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© Clay Bennett

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to authorities in London, but will fight extradition to Sweden on charges that he had unprotected sex with two women. Meanwhile, Assange printed a thoughtful letter in an Australian newspaper.



  1. patriotsgt wrote:

    This whole wikileaks thing is becoming something its not. By that I mean, the 1st Amendment should be protected for better or worse at all costs. However, committing or aiding, or profiting from a crime should not be championed. Assange likens himself to a great crusader fighting for truth and justice. Is he donating all his profits to the needy or poor? I seriously doubt it. Secondly he defends his actions as necessary for liberty and to keep governments honest. There is some truth and merit to that statement and cause. I believe lies told by gov’s should be exposed. but he is publishing a whole lot more then policy concerns or presidents lying (I havn’t seen any of those docs). He is publishing a small percentage of actually useful information to further the cause of keeping big government honest. At the same time he is publish mountains of information that has nothing to do with policy, simple mission files from our 2 war zones, and personal opinions of State Dept staff. The latter can have damaging effects, including his publish of what the US considers important infrastructure to protect from possible terrorist actions. How is that, Assanges own words, “fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.”
    Publishing a list of critical pieces of infrastrucure is vital to keeping government honest? Give me a break. He’s wrapped himself in this mantle of martydom and being a great hero in the war against government corruption. He’s just a capitalist taking advantage and profiting off criminal activity. Enough with the pity party, send him a hankie!

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink
  2. starluna wrote:

    I’m inclined to agree that the Wikileaks “scandal” is a lot of ado about nothing. But I would disagree that the list of critical infrastructure is in fact secret. That list of what the government thinks is critical has been widely known to researchers and others for over 7 years. We know it because we can’t get data on, for example, the location of power plants (at least not as easily as in the past). This is necessary data if we’re going to evaluate the impact that power plant emissions have on the health, economic and social well being of those who live or work close to power plants. Same for airports, train stations, bridges, etc. In fact, one of the criticisms that many of us who do this kind of research have about that list is that it is inconsistent. While I may agree that a power plant is a terrorist target (as are christmas tree lighting ceremonies, apparently), it is not obvious why Air Force bases below a certain size are not. But while we’ve been forced to spend months compiling our own dataset on the location of power plants for our research, I can get the locations of every single AFB in the country. It’s not even masked by Google.

    I’m not clear how the Wikileaks business model works. And I am concerned that some of the information made public may have put individuals or military personnel at risk. I am not sure what the impact of publishing the diplomat’s cables are, good or bad. Most of it just seems to be embarrassing, which should be a lesson to the diplomatic corps about behaving professionally and not writing down what you don’t want seen by a wider audience.

    However, the idea that publishing government documents simply because he is making money off of it seems to go a bit too far. I don’t think Wikileaks are heroes. But I think that there is some value in what they have done. In the very least, we should all be talking about what the government should be allowed to keep secret and what should be available to the public upon request.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 7:40 am | Permalink
  3. patriotsgt wrote:

    Excellent point in your final paragragh Starluna. The whole mess exposes many facits of governmental issues that should be addressed. Information security being number one (is/will our digitized health/tax/voting info remain secure? Also on the “what the government should be allowed to keep secret” topic should be discussed.

    You kind of back up my point with your comments concerning “Most of it just seems to be embarrassing, which should be a lesson to the diplomatic corps about behaving professionally”. The information was stolen and passed “fenced” to wikileaks. They under the veil of doing greater good, published that information. In my mind at least its no different then if Assange owned a car dealership in the AU and he advertised that he accepts stolen cars. As soon as he receives a stolen car and sells it for a profit he becomes an accessory to the original crime. Wikileaks although there is no “(their secret info)disclosed by them ,” that they paid any money to the leakers (they have not identified who yet, again their secret info), they are most definately profiting in the way of advertising revenue they receive from their websites. Page hit volume is how the whole ecommerce marketing/advertising works. The more page hits, the higher you ad revenues.

    As for access to critical data, it has always been on a need to know. If your job requires you to know, then you should be granted any access you need to complete that job, particularly if you are working to benefit the government. However, I agree on the inconsistencies of what is available, more so now with consumer/public satellite available. I was amazed during the leadup to my 1st deployment that using simple consumer satellite program and a few queries in public data sets I was able to get pictures of the base the unit would be stationed, the approx # of troops garrisoned there, types of units, equipment and of infrastructure. It seemed pointless to tell my Soldiers not to post any pictures in Facebook or Myspace, but perhaps it cut down some of the volume.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    Profit? What profit? WikiLeaks does not make a profit. I realize that you are against what WikiLeaks is doing, but I really don’t understand your attack of “Is he donating all his profits to the needy or poor?” What profits are those?

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  5. Michael wrote:

    I’ve been following WikiLeaks for a few years now, so I have a pretty good feel for what they’re about. The recent hubbub with the war diaries and the diplomatic cables are really just publicity stunts. They raise the profile of the site and Assange (who, by all accounts I’ve seen, is an egomaniacal, pompous ass).

    The primary purpose of the site is to expose corruption and hypocrisy in both government and business throughout the world. Basically, they are performing the work that news media used to do, before all of the major independent outlets were bought and tamed by large corporations. If you want to see some samples of things they’ve exposed in the past, click here. Notice that the link is for, the German mirror of the original site. has been DDoSed to hell, and the DNS entry has been revoked. But several mirrors exist.

    If you don’t want to visit the site because it’s blocked or you’re afraid your visit will be documented, here are some samples of what they’ve exposed (besides the high-profile stuff):

    The U.S. Special Forces manual on how to prop up unpopular government with paramilitaries
    Stasi still in charge of Stasi files
    How German intelligence infiltrated Focus magazine – Illegal spying on German journalists
    The Monju nuclear reactor leak – Three suppressed videos from Japan’s fast breeder reactor Monju revealing the true extent of the 1995 sodium coolant disaster
    Whistleblower exposes insider trading program at JP Morgan
    How election violence was financed – the embargoed Kenyan Human Rights Commission report into the Jan 2008 killings of over 1,300 Kenyans
    The looting of Kenya under President Moi – $3,000,000,000 presidential corruption exposed
    Texas Catholic hospitals did not follow Catholic ethics, report claims – Catholic hospitals violated catholic ethics

    As you can see, they cast a wide net. Part of the reason they publish original documents is to demonstrate the veracity of their claims. But those stories don’t capture the public’s interest. So they need big things. Controversial things. That’s why you’ve all heard of WikiLeaks, but you haven’t heard of Cryptome, which is a competing anti-corruption site.

    As for the charge of doing all of this for profit, the claim is demonstrably false. For instance, look at Patriotsgt’s claim that “The more page hits, the higher you[r] ad revenues.” That would be true…if there were ads on the site. Look at the German mirror again. WikiLeaks operates entirely by donation. There are also plans to document how WikiLeaks pays its staff. Despite the current focus on the cable, the aim of WikiLeaks really is to be a site that allows anonymous whistleblowers the opportunity to expose corruption. They really are trying to be what news media should be.

    Are there problems with what WikiLeaks has published? Yes. I believe the war diaries and the diplomatic cables have gone too far. Yes, it is possible that their leaks can cause harm to innocents (which was the concern with leaking Afghan translators’ names in the war diaries). Currently, there is no evidence of that. Regardless, I do not like that they are taking these risks without any verifiable accountability. See Clay Shirky’s take on this for a good discussion.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thanks for the link to Shirky’s article. I really hope the US can get past the Assange debate and start a discussion on what the government should be allowed to keep secret. We’ve had this discussion before, but it looks like we need to have it again.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink
  7. patriotsgt wrote:

    IK – I stand corrected. Having not visited the site previously (didn’t want to contribute to what I thought was a standard internet site that relies on web marketing for income)I did not realize they rely soley on donations. My humble apologies to all.
    My other arguments still hold some water though 🙂

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  8. starluna wrote:

    What information the government can keep from the public domain should always be an ongoing discussion, in my view. I say this partly as a researcher and partly as an policy and legal advocate.

    Recently, a local website requested under the Freedom of Information Act the businesses that accept food stamps. The state agency that held this data complied. The person running the website created a map of locations that accept food stamps. I personally only see benefits to this. And before you think it, business contracts with government are not considered privileged except in very rare circumstances.

    Almost immediately, the state received a direction from the feds that the information needs to be taken down, that it was illegally distributed and that the public does not have a right to know this information. They went so far as stating that there could be criminal liability for the individual who posted this. Not only is there no statutory, regulatory, or case law support for this position, there is no reasonable justification for hiding from the public the locations of businesses that facilitate social welfare benefits. Once I found out about this dataset, I immediately downloaded (just in case) because this is information that I can use for an index that a colleague of mine and I are working on to ascertain community health and social well-being vulnerability.

    What worries me is that it is precisely this kind of behavior on the part of the government actors that fosters unhealthy distrust of the government as a whole.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  9. It sickens me to think that ordinary people honestly believe that some things should be kept secret.

    When a journalist shows discretion regarding whether or not information should be shared, that journalist has become a willing agent of government. When the government controls the press, the press becomes redundant.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Permalink
  10. patriotsgt wrote:

    CGE – i believe there are some things (like the code to the nukes, for example) that should not be made public. However, information like that which Starluna referred to has no business being classified, no purpose what so ever. Now for the journalist, if we follow your thinking, they should be required to reveal their sources.
    Again, some info needs to be and should be classified, but I fully agree there needs to be a discussion on what, why, how long, etc.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  11. starluna wrote:

    I agree that there are things that may need to be kept out of the public sphere. For example, most news organizations have a policy of not naming victims (or alleged victims) of sexual assault. They also do not name juveniles (usually defined as those under 17) who have allegedly committed most types of crimes or have been victims of crimes, at least not until they’ve received permission from parents. Personally, I think these are good policies.

    I think that most professional and well trained journalists are capable of figuring out what might cause unnecessary harm to an individual or group and how to frame a story so that relevant information is made public but individual’s privacy and safety is maintained. I would not like to see Aghani informants put in harms way, or rape victims outed, out of blind adherence to a rule about transparency.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink
  12. I specifically mean information insomuch as it refers to perpetrations of law in the name of things such as national security. I should have been more clear.

    Information that shows wrongdoing and/or questionable activity should always be exposed and shown exactly for what it is. If the information is controversial and that controversy makes a big splash, if the questionable activity turns out to be justified, I think it is the responsibility of those who reported it to follow up on that story and to tell the world that what seemed questionable was actually perfectly okay.

    The media continually fails to do this, especially when it is dominated by partisan machinery that reports only what helps the image of a particular ideology.

    Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink
  13. Bert wrote:

    Does the fifth amendment apply to the government? It applies to corporations. No, I don’t like where that goes…

    Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  14. starluna wrote:

    The Bill of Rights (the amendments to the Constitution) apply to individuals, not to the government. The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to provide protections to individuals from the government.

    Because the courts continue to define corporations as individuals, it applies to the them as well.

    Friday, December 10, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:


    Friday, December 10, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Permalink