We open governments!
This is the cry of WikiLeaks an Internet website and an international non-profit media organization that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents from anonymous sources and leaks (Wikipedia.org). The organizations primary goal of the website and I am sourcing from Wikipedia, “is constructed based on the primary interest 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 the people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations.” The founder of Wikileaks, this information is also from Wikipedia, has not been formally identified, but Julian Assange has been described as the founder of WikiLeaks. According to Wired magazine, a volunteer said that Assange was, “the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier, and all the rest.” The website is at http://www.wikileaks.org and its slogan is we open governments. The website, which is a document archive website, has been active since December 2006 and it is owned by the Sunshine Press (Wikipedia.org).
Now, WikiLeaks has been under scrutiny before, but on November 27th, 2010 the website announced they were going to release secret documents seven times the size of the documents from the Iraq War Logs. The United States government urged WikiLeaks not to publish the new files because the Obama Administration thought the releasing of the documents would risk countless lives. The Obama administration said that releasing the documents would be a breach of U.S. law, and would result in grave consequences. Assange replied by stating that the U.S. did not want to be held accountable and did not want the rest of the world to see what U.S. officials were saying about them. Analysts have said that the letter reflects the U.S. administration’s concern over possible publication of files, which may contain American diplomats’ opinions of other politcians, some of which may be candid and embarrassing (WikiNews).
On November 28th, 2010, WikiLeaks announced it was undergoing a huge attack on distributed denial-of-service, but they vowed to keep their word and still distribute cables and documents through many media outlets around the world including El Pais, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Guardian and The New York Times (Wikipedia.org). In one of the diplomatic cables U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton orders diplomats to obtain credit card and frequent flier numbers of the French, British, Russian and Chinese delegations to the United Nations Security Council (The Guardian). This incident has lead to U.S. Congressman and Republican of New York, Peter T. King, to describe WikiLeaks as a terrorist organization in response to the leak of the cables (MSNBC.com).
Now that all of the facts our out in the open and WikiLeaks did indeed release 2.7 million documents revealing U.S. diplomats opinions on other politicians around the world the question that is being raised is was what WikiLeaks distributed illegal or not and was their decision an ethical one or not? I believe that what WikiLeaks did is undoubtedly a tough decision to decide whether it was ethical or not ethical. To me putting people’s lives at risks is something that is not ethical, but then I think to myself and ask myself finding the truth about what our politicians our doing and discussing about is something that I want and should know because our government allows us to decide who we want in office and vote for them. Due to this being the way America conducts itself I believe I have the right to know what U.S. politicians are saying and doing because I and along with the rest of America helped vote them into their position and into office. This then brings up the situation where I think WikiLeaks is not a terrorist organization and therefore I think what they are doing and what they have been doing is ethical behavior. To undermine a government is one thing, but what they are doing is delivering information to the people who otherwise would not be able to gain access to this information and putting the information in the open to see what is really happening. I think other countries around the world are doing the exact same thing and it does not surprise me that in America people are making such uproar about the situation. I do not agree with publishing information that gets numerous lives killed, but I do not think what WikiLeaks does as a non-profit organization is unethical behavior. I like the fact that I can find out things I did not know because the government did not want me or anyone else to find out. It is kind of like that old adage, you always want what you can’t have and in this case I agree.
I think reporters from all different genres of journalism are going to use WikiLeaks in their stories and in their information because it is apart of today’s news world and society. By that I mean WikiLeaks is a part of the online news sources that allow people to find out information about secret documents relating to the governments around the world. It is hard to say whether a journalist should or should not use information when the golden rule of a journalist is to tell a complete, honest and true story without any bias. If that means a journalist has to use secret documents or use WikiLeaks than I think they should be able to because a story needs to be heard from both sides and needs to have all of the information present.
For instance let’s take a look at the person who is being accused of helping leak the information. This will be a good indication of what kind of information is being used in the news and how WikiLeaks is helping the news deliver the information. The lower ranking officer is being held in custody and being charged with breaching U.S. law by aiding in the release of secret U.S. documents. First of all I think that it is really difficult and hard to put all of the blame on one person. How did he even get the information? Why would he release it to WikiLeaks? This information I do not know as of now, but I do believe that he is being used as a scapegoat in this situation and there is definitely more to the story from this perspective. The question that is being raised to a lot of people around the United States is whether this act was illegal and is in violation of privacy rights in America pertaining to secret U.S. documents. This is a tough call. Every couple of years I feel like some sort of leak about the government or about a country’s government gets leaked out to the public world. For me to be able to say illegal or legal I need more time and more information to find a solution, a lot like a court case. I do know that the things that I have in my closet I would like to be kept confidential for me and for whoever I may want to tell, but the difference with me and the U.S. government or other governments around the world is I am just one person while the U.S. is considered to be the world power and the country that is supposed to police the rest of the free world. These situations are always interesting and intriguing and I can’t wait to find out what will be happening next.