't understand is that Assange can't be tried for treason in the United States, because he holds no allegiance to the United States; he's an Australian citizen. So how can one commit treason, which is the act of betraying your country and harming its national security, if he does not belong to the country which is trying to prosecute him for it? The United States has no jurisdiction over this individual. It's a bit ridiculous and brings up the question, is what Julian Assange did necessarily illegal? Should Assange even face charges for operating the website which swears itself to do the very thing it did? Is it really Assange who is the criminal, or is it Bradley Manning, the one who illegally uploaded the information onto a cd entitled "Lady Gaga" and leaked the information to Wikileaks the real criminal? How is it the State Department could have such a lack of security that a simple low level army soldier could walk away with what was deemed "classified" and "highly sensitive" information?
           So that brings me to this question- who is to blame? The State Department? Manning? Assange? None of the above truthfully. The people who are to blame are the sensationalist politicians who through the use of hyperbole have exaggerated this event to be of such utter significance that Assange, the messenger, should not only be arrested and tried for treason, but some even call for his execution. When I hear these things I can do nothing but cringe at the idea for there are so many holes in this story and Assange is the one who is hardly to blame. 
            First we will start right off the bat with this question. If this information was so critical to national security, why was it on a random computer in which any low level official or soldier had access to? Also, why was it so easy for this guy to upload the information with nobody else even monitoring the computers for what people were doing. I'm not calling for the outright monitoring of all computer systems at any level, but if there is classified information deemed "highly sensitive", I'd imagine there would be a bit more oversight as to who had access to the computer and the surveillance of what that person on the computer was doing.
            Second, why is it that the messenger, Julian Assange the one being prosecuted intensely for this, when Manning, the guy who made Assange's leakage of the information possible not the main player in this story? All you hear is that Julian Assange has committed treason, he's threatened national security, he's undermined our position in the world... If so, hasn't Bradley Manning done the exact same thing, if not worse? Where's the persecution of this guy? I'm sure legal action has been placed upon him, but I see no politicians screaming and crying for his execution. It seems to me that all this is a political witch hunt, in order to stop the man who has defended and has been a proponent of the right to freedom of press and speech. If it were not for people like Julian Assange and the team at Wikileaks, how could we hold these governments accountable? It's because of Wikileaks and media organizations like these that governments fret and have to actually play by the rules, rather than abide by the old corrupt ways in which governments around the world used to normally operate.
            Third, has anybody seen the diplomatic cables? Most are childish at best, and only show the lack of professionalism we have in our State Department. The cables are basically the diplomats making fun of other world leaders, like the cable where President Sarkozy was viewed as a self absorbed, arrogant and erratic president. It's purely gossip, and shows how almost frivolous it is that politicians are freaking out that Sarkozy knows what we actually think of him. Imagine that... honesty for once.
            Other cables showed the two sided policies of countries like Saudi Arabia, which publicly befriends Iran, but behind closed doors is quoted as saying "cut the head off the snake" and calling for preemptive strikes against Iran in regards to Iran's attempts at nuclear proliferation. Now while these types of cables are more serious and can jeopardize relations between countries, I see this new found openness as beneficial to the world. This new transparency and accessibility of information which otherwise would have been kept secret is keeping these politicians and nations honest, providing accountability for their actions. Meanwhile we're fed that what Assange done has undermined national security.                                                                   
          The only thing undermined is their ability to undermine us.
            Now, I'm not saying any and all information should be declassified. Of course there is highly sensitive information that the government keeps under lock and safe for good reasons. This is the kind of information that's really scary, and if released could be detrimental to the world. At the same time though, in this new age of openness and globalization, we should be looking towards new ways of defining diplomacy. Instead of being two faced and making back room deals, we should be working together, in an open and transparent way of communication and dialogue between nations. Now this idealistic type of society is far off in the future, but it's never too early to start working towards such a world.
            Now for all these political trials that Assange will be put through, we should applaud Assange for his work at undermining corruption and providing transparency and truth to our world. Without people like him we'd be much less informed, therefore less prepared. It's time for our government and governments around the world to adapt to these new technologies such as Wikileaks and Google which can access and obtain information at lightning speeds. Whether or not they'll adapt in a way that will create a more open and transparent dialogue between nations, or find better ways to hide their information remains to be seen. Whichever one, hopefully sites like Wikileaks will be around to keep these officials on their toes.

Signing out- John Thomas

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