Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Uproar over WikiLeaks (I)

WikiLeaks’ release of hundreds of thousands of pages of United States’ classified documents to the media has created a news sensation and paralyzing dilemmas for the governments around the globe.  All kinds of proposals are floating about in the news and talk shows on ways of dealing with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, its founder.  They range from assassination of Mr. Assange to creation of new laws with severe penalties to deal with WikiLeaks and any future attempt at leaking classified information.
There are denunciations after denunciations at all levels of the US government hierarchy, creating pressures that are felt throughout the established organizations purportedly having a claim to openness.  Amazon as well as PayPal have closed their services to WikiLeaks.  This has created cries of foul play in some quarters questioning these establishments’ commitment to openness which depend entirely on the Internet.   There were reports of Google at least temporarily suspending some accounts.  These accounts reportedly had reposted only a few pages of this classified information.

Statements by Mr. Assange leave no doubt that he has a political agenda which is particularly against the United States government policies.  The U.S. has a very difficult time dealing with its violent opponents, such as Al Qaeda , which is widely despised in the modern world; how can it expect to contain peaceful opposition to its policies while that opposition has a broad base support throughout Europe and the America?  Just take a look at the number of WikiLeaks’ supporters on Facebook.  The last time I checked, this number was well over one million and growing by tens of thousands every day.  This one million is not a passive poll number; this is active support. People are going to WikiLeaks' site and voluntarily registering their support.  It is similar in impact to a million marches in support of WikiLeaks.

Once upon a time government policies and many of its operations were discussed and formed in secret and the paper trails kept under lock and key.  The intruders were generally trained agents of contending governments who somehow managed to penetrate these locked fortresses, and take this information to be consumed in secret by the contending governments.  It was a cycle of secrecies broken only by political scandals fit for the movies or newspaper headlines.   Those exposures were the rare occasions when the public could have a peek into the intricacies of the policy makings and their implementations.   Those days are fading rapidly behind us and the U.S. policies about secrecy need to catch up.

Today each citizen feels more and more a part of a broader entity and can communicate with people across the globe as easily and as fast as s/he can communicate with their immediate neighbor.  In today’s connected world policy making and its implementation require a more transparent form.  Communications between governments can only be a more organized form of this broad communication and not a secret form of it.  When in a blink of an eye terabytes of data, among them the U.S. government data and communications, could be diverted to the servers and switches in China, maintenance of secrecy becomes precarious at best.  Open or covert war against WikiLeaks and its supporters will be self defeating.  It is the process of policymaking and our principles directing those policies that need to be our guide and not the immediate hurt or embarrassment.  These documents only reveal the fault with our policies and how they are pursued.

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