Over the last ten days, we’ve learned that the US has instructed its ambassadors to spy on UN personnel. On the other hand, the US has been a moderating voice in the Middle East, amidst calls for attacks on Iran. We know that the CIA snatched a German ‘terror suspect’ in Macedonia, and that the US had to lean on Germany not to go public and issue international arrest warrants against the CIA operatives. We know that China has recruited a large cyber-warfare unit. (BBC summary of Wikileaks revelations here)
Are we better off knowing these things? Undoubtedly.
We’ve also heard all kinds of pointless tittle-tattle about what politicians think of each other. This isn’t so useful, although we do now know that Prince Andrew is soft on corruption and should be sacked as a trade envoy.
In return for this public service, Wikileaks has lost its servers in the US. Its DNS address has been withdrawn, meaning it can no longer be found at wikileaks.org, and all links to it are nullified. US government employees have been banned from viewing the site, and international relations students at Colombia University have been warned that discussing Wikileaks online could harm their job prospects.
Over the weekend Wikileaks lawyers said that they were being followed and had people watching them from cars in the street. Things were worse for the public face of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, as right wing politicians call for him to be executed or even assassinated.
All of this confirms the need for Wikileaks in the first place. Theirs is an important and urgent task, unmasking vested interests, exposing corruption and war crime, bringing truth into the public domain. It keeps politicians honest, and gives us a line of accountability on the political elite. It’s not hard to see why so many people want it shut down, and I hope it survives 2011.
Wikileaks isn’t perfect. It’s scrappy and too open to interpretation, releasing vital information and trivia side by side. I’d much rather see good investigative journalism, where each story can be told in its full context. But that takes time and dedication, and most news networks are unwilling to invest in it. I also think Assange has made a mis-step in going public. This year he has become an international figure, hero to some and pariah to others. By becoming the ‘face’ of Wikileaks, he becomes a very human target. If he is discredited, the Wikileaks network will be too.
One day Wikileaks won’t be necessary. But until government is transparent and the media is independent, Wikileaks have my support.
- If you’re looking for them, today you can find Wikileaks here.