Wikileaks: Government Secrecy And Corporate Media's Failures

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Wikileaks’ ascent was made possible by the failure of large media institutions like the New York Times and Washington Post. If these supposed exemplars of journalism were doing their jobs—representing “we the people”—governments would be fearful of them like they now are of Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

[Speaking Truth To Power]

Wikleaks’ disclosure of a portion of 250,000 diplomatic cables has Washington scampering to minimize the damaging embarrassment of the latest leaks. Given the rise of Wikileaks, what does this portend for the safeguarding of government
secrets and the failure of corporate media, which made Wikileaks’ ascendancy possible?

Among the major charges revealed by the latest leaks: (1) Saudi donors dominated funding to terrorist groups, like Al Qaeda. (2) Several Arab countries lobbied for America to attack Iran and “cut off the head of the snake.” (3) U.S. diplomats were fully aware that “there was no doubt” the overthrow of Honduras President Manuel Zelaya “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup.” (4) Overwhelming evidence of corruption in the Afghanistan government; Vice-President Ahmed Zia Massoud reportedly, went to the United Arab Emirates last year with some $52 million in cash. The money is said to have been furnished by U.S. taxpayers. (5) China’s supposed growing annoyance with North Korea and the acceptance that North Korea may fall under its current economic crisis leading to a unified Korea.

The disclosures have many on Capitol Hill, and in the White House, fuming. The White House denounced the leaks saying “We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”

U.S. Army Private first class Bradley Manning has been arrested and is being charged with the unauthorized use and disclosure of classified information. Manning is also, supposedly, the source of the two earlier releases: the Afghan War Dairies and the now infamous Collateral Murder video, which showed a 2007 attack killing several innocent Iraqis and Reuters’ newsmen Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. Pfc. Manning was caught when an acquaintance he told, Adrian Lamo, informed authorities about Manning’s activities.

The White House also said “such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.”  Some of the usual grandstanders have been bellowing against Wikileaks, while calling for the head of its Australian founder Julian Assange. Mr. Assange is currently wanted by Interpol for alleged “sex crimes” in Sweden. Assange has emphatically denied the suspiciously timed charges.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, right-wing Republican Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said “WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United   States.” He urged Clinton “to work within the administration to use every offensive capability of the U.S. government to prevent further damaging releases by WikiLeaks.”  He wants Wikileaks labeled a terrorist organization.

“This man has put his own ego above the safety of millions of innocents,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), referring to Assange. “He should be extradited, tried for espionage and given the most severe penalty possible.” Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said, “We must use all means available to prosecute and punish this man for putting countless American lives at risk.”

There’s no question Wikileaks’ exposures represent a threat. But the threats they represent are to the scandalous secret lies our governments, in America and elsewhere, have been using to bamboozle the people. These disclosures magnify the utter disregard many have for transparency and true accountability to those they govern. These documents, if used inappropriately, can harm lives. But the evidence seems clear that Wikileaks has, so far, been diligent in vetting these documents to safeguard lives.

But while politicians pretend to care about lives they claim could be harmed by these cables, why don’t they seem to care about the lives being lost by war based on their bloody lies?  Why did we invade Iraq when Saudi money—much of it accumulated by the oil consumption of American drivers—remains the driving force financing Al Qaeda?

Rep. Peter King and others want to prosecute Assange for espionage. Where were they when Vice President Dick Cheney and his aide Scotter Libby were busy outing CIA agent Valerie Plame? Was anything more treasonous than jeopardizing her life—and the lives of CIA “assets” abroad associated to her—because her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson debunked the Bush White House’s fabricated yellow-cake uranium fables?
While it can be agreed governments have the right to keep some secrets, those secrets should be at an absolute minimum in any democracy that preaches about “open government.” Moreover, what are we to think of a State Department that can’t secure its secrets? Question: how could a low-level employee download, purportedly, classified material while pretending to sing along to Lady Gaga? Its clear most of this stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s no way the really juicy stuff can be that easy to obtain, can it? One comical story here is a cable stating Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi liked to cuddle close to his “voluptuous” blonde Ukrainian nurse.

The final important point here is this: Wikileaks’ ascent was made possible by the failure of large media institutions like The New York Times and The Washington Post. If these supposed exemplars of journalism were doing their jobs—representing “we the people”—governments would be fearful of them like they now are of Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

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