What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgWikiLeaks is an international non-profit organizationworking for transparency which publishes news leaksbased on their ethical, historical and politicalsignificance. WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 byChinese dissidents, journalists and mathematicians,and start-up company technologists from the UnitedStates, Taiwan, South Africa Australia, and Europe. AnAustralian Internet activist, Julian Assange, isdescribed as a director of WikiLeaks.
What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgOn their websiteWikiLeaks statesArticle 19 of theUniversal Declarationof Human Rights as abasis their work bydefining the humanrights of expressionand receipt ofinformationregardless of frontiersas civil rights.
What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgWhat do the recent WikiLeaks documents address?The most high-profile documents hosted byWikiLeaks are either US based documents or theyfocus on alleged US government misbehavior. Manyof them relate to hidden war crimes or prisonerabuse. The following sections describe the contentand value of leaked publications and publicreactions on the leaks.
What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgIn March 2007 WikiLeaks published the US militarys operatingmanual for the Guantanamo prison camp (Standard OperatingProcedures for Camp Delta). The manual indicated that someprisoners were placed outside the areas which members fromthe International Committee of the Red Cross were allowed tovisit. This was something the military has repeatedly denied.In July 2010, WikiLeaks released Afghan War Diary, acompilation of more than 76,900 documents about the War inAfghanistan which were not previously available to the public.These documents indicated that the deaths of innocent civiliansat the hands of international forces were covered up.
What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgOn November 28th 2010, WikiLeaks began releasing US StateDepartment diplomatic cables. The New York Times, LeMonde, Der Spiegel, The Guardian and El Pais in co-operationwith WikiLeaks published the first articles which revealed thatover 250,000 confidential documents had been leaked toWikiLeaks.
What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgReactions to diplomatic cable leaksLeaking the content of US diplomatic cables causeddramatically harder reactions in different countries than anyother of the earlier actions of WikiLeaks. It made also civilrights organizations reconsider their stand on WikiLeaks.On December US Attorney General announced that WikiLeakswas under criminal investigation and that there could beprosecutions of individuals for leaking classified documents.Julian Assange, was arrested December 2010 in Britain andaccused of sexual assaults in Sweden. However, he wasreleased against bail for a home arrest. No charges due to theleaks have been filed so far against him.
What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgDirect censorship by blocking was not the only restrictivereaction against WikiLeaks.In USA university students as well as government staffand prospective employees were warned by the StateDepartment not to read, print, comment on or make linksto WikiLeaks.6The reasoning behind this warning wasthat the data in WikiLeaks is still officially held asclassified.7
What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgGovernment reactions to WikiLeaksUS government reactions to WikiLeaks have hardenedover time. Concerning Afghan War Diary, the Pentagonpressured WikiLeaks to return all documents. The IraqWar Logs leak in 2010 was condemned by the US andUK who suggested the disclosures put lives at risk.
What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgDivided opinions among civil rights organizationsWikiLeaks has also become a dividing and controversialissue also among civil rights organizations.Many organizations agree on the undeniable value thatWikiLeaks has had by indicating violations of human rightsand civil liberties.According to Glenn Greenwald, lawyer and civil rightsactivist, the amount of corruption which WikiLeaks hasexposed is unique in history and there is no otherorganization that comes close to WikiLeaks regardingexposures of misuse of power.
What is the effect of WikiLeaksfor Freedom of Information? by Päivikki Karhulahttp://www.ifla.orgMany civil right organizations have so far openly supported thework of WikiLeaks because of these reasons.However, the leaks of diplomatic cables made some civilrights organizations and activists back off with their fullsupport for WikiLeaks. The Afghan War Diary leaks washarshly criticised by Reporters without Borders. They accusedWikiLeaks of "incredible irresponsibility.”WikiLeaks was accused of revealing the identity of hundredsof people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistanand making them vulnerable for further violence.
“State power no longer has ahold on information, at least notthe way it did before theemergence of the new mediawith its ability to reconfigurepublic exchange and socialrelations while constituting a newsphere of politics.” (Giroux, 2009)
WikiLeaks and DemocracyWikiLeaks, like the New York Times before it with thepublication of the Pentagon Papers, has committed nocrime.The claim that somehow WikiLeaks is different because it allegedly encouragedsources to come forward is a red herring: even if the charge proves true, this is whatjournalists at every major media outlet in the country do every day.In fact, the U.S. Embassy cables, like the Pentagon Papers, show ourgovernment involved in systemic wrongdoing and wide scaledeception. They present irrefutable evidence that this administrationand its predecessor have been tampering with other countries legalsystems to prevent prosecutions against government employees forcommitting human rights abuses and transgressing international lawunder often-secret post 9/11 policies.
WikiLeaks and DemocracyLike the NYT when it published the Pentagon Papers,WikiLeaks has been accused of irresponsibly dumping alarge cache of top secret documents into the publicdomain that compromise the safety of our country and ourallies. In fact, despite the hysterical claims of a variety ofelected officials, theres been absolutely nodocumentation of any resulting harm, unless one countsthe embarrassment of having Russian Premier MinisterVladimir Putin make fun of U.S. officials for trying tosuppress free speech.
WikiLeaks and DemocracyOur government, as journalist Glenn Greenwaldhas noted, “increasingly wishes to operatethrough a one-way mirror where all of its citizensactivities are open for surveillance while the activities of the governmentitself increasingly take place behind a wall of executive privilege,untouchable even by judicial oversight.”But democracy demands the cleansing light of openness as a guardagainst the abuses of power. We should thank WikiLeaks for sheddinglight on governmental wrongdoing.Now let us hope that the U.S. public, as well as its politicians and media,will consider investigating these abuses at least as important as maligningthe messenger.Vince Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for ConstitutionalRights.
WikiLeaks is delinquent and anti-democraticThe websites insistence that it is a voice of open ‘freedom ofexpression’ is simply absurd, argues Janet Daley.We are entering an unprecedented age of free speech, right? For the firsttime in human history, the state will no longer have control overinformation, right? Democracy is about to come to its full fruition, with thetriumph of bottom-up power over top-down domination, right?Wrong. The frenzied hyperbole generated by the latest WikiLeaks episode– an anarchic, but so far remarkably ineffectual, spasm of delinquency –seems peculiarly weak in its understanding of the basic concepts withwhich its rhetoric is larded. It is, in fact, the precise opposite of what itsapologists claim it to be: with its unilateral programme of revealingconfidential information, which it boasts is unstoppable and accountable tono one, it is profoundly anti-democratic.