Before setting forth why these WikiLeaks disclosures produce vastly more good than harm, I'll state several caveats as clearly as I can. Unlike the prior leaks of war documents, there are reasonable concerns about this latest leak (most particularly that impeding diplomacy makes war more likely). Like all organizations, WikiLeaks has made mistakes in the past, including its failure to exercise enough care in redacting the names of Afghan informers. Moreover, some documents are legitimately classified, probably including some among the documents that were just disclosed.
Nonetheless, our government and political culture is so far toward the extreme pole of excessive, improper secrecy that that is clearly the far more significant threat. And few organizations besides WikiLeaks are doing anything to subvert that regime of secrecy, and none is close to its efficacy. It's staggering to watch anyone walk around acting as though the real threat is from excessive disclosures when the impenetrable, always-growing Wall of Secrecy is what has enabled virtually every abuse and transgression of the U.S. government over the last two decades at least.
In sum, I seriously question the judgment of anyone who -- in the face of the orgies of secrecy the U.S. Government enjoys and, more so, the abuses they have accomplished by operating behind it -- decides that the real threat is WikiLeaks for subverting that ability. That's why I said yesterday: one's reaction to WikiLeaks is largely shaped by whether or not one, on balance, supports what the U.S. has been covertly doing in the world by virtue of operating in the dark.
There's an excellent piece on Salon about the response in the media to Wikileaks, so do the jump and take a read.
One of the things that was not clear to me yesterday was that Interpol's placing of Assange on their list was not actually an arrest warrant. Rather, it's a Red Alert, which means that if officials decide to arrest Assange, he can be extradited to Sweden to face charges on rape. That, incidentally, is what he will face charges on, though you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise with the current media reportage. Not so long ago, I heard SBS saying that Assange had done something illegal, and given that the article was connected to Wikileaks, I had to assume that they meant that his release of the information had been illegal--but, really, does Australia have any law against such a release? In any way shape or form is he doing something illegal in Australia?
The answer, it appears, is no.
It's terrible, really, how Assange is being treated by the Australian Government and media. For quite some time, the joke has been that we have been the puppy, the chew toy, of the American government, and as a citizen of this country is being accused of treason and illegality, the response of the Australian government merely supports this. In fact, there's some question if Julia Gillard, our Prime Minister, truly understands what she means when she says, "It's a grossly irresponsible thing to do, and an illegal thing to do." She's yet to prove (just as anyone has) that what has been done is illegal. Instead, what has been suggested is that the government will make a 'request' to media outlets to censor some of the material from the site. Holy New York Times, Batman. Perhaps an editor could appear on British TV and tell Britain how Australia vetos everything before the government before going to air.
In many ways, Australia ought to be proud of Assange and Wikileaks, for it is, to a large extent, the manifestation of a key part of the Australian psyche, that being 'A Fair Go'. Linked to the idea that ordinary people deserve the same opportunities as those born into better socio and economic standards, a fair go suggests the removal of all distinctions of race, gender, and culture when an individual is striving to reach their goal. The idea is an essential part of Wikileaks, in which information is released with the idea that ordinary people should have a better understanding of how their governments conduct war and diplomacy, or how the general elite (those in charge of banks, mining companies, and so forth) reach their decisions, often at the expense of individuals like you and I. That is at the heart of Wikileaks, and the figurehead of it, Julian Assange, with his Australian heritage, is representative of some of the best parts of the country. Perhaps the Australian governments inability to acknowledge this is because Assange is not engaged in a sport, or is trying to pay a mortgage, but is instead sitting on a global stage, presenting himself as an Australian for all to see. By ignoring that, by allowing for governments to call for his detaining, and for allowing what appears to be an obvious smear campaign over rape allegations to exist, the Australian government is not only abandoning a citizen, but abandoning one of the most important aspect of the Australian psyche.