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Wikileaks : Is Julian Assange a hero, villain or simply dangerously naïve?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010   |  Comments: 2
By Michael Trapido ;

The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is now the subject matter of an Interpol red notice following a request from Sweden where a warrant for his arrest, based upon charges of rape, has been issued.

In addition the United States has also launched a criminal investigation related to the leaking of US government information by Assange and WikiLeaks on 29 November.

WikiLeaks, which has no connection to Wikipedia, is an entity that gathers leaked documents and then dumps them onto its website. It also provides that information to other media outlets as was demonstrated by its latest download of US diplomatic cables on a large scale.

In April of this year the site posted a video from a 2007 incident in which Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. forces.

In July it released Afghan War Diary, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the War in Afghanistan not previously available for public review.

In October, the group released a package of almost 400,000 documents called the Iraq War Logs in coordination with major commercial media organisations.

“WikiLeaks states that its 'primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations'."

Another of its stated goals is to ensure that whistle-blowers and journalists are not jailed for emailing sensitive or classified documents, as happened to Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in 2005 after publicising an email from Chinese officials about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

WikiLeaks states that it has never released a misattributed document. Documents are assessed before release. In response to concerns about the possibility of misleading or fraudulent leaks, WikiLeaks has stated that misleading leaks "are already well-placed in the mainstream media. [Wikileaks] is of no additional assistance."

Assange, who is Australian, carried on as a hacker, physics and mathematics student, and computer programmer prior to Wikileaks.

He describes the philosophy behind WikiLeaks as the intention 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".

In his blog he wrote, "the more secretive or unjust an organisation is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie."

With that as background the compelling questions have to be whether this is a quest to expose oppressive regimes in the stated areas, how effective is it and is the damage being done by Wikileaks far in excess of any benefits being derived from their exercise?

The fact that the downloads thus far appear to target, primarily, the United States suggests that either this is down to the fact that US online security is not what it should be or that those behind the project consider it their main target.

If it is not the case then there appears to be a major communication problem among Wikileaks staff with the US appearing at the front and centre of each batch of leaks.

This runs contrary to the stated "primary interest” where America appears to fall under the “all regions” category.

If regard is had to the fact that Myanmar, Sudan and any number of other oppressive regimes don’t feature – unless collateral to the enormous amount of information leaked –then Wikileaks appears to be off its stated goals and targeting what is commercially attractive.

Unless they are suggesting that the United States is the ultimate oppressive regime which begs the question of where that leaves Iran, Burma and Sudan?

There can be no doubting the effectiveness of Wikileaks downloads but is it in the areas of their stated goals?

Firstly it has the entire planet scrambling to check online security, reassessing the way that governments and their staff communicate online and urgently trying to do diplomatic damage control after all manner of insults, made in private, became public.

Secondly it has forced the US to reassess its whole post-9/11 strategy with the sharing of information between security agencies – thought to be highly beneficial – now regarded as dangerous.

Thirdly if there was ever an oppressive regime worthy of the name then that would have been Afghanistan under Mullah Omar.

The Taliban have expressed a keen interest to take their show on the road to America and the restructuring of the US post-9/11 information strategy can only benefit them.

Fourthly China, by many accounts, was in the process of reconsidering its take on North Korea which may have led to a reunification of the Korean Peninsula under South Korea.

In light of Wikileaks that may now be in jeopardy.

Next to oppressive regimes in the dictionary there’s a picture of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il who may have been saved by the latest download as China calls for the 6 nation conference.

So while Wikileaks is effective it is unfortunately not in respect of its stated goals.

It could be described as the Super-Reality-Tabloid-Website which regularly dumps acquired secret documents online with scant regard to the impact its actions are having on the planet.

Something along the lines of Graham Greene’s ‘Quiet American’ – a terrifying portrait of innocence at large.

Which brings us to damage versus benefits of the Wikileaks downloads.

Undoubtedly the world – other than most governments – are sucking up the gossip like swimming pool cleaners sucks up dirt.

In addition some of the revelations may well be of benefit to the planet, for example, knowing that the entire Arab world is just as concerned about Iran as the rest of us.

Against this however must be weighed up the fact that many people and strategic positions are in danger because Wikileaks do not have the capability to sift through every document then analyse it properly to consider its impact on a country, region or in a global context.

That’s why countries employ countless highly qualified staff to assess the strategy to be adopted in each country or region they deal with.

This makes it, to put it mildly, an enormously risky venture which appears dead set on promoting shock and awe and with very little regard to its stated goals. If anything those get a mention only by dint of the sheer weight of documents pouring out onto the internet.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described the latest download as an attack on the world.

If only it was that sophisticated. At least then you would be dealing with a master villian against whom you could strategise and with whom you could negotiate.

This appears to be a zealous desire to expose the world to the world, anything that Wikileaks can get their hands on - if that makes any sense.

The upshot is that Assange is now facing charges in Sweden and a full blown criminal investigation by the United States - no doubt prompted by his actions for Wikileaks.

Is he a hero or a villain?

Quite frankly I think it’s irrelevant when consideration is given to the damage he is doing through - what I believe - is his dangerous naiveté.

I’m not sure what he did in Sweden but he sure has screwed the United States diplomacy for years to come.

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4993 Patriot4Peace Patriot4Peace  [ Thursday, December 02, 2010 | 1:00:16 AM ]
Hero. I'm tired of hearing all the one-sided media slams. Are you telling me there is seriously no one out there that thinks Assange deserves the Nobel Peace Prize? Or is everyone just too scared to exercise their First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech? Makes you wonder.
4987 David Bullard  [ Wednesday, December 01, 2010 | 3:02:23 PM ]
If the WikiLeaks disclosures result in either North Korea or Iran nuking somebody then it will have all been worthwhile.....war is great for economic growth. Which is why I think Sarah Palin and the rest of the Tea Party are funding the slack jawed Assange. Remember....you read it first on NewsTime.
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