The WikiLeaks Drama: Who's To Blame?
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Like everyone who's at home on the internet, I've been following the WikiLeaks drama as closely as I can without getting involved. With the "arrest" of Julian Assange (pinch of salt, since it's fairly easy to arrest someone who turns himself in for questioning) and the subsequent retaliation of Anonymous' Operation Payback against the sites of Post Finance, Mastercard and Visa just to name a few, it would seem as though the sides are drawn up clearly: you're either with WikiLeaks, or you're against them. But that's not what I've been wondering about.

I read somewhere that over 2,5 million people had already seen the U.S. Embassy cables, ranging from non-classified to top secret, long before Assange and his crew even got their hands on it. I have no idea where this number came from and I haven't been able to verify it either, so for all I know someone pulled it out of thin air. Regardless, I think it's safe to assume that a fair number of people within the U.S. government have seen and/or have access to these cables for one reason or another, the realization of which is what lead me to the question I've been asking myself.

Let's assume that the number of people within the U.S. government who've read these cables before WikiLeaks started publishing them ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand; a fairly conservative estimation, but for my intents and purposes it gets the job done. As I'm sure we all know, many people have tried to tear WikiLeaks a couple of new ones for potentially endangering the lives of American citizens, soldiers and allies by publishing this information. While there's certainly some merit to that claim, as it's hard for anyone to predict exactly what will happen once all of these cables hit the internet, I still think that holding WikiLeaks to blame for everything that's happened is a little short-sighted.

Appreciating the fact that in the Digital Age it only takes one person to blow a case wide open, especially with the social networking capabilities of web 2.0, it's hard to see how the U.S. government intended to maintain operational security while a few hundred to a few thousand people were involved - let alone 2,5 million. I have the distinct feeling that the eventual surfacing and publishing of this information was inevitable, and that WikiLeaks was just the first non-affiliated party to do so. I have no interest in feeding the myriad of aluminium-hat-wearing conspiracy nuts the globe over, and I decidedly don't want to think along those terms myself, but let's be honest here: the only real way to keep a secret is to not share it with anyone.

Which leaves me with the following predicament: who's to blame? WikiLeaks for potentially endangering lives by publishing information that was never intended to become public knowledge, or the U.S. government for introducing potentially harmful information into a world where secrecy is no longer a reliable safeguard? I honestly have no idea how to answer that. I don't know who's right or wrong, but I do know that it's becoming increasingly difficult to figure that out.

December 9, 2010

Luke Gevaerts