Thursday, December 09, 2010

What's This Wikileaks Thing All About Anyway?

With wikileaks being in the news constantly these days and wild over-reactions to it run from the media (who for reasons no one can explain to me hate someone who does their job for them) to politicians (who want to charge him for treason, even though he's not an American), it seems like time to step back and actually look at what this whole wikileaks deal is about.

While accusations that Assange is a terrorist are a little hyperbolic, they're actually not that far off in terms of his strategy. Here's a great dissection of what wikileaks is trying to do with the information they release.

Essentially, the point is that governments that operate behind close doors (such as one might be able to accuse the U.S. of doing) rely strongly on information -- on their ability to trust it (to make decisions), to protect it (to operate in private), and to selectively release it (to gain support for themselves or to punish others, a la Valerie Plame). As such, by breaking down the walls of secrecy and releasing confidential information, you cut off the power source for those operating in secrecy.

That's why these latest leaks are important, even though they don't contain much information. Both our Defense Secretary and his British counterpart have said there's really nothing in there (and especially nothing in there that could put people in harm's way). In fact, if you follow politics closely, there's really not much at all in these documents that's even surprising. Mostly it's just embarrassing to some highly placed officials. But beyond that, there's really nothing in there we didn't already know (or at least strongly suspect).

But that's the entire point -- it's not about the information released, it's about making the machine that relies on this information unable to rely on its information or its inability to control said information, thus making it unable to operate in secrecy.

And forcing Democratic governments to stop acting in secret and start operating in the open is exactly what wikileaks is trying to do...

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