How much is too much? This seems to be the debate that divides supporters and opponents of Julian Assange’s controversial website, Wikileaks. There are valid arguments on both sides of the issue. Political scientists will argue Wikileaks is a threat to national security and that there are some things best kept behind closed doors. Journalists on the other hand, advocate for transparency and accountability and have little mercy for the governments, individuals and corporations who are held over the fire for their unjust actions.
The act of publishing millions of private documents online has changed the nature of investigative reporting for the better. There’s a reason why Watergate had the reaction it did. At the time, it was unheard of for two reporters to ultimately bring down the leader of one of the world’s most powerful nations. Today, journalists no longer have to meet their sources in the dark alleys or deserted parking garages. They simply have to turn on their computer and the information is readily available.
One of the most remarkable things about Wikileaks is its ability to shape public opinion. The video released of the US soldiers shooting innocent Iraqi civilians would be enough to sway even the most pro-war American. A five minute video can spark dialogue and encourage people to re-evaluate things they previously trusted, like the intentions and motivations of the United States military.
Another interesting aspect of Wikileaks is the method in which information is released or ‘leaked.’ The information isn’t being scavenged like before, it is offered freely by the workers from within organizations. Their anonymity takes away some of the pressure previously put on them [depending on whether or not they later get caught]. Some question whether certain information should be leaked and say it may cause more harm than good. The way I see it, if people are willing to provide information at the risk of losing their job, there’s usually a reason for it.
For US soldier, Bradley E. Manning, it’s more than his job at risk. He could face life in jail. As of March 2nd, the Private is facing 22 more charges. One charge is “Aiding the enemy under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” If convicted, he would not only be imprisoned for life, but would be stripped of his rank and lose his entire salary. Either this man is crazy, or he is doing the world a favour by telling stories the military tries to sweep under the rug. I think it’s safe to say it’s the latter.