By: Matt Guariglia
Whether you like him or not, you must admit that Julian Assange is a badass. Called both a champion of free speech and a terrorist, the 39-year-old Australian has been running the website WikiLeaks since its creation in 2006. The non-profit website sees itself as one of the world’s foremost whistle blowers on government and corporate wrongdoing and, needless to say, its mysterious ways of leaking classified information have made it a target for a lot of very powerful people.
The website first entered the spotlight in 2007, when it released a video of a supposed American helicopter attack on an Iraqi civilian village. Although the United States government denied the victims’ civilian status, WikiLeaks’ staff assured the public that the authenticity of their information is thoroughly checked before posting.
Now back in the news, the website has recently uploaded thousands of documents concerning covert American military operations of questionable morality, intelligence gathered in nations on poor diplomatic relations with the United States, as well as very compromising documents about personal intelligence gathered on foreign leaders. While the American government has condemned Assange as a “terrorist of information,” there are those that feel his work should be respected.
When living in a nation-state run by a selective governing body, the people of that state must make an important decision: just how much information should the people know about the operations of its government?
The American people of the 20th and 21st centuries have been a population dedicated to rooting out the more shady actions of the government. Before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act into law in 1966, the government could tell the people of the United States anything it wanted, regardless of authenticity, in order to sway public opinion.
However, even after 1966, the government continued to undermine the Act. Throughout the 20th century, it was left up to whistle blowers like Assange to expose some of the more heinous misconduct such as the Watergate Scandal, the Iran-Contra Affair, and the Monica Lewinski fiasco.
Although considered compromising to national security, is it unreasonable to consider these leaks a good way for the American people to find out what our government actually does besides argue on C-SPAN?
We have to ask ourselves: is our ignorance of our country’s international actions worth the edge the information gives our government? If it is, and you think the government ought to keep the intelligence gathered in the field to themselves, then what about the other things WikiLeaks are exposing?
If our government has committed a terrible crime somewhere in the world, then is it worth the national risk in order to bring justice to the guilty?
I think we also have to take into consideration that along with the potentially threatening leaked information about our intelligence-gathering methods, Wikileaks has also exposed documents about corporate misconduct. WikiLeaks is not trying to bring down the American government; it’s trying to expose immorality and share information about what is happening behind the closed doors of our world.
Another reason I think WikiLeaks is doing a favor to America is that it’s exposing how much secret information is available for those who are looking for it. Although the website is very secretive about the sources of these documents, if there are people out there leaking information, I think this website is doing a favor to the CIA by exposing the problem.
If anything, this website will improve national security and intelligence services for the future by making it necessary to work harder to prevent leaks. If nothing is done, before long people might try to post vault codes to Fort Knox online.
In conclusion, Julian Assange might be a kind of strange 21st century superhero. Like Spiderman, the forces in power are always trying to arrest him because he is after all, breaking laws. But in the long run, like Spiderman, can it not be argued that he is also helping to clean up the streets by exposing misconduct in powerful organizations and governments? I suppose time will tell. In the meantime, make sure you know your friends well, because the secret Facebook invitations to your birthday party that you didn’t want Ashley to find out about could end up on WikiLeaks. And if they do, Ashley will be pissed.