Debate Forum Center 08/04/2010

Secrets Secreted: Freedom Of Information Gone Too Far?

Even those who may never have ventured into the cyber world of the Internet know that it is a source for a wealth of information. They would even know by now that a good amount of the information to be found on the Web isn’t always necessarily reliable or even correct.  Non-users even have the general idea of how to define such terms as “.com” (identifying a commercial Web site), “.org” (identifying a non-profit organization’s site), “blog” (short for “Web log”), “social networking” (as in “Facebook.com”), going “viral” (when a Web site obtains logarithmically accelerated popularity) or even how “Googling” means “searching” the internet for information. But even the most savvy Internet users might not know that the prefix “Wiki” is a term for a technology used for creating collaborative Web sites (from the Hawaiian word “Wiki”), as used in the very popular (but not necessarily informationally accurate) user-driven, encyclopedia-styled Web site known as “Wikipedia.”

For whistleblowers worldwide there is now another collaborative “Wiki” site that has recently gone “viral.” The non-profit “WikiLeaks.org” was created for the purpose of solving the worldwide problem of censorship of the press by governments and institutions, while protecting the anonymity of the whistle-blower. The “about us” page of their Web site carries the mission statement, “We believe that transparency in government
activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies” as well as their belief that “…it is not only the people of one country that keep their government honest, but also the people of other countries who are watching that government.”

Since 2007, WikiLeaks has serviced the world via the Internet through their Sweden-based primary operation “…as an anonymous global avenue for disseminating documents the public should see.” In other words, any person with any information he/she may deem important enough for the rest of the World to view on WikiLeaks.org can do so whenever they see fit regardless of their source, and do so anonymously.

Last week, over 90,000 secret reports on the war in Afghanistan were published on WikiLeaks.org. Some of these reports discuss the efforts of the U.S. to work with a less than enthusiastic Pakistani government (consequently straining U.S.- Pakistani relations). The “leaker” of these documents is believed to be a U.S. soldier working in intelligence that had security clearance and access to these files. Critics of the WikiLeaks site argue that out of self-preservation, governments have to be allowed to have some secrets and that some information is rightfully off-limits. They say by allowing whistleblowers to anonymously post these types of top secret information, WikiLeaks undermines legitimate governments around the world. They further argue that both U.S. ground troops and Afghans who’ve helped them have had their security put at risk by the release of these documents. Hence, the argument that WikLeaks.org may pose a potential
national security problem.

Proponents argue in agreement with the WikiLeaks.org manifesto promoting government transparency and the opportunity to “watch” the government.

Question of the Week___________

Should a Web site like WikiLeaks.org be allowed to exist when documents found on that site may be deemed as compromising to the national security of a nation?


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