I’ve been following the WikiLeaks controversy with interest for months, but haven’t had much to say about it myself. A few points.
- My natural inclination is to support WikiLeaks. The ability to keep secrets creates the opportunity to abuse the public trust. Whistleblowers are one form of insurance against that abuse, and WikiLeaks provides an outlet that whistleblowers can use. That’s important.
- At the same time, someone who leaks 250,000 diplomatic messages to WikiLeaks isn’t just blowing the whistle on malfeasance. I really doubt they reviewed everything they leaked, nor that any one person has the knowledge to understand the risks of leaking 250,000 documents.
- Calling Julian Assange a terrorist is stupid. It cheapens the word.
- Even if you favor greater transparency, as I do, you must also acknowledge that this leak puts certain efforts at risk. This Dan Froomkin post explains how the leak may damage behind the scenes effort to remove dangerous nuclear material from Pakistan.
- In many cases, people are more candid when they are speaking privately. Increased transparency is more likely cause people to be less candid in their private communications than it is to make them more candid in their public communications.
- Nearly all of the information in the documents WikiLeaks has published thus far was already known to people, by way of off the record comments by officials to journalists. The main difference between the media and WikiLeaks is that they’re more selective in terms of what they let us in on.
Update: Glenn Greenwald mentioned this post by Will Wilkinson as the best piece of WikiLeaks analysis he’s seen. I’d agree — it explains why WikiLeaks is valuable very well.