Wikileaks’ Benefit to Democracy

With calls for the head of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, and’s government prompted censorship of Wikileaks, after the release of the latest State Department cables, it is worth reviewing some of the things Wikileaks has revealed that the US media has not (thanks to Greg Greenwald of for the summary):

“We viscerally saw the grotesque realities of our war in Iraq with the Apache attack video on innocent civilians and journalists in Baghdad — and their small children — as they desperately scurried for cover.  We recently learned that the U.S. government adopted a formal policy of refusing to investigate the systematic human rights abuses of our new Iraqi client state, all of which took place under our deliberately blind eye.  We learned of 15,000 additional civilian deaths caused by the war in Iraq that we didn’t know of before.  We learned — as documented by The Washington Post‘s former Baghdad Bureau Chief — how clear, deliberate and extensive were the lies of top Bush officials about that war as it was unfolding:  “Thanks to WikiLeaks, though, I now know the extent to which top American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public,” she wrote.

In this latest WikiLeaks release — probably the least informative of them all, at least so far — we learned a great deal as well.  Juan Cole today details the 10 most important revelations about the Middle East.  Scott Horton examines the revelation that the State Department pressured and bullied Germany out of criminally investigating the CIA’s kidnapping of one of their citizens who turned out to be completely innocent.  The head of the Bank of England got caught interfering in British politics to induce harsher austerity measures in violation of his duty to remain apolitical and removed from the political process, a scandal resulting in calls for his resignation.  British officials, while pretending to conduct a sweeping investigation into the Iraq War, were privately pledging to protect Bush officials from embarrassing disclosures.  Hillary Clinton’s State Department ordered U.N. diplomats to collect passwords, emails, and biometric data in order to spy on top U.N. officials and others, likely in violation of the Vienna Treaty of 1961 (see Articles 27 and 30; and, believe me, I know:  it’s just “law,” nothing any Serious person believes should constrain our great leaders).”

We could easily add to this the US acquiescence to the 2009 Honduran coup.

What seems clear from these revelations and the uproar over them, is that those in power do not want a government to be transparent to the people.  If they did, then these issues would have been revealed by one or more government watch dog agencies before Wikileaks published them.

While those who loudly call for Wikileaks to be destroyed maintain that the release of the recent rounds of documents will endanger lives, though Wikileaks scrubbed the documents of personal details, one of the best retorts I have found comes from The Economist magazine:

“Of course, those jealously protective of the privileges of unaccountable state power will tell us that people will die if we can read their email, but so what? Different people, maybe more people, will die if we can’t.”

Which points out how important it is to oppose laws such as the recently emerged from committee Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA) and Department of Homeland Security’s attempts to seize domains accused, but not convicted of copyright infringement at the prompting of the entertainment industry.  Once the US government has the legal authority to take down or block any domain name, Wikileaks and future websites publishing government secrets will find themselves targeted more forcefully.

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