In the age of the internet and electronic
information, leakers of information are making headlines. Wikileaks, the
controversial website specialising in leaking secret and confidential
documents, burst onto the front page of the New York Times this week with 92,000
classified documents relating to the war in Afghanistan from January 2004
through December 2009.
While most of the material is not of great
value, overall it paints a dark picture of the war effort, with
minute-by-minute narrations of combat, disclosures of civilians killed, and
suggestions that the Pakistani intelligence service is undermining the war
It certainly provides opponents of the war
with plenty of lurid material for propaganda, and the illusion that abundant
data makes the war more comprehensible. The founder of Wikileaks, an Australian
anarchist hacker, Julian Assange, feels that disclosure of human rights
violations is an ethical imperative.
“We all only live once. So we are obligated
to make good use of the time that we have and to do something that is
meaningful and satisfying. This is something that I find meaningful and
satisfying. That is my temperament. I enjoy creating systems on a grand scale,
and I enjoy helping people who are vulnerable. And I enjoy crushing bastards.
So it is enjoyable work,” he told
Der Spiegel in an interview accompanying the latest tranche of secrets.
Assange’s critics call his work
“information vandalism” and accuse him of grandstanding. Kori Shake, a research
fellow at the Hoover Institution and an associate professor at the United
States Military Academy at West Point, wrote
in the New York Times that the Afghanistan files contain little that is
really new. But their impact, she argues, puts lives at risk: “What is shameful
about the disclosure of the documents is that they do reveal tactical
information that will be of use to our enemies: what we know about enemy
activities, who is working with us, what of our actions are succeeding. The
release of these documents doesn’t compromise the war effort, but it will put
at greater risk the men and women who are fighting this war and the Afghans
that are helping us to win it.”
At MercatorNet, we hope to cover the ethics
of transparency in journalism and information overload on the internet. This 24-minute
documentary on Wikileaks by Journeyman Pictures shows how formidable Julian
Assange has become in the world media and outlines the case against him.