Wikileaks: Criminal Enterprise or Useful Check On Government?

With the recent release of information likely to embarrass ambassadors and diplomats, Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have become targets for the government’s latest arrows in the “War on Terror.” Even the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Pete King (R-NY), has called for the Justice Department to aggressively investigate and prosecute the site and its founder, an Australian, for the releases that many government officials have cited as “putting lives at risk.”

While I haven’t read every word released by Wikileaks, I find it hard to believe that leaked information about the American government and their actions will endanger lives. In fact, I like the “new normal” in terms of government transparency. I hardly think that accepting and publishing information given qualifies one, as King asserts that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should declare, as “a foreign terrorist organization.”

The investigation into Assange’s involvement in a suspected rape in Sweden aside, the work being done by his organization opened many eyes about the Federal Government’s actions in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their publication of government information on the Iraq War in October provided a valuable release of information to the public with statistics, documentation, and accounts of war activities that the U.S. Government feels is too dangerous for us to know. In fact, Time Magazine stated that Wikileaks “Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

The recent release provided back channel information about deals, failures and assessments of foreign dignitaries and leaders. While embarrassing to many in the U.S. Government, it provides us yet again with information previously withheld from our citizens. While the Justice Department unearths the Espionage Act of 1917 in an attempt to wrestle Wikileaks to the ground, they look, act, and feel like a media outlet that should be protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of the press. Wikileaks merely accepted and published information given to them, in an attempt to hold government officials accountable through transparency actions from which they have successfully insulated themselves.

The promise of an upcoming release about a major U.S. bank’s secrets likely makes Wikileaks the target of yet another probe by the government, whose continued courtship with big business reeks of corporatist greed by both parties. Personally, I would not be surprised if the bank release lands Assange and other leaders of the Wikileaks group in court before the international arrest warrant or the past releases, since big government’s devotion to big business may be more vital to their existence than ever before.

In my opinion, the Wikileaks releases provide us with a glimpse at government transparency in a way that we would never see if not for their actions. Their sharing of classified information lets us know about things done behind closed doors, and because their actions are not directly involving the capture of classified information, rather the publication of information given to them by others, their actions seem to be protected by the First Amendment.

It also does not bother me to see the Federal Government exposed like they are going through a TSA full body scanner once in a while.  If they have nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear, right?


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