I rarely do a personal rant on my blog… preferring to stick mostly to Architecture, but this time, I am incensed by the behavior of WikiLeaks, and I’ll share my opinion. If you are not interested, feel free to skip this entry.
Today, WikiLeaks decided to publish a list of potential targets for terrorism that the US Government considers to be critical to our safety and security. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m happy with the fact that an irresponsible person gave this information to them. Assuming the case is proven in court, the soldier who uploaded the data is very much guilty of treason.
On the other hand, we have a long history, in the United States, of relying on trustworthy behavior on the part of the press.
In the US, we take press freedom seriously. Much more so than many other democratic countries. For example, in Germany, printing inflammatory literature about Jews can get you arrested. In Britain, if you publish a remark about a government leader, you could be sued for defamation. In the US, we don’t often use the legal system to regulate the press. In exchange for that freedom, the press has a responsibility to publish things that help create an informed and educated public without causing actual harm.
The Wikileaks site wants to be protected like a newspaper. But they have violated their responsibility to prevent harm. This act, publishing a list of vulnerable sites, is far from responsible. It is reasonable to assume that our ability to analyze our own weaknesses is BETTER than the ability of a terrorist organization from another country. The list, exposed today, is likely to be materially different, and probably more extensive, than anything a terrorist would create. In fact, this list includes sites outside the US that we consider to be highly valuable. Ergo, citizens of countries around the world are endangered by the publication of this list. Even our allies had not received copies.
The press does have a responsibility to present information that is useful or provides value. It is OK to say that a list exists, or even to report on a selected subset of sites where the government is having problems with providing security. It is OK to talk about the categories of sites (ports, factories, trains, airports, yada, yada, yada), so that folks can understand what kinds of targets need to be secured.
That said, it is wildly irresponsible, and in my opinion, criminal, to provide material and highly valuable information to our enemies and expect that you won’t be part of a chain of events that ends with the loss of life. Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) has gone too far.
While I cannot call for the hacking of his site, nor do I agree with the attacks that have taken place against his site, I have a hard time finding fault with the perpetrators of those crimes. By providing material support to terrorist organizations, Mr. Assange is a terrorist. I call upon our NATO allies to uphold the NATO treaty (an attack on one is an attack on all), and arrest Mr. Assange, shut down his site, and hand over all copies of as-yet-undisclosed information to their rightful owners. Assange has proven that he cannot be trusted to behave in a responsible manner.