December 16, 2010

More Debate

I hate to dwell but the more I try to wrap my head around the whole WikiLeaks debate the more my head wants to explode. There is so much complexity and so many implications to the arguments on both sides that getting a good grasp on what is going on and what is important is exceedingly difficult. I personally learn through argument and debate and the discussion yesterday about WikiLeaks pushed my opinions in several different directions. I'd like to highlight a few undercurrents of the debate that I find either troublesome to solve or under-reported.

Responsibilities of a Free Press
As Riley Carson pointed out yesterday the WikiLeaks reveals have put hundreds of Afghan informants in danger of retaliation. According to a New York Times review of some of the documents leaked on the war in Afghanistan revealed information about informants including their names, their villages and father's names. It is impossible to tell how many died because of these leaks. While WikiLeaks took more care with the release of the Iraq documents there is still a debate to be had as to where transparency ends and irresponsibility begins.

If there is a martyr, it isn't Assange.
When put in perspective the biggest risk Julian Assange has taken is not wearing a condom with some questionable women. While all the attention is on Assange and his legal proceedings no one really seems to be talking about the person who actually leaked the documents. U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning has been in jail for five months now and could face the death penalty for treason. Do we shoot the guy for endangering the progress of the war in Afghanistan? Should we give him a medal for standing up for what he believes in? I'm not entirely sure yet.

If 3,000,000 people know about it can you really call it a secret?
If you think back seven or eight years you'll remember that a big reason the United States was so susceptible to terrorism was that none of the agencies in our federal government were sharing information. Well, now they are. Some three million people have access to the information Pvt. Manning had access to. Did we really think that three million people could keep a secret for long? Imagine every resident of Chicago keeping a secret without letting it get out. At best that is exceedingly difficult to do. Although, no one outside of Chicago seems to know the proper way to make a hot dog so I guess it is possible.

The cables aren't the biggest story. 
Why didn't the war-related leaks receive more attention? The video below is far more confronting on the subject of foreign affairs, what it means to be American and what it means to be human. I can't pass judgment on the soldiers in this video because it seems like they're just following orders. This is really hard to watch and it'll make you question a lot of things. This video shows real, terrifying violence. You've been warned.


  1. I remember when I saw this video when it first leaked. It is extremely terrible. Those soldiers made a huge mistake. I am not surprised though. I have read a lot of war themed books and studied things like the mentality of soldiers and they get messed up being over there I don't think they should be excused, but they are not vicious people they are just immune to certain things. They are trained to be fearless and vicious. They are trained to be soldiers and trained that everyone where they are is an enemy The lines between war and civilization become blurred for them.

  2. The part that sort of stood out to me was that they were waiting on approval from their higher ups. It shows me that this was at least in 2007 probably a pretty common thing to happen. Not exactly the best way to win the hearts and minds they are always talking about.

  3. I can tell that you really are very intelligent.

    I agree with Penny Lane.
    The lines between war and civilisation have been blurred.
    What kind of world do we live in?

  4. Assange is a megalomaniac and we're all feeding his ego.

    At any given moment, several people can know a secret in the military; where they're going on a mission and what they're doing, for example, is generally classified Secret.

    Only that unit and their chain of command will know, not the whole 3,000,000 people with secret clearances. Why? Well, because most of those people don't have a reason to care about where that unit is goign and what their mission is. And after the fact, it doesnt have to be a secret because they've gone there, and done that.

    Information is compartmentalized, as are clearances.

    Just because me and the guy next to me have Secret clearances doesn't mean that we'll ever know the same things. In this case, manning was not privy to the information he leaked. That, of course, was an issue with the superiors who should have been guarding the information and the systems retaining the information (I don't even understand how he burned a CD. I have never seen a CD burner on a Secret net).

    Just hit on a weird peeve of mine.


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