Forever an Enigma
To save giving an extensive outline of what WikiLeaks is exactly perhaps you should watch this:
The eternal argument that exists is whether WikiLeaks is beneficial to society? Is complete transparency, in regards to the Government, international warfare, politics and a myriad of other things, going to bring positive effects for members of society?
This all leads to the point of transparency, and in regards to WikiLeaks, questions the benefit of the complete disclosure of all information. Mark Fenster addresses this in his report, ‘Disclosure’s Effects‘. He observes that the disclosure of information can have transformative effects, both negative and positive. ‘Disclosure can inform, enlighten, and energize the public, or it can create great harm or stymie government operations‘ (Fenster, 2011). While he offers a quite objective opinion on the impact of disclosure, Fenster does not agree that WikiLeaks fosters, or encourages transparency, rather that it threatens transparency.
In relation to the government, transparency does not actually mean total openness, with every card at hand shown publicly. Government transparency refers more to ‘demonstrating that decisions are fact-based and use complete, relevant data‘. With this in mind, transparency can promote ‘accountability and provide information for citizens about what their government is doing’.
WikiLeaks is viewed as the forefront of catalysing the creation of a completely transparent government structure in many nations, including Australia, however the kind of transparency that WikiLeaks aims for can be incredibly destructive, and looks more like a teenager spreading rumours, as opposed to it being a pathway to accountability. This is perhaps why I can not simply accept WikiLeaks as a knight in shining armour, here to enlighten the public sphere of all the dark secrets the government has kept locked away. The transparency that Fenster speaks of involves a two-sided balance, and WikiLeaks disturbs transparency’s balance.
The US government has long-relied on the ‘mosaic theory’ to excuse and justify withholding unclassified information from those who request it. According to this theory, ‘bits of unclassified and seemingly innocuous information may threaten national security when they are pieced together in a broad compilation or “mosaic”‘.
Alongside this view is that of writer, Jason Pontin, who argues ‘neither innovations, nor art, nor contracts, nor representative government, nor marriages, nor many other valuable things would exist without secrets’. This is a notion I agree with. While the word ‘secrets’ has a destructive stigma attached to it, I believe that secrets in one area create value in another, because if everyone knew everything, there would be no value, or power, in knowledge.
Although I seem to have taken a stance opposing WikiLeaks (something I was attempting not to do), the truth is that I feel as though the classified information that has been leaked in the past has caused nothing but angst and upset in the public sphere, and Assange even admits his intent ‘to induce fear and paranoia in … [the] leadership and planning coterie‘. Surely this is not a valid reason to upset the balance that the government are trying so hard to maintain.
It appears that WikiLeaks ‘seeks to advance an agenda of self-aggrandizement at the expense of U.S. interests, with reckless disregard for the consequences of its actions’ and ‘there is a difference between holding government accountable for its decisions and holding government officials hostage to their words’. Although, the real truth behind whether WikiLeaks is a positive platform for society will forever remain an enigma in my mind.
- Ashong, D 2011, ‘The Truth About Transparency – Why WikiLeaks is Bad For All of Us’, Huffington Post, 29 November, viewed 9 October 2014, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/derrick-ashong/the-truth-about-transpare_b_789196.html>
- Fenster, M 2011, ‘Disclosure’s Effects: WikiLeaks and Transparency’, Iowa Law Review, vol. 97, viewed 9 October 2014, <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1797945>
- Pontin, J 2011, ‘Is WikiLeaks a Good Thing?’, MIT Technology Review, 22 February, viewed 9 October 2014, <http://www.technologyreview.com/fromtheeditor/422871/is-wikileaks-a-good-thing/>
- Weismann, A 2010, ‘WikiLeaks Damages Hopes for a Transparent Government’, Huffington Post, 9 September, viewed 9 October 2014, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-l-weismann/wikileaks-damages-hopes-f_b_794312.html>