Checks and balances require feedback.
The idea of getting feedback on your performance is nothing new. It means that another person- an employer, coworker, or auditor – can give you another perspective on your job performance. If your performance is dismal enough, perhaps they can fire you.
The government is no different. It is ironic that we are normally suspicious of the motives of the US bureaucracy, but when information is leaked about potential wrongdoing, we say, “The bureaucracy knows best! That was classified for a reason!”. Really now? How do you know this if the information is classified? Surely you don’t think the My Lai Massacre, Watergate, Pentagon papers, Whitewater, or Abu Ghraib are evidence that our government “knows best”?
Of course, there are definitely matters which must be kept secret. But when the government shows an inability to discriminate between real secrets and the information it owes to its citizens (and no, information which embarrasses incompetent officials at the Pentagon and State Dept doesn’t count as a “real secret”), shouldn’t we accept any risk necessary to publicly audit the government? Don’t we owe it to ourselves and to the world to occasionally lay bare the US government’s idea of what “secrets” are in order to ensure that the government is behaving in an acceptable manner?
I would like to take this opportunity to point out several things about the recent Wikileaks debacle. Much of the available data directly contradicts claims made by the mainstream media:
- Finding out that our government has acted in a criminal manner does not place us in danger- by the government’s own admission. The only unwise decision carried out by Wikileaks, in my opinion, was to publish the names of the Taliban informants in the Afghanistan War Logs.
- Wikileaks is now working with several prominent news organizations to examine and redact any dangerous information. That’s why only 1193 out of 251,287 cables have been released so far. If they were a terrorist organization, wouldn’t they have directly released them on torrent websites all at once without going through anyone else first?
- If Wikileaks wanted to unduly harm legitimate, honest Americans, then why did it make an offer to work with the US government to remove mentions of anyone in danger?
- And if the government truly valued US citizens, then why did it refuse to participate with Wikileaks’ request and then lie about ever having contact with Wikileaks?
- The women said to be accusing Wikileaks’ Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange of rape never originally made the accusation. In fact, one of them went so far as to throw a party for Assange and buy him a train ticket after they had relations. A prosecutor decided Assange’s trysts should be classified as rape. The charge was later dropped. Only after the first charges were dropped did the women actually make an accusation of rape and hire a prominent lawyer.
- Despite the fact that Assange was questioned by police in Sweden on August 31, stayed in Sweden an extra month to iron it out, and then later offered to be questioned further by video from Britain, Sweden violated due process and began legal proceedings, ordering his arrest.
- Assange was never involved in a “manhunt”. He turned himself in to British authorities.
- Anna Ardin, one of the rape accusors, wrote a blog post entitled “7 Steps to Legal Revenge”.
- Under the laws of the United States as determined by New York Times Co. v. United States and the mistrial decision in the Russo-Ellsberg Trial, Wikileaks’ actions are not illegal. The records of these decisions are publicly available
Here are some of the illegal/ethically questionable actions committed by the US government as revealed by Wikileaks:
- The Chinese Poliburo (instead of petty hackers) directed the intrusion into Google’s gmail systems, something which all gmail users needed to know. As a gmail user, I was under attack by a foreign power and my government didn’t tell me.
- The US is still doing business with Saudi businessmen who turn around and use our payments to finance militants. The US is sponsoring its own terrorist threat.
- Cables from the Saudi embassy indicate that the Saudis are attempting to gain access to government backchannels so they can wield the US as a tool against Iran. Why should we let anyone manipulate us in such a matter? Aren’t we capable of making our own decisions?
- The US is unwisely continuing to give our tax dollars to Afghani officials who, the cables reveal, are smuggling it out of Afghanistan in suitcases.
- The US has been violating international law by spying on UN officials. The US stole everything from credit card numbers to DNA samples.
- There are details about plans to deceive the British parliament over the storage of internationally banned weapons such as cluster bombs on British soil.
- The US is bombing Yemen without congressional approval. The War Powers act does not legitimize such action after 90 days.
- In a case of “mistaken identity”, the CIA kidnapped Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen, and tortured him for months. The CIA had mistaken El-Masri for the terrorist Al-Masri. When Germany demanded the US charge the agents responsible, the US threatened Germany, forcing them to back down and allowing the CIA agents responsible to go free.
- There are details about UK discomfort with US black planes flown from UK airbases. These unmarked missions have traditionally been used for extraordinary rendition to Syria for torture and spying on US allies.
- The US was in contact with Shell about Shell’s extensive monitoring of the Nigerian government and their subsequent political manipulation to acquire more favorable drilling contracts.
- Obama killed an international Bush torture probe undertaken by Spain.
All of this is available from the Cablegate database.
Do I believe that the kinds of information Wikileaks released should be available all the time? Well, no, not at this stage of our history. But isn’t this particular release of information infinitely preferable to allowing our government to continue to manipulate us, pay people who sponsor terrorism, and undertake morally heinous actions against the innocent, and moreover, our allies? These leaks reveal that our government is not only guilty of crimes, but is also completely incompetent- upon finding that it gives funds to terror-supporting Saudi businessmen, our government can’t even appropriately remedy the situation!
Now we’re supporting the same government bureaucrats who seek to cover up their misdeeds in the name of “National Security”. There are even those advocating the assassination of Assange, in violation of all the laws we hold dear!
Is this what freedom and justice looks like?