WikiLeaks: Ethics vs Execution

1821 words (7 pages) Essay in Politics

11/09/17 Politics Reference this

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WikiLeaks is a website which was founded in 2006 by the Australian Programmer Julian Assange, and its purpose ever since, has been to leak and expose illegal or immoral government actions around the world. WikiLeaks, however, is not a simple hacking group and through careful planning of the release of government documents, it has promoted slander on those who the members of WikiLeaks may not like, therefore unethically promoting a political agenda. However, not everything WikiLeaks has released is of bad taste; some of the documents, in fact, have shown the disgraceful actions which the governments of various countries have committed and tried to hide. This does not excuse the damage to political figures which are named in the released documents. Even though WikiLeaks exposes immoral government actions, this organization must be censored because it unethically promotes slander and harms political figures.

WikiLeaks has shown that it wants to foist an anti-establishment opinion upon its readers by slandering and promoting slander against the government. The release of the Iraq War Logs in 2010 by WikiLeaks was very quickly “condemned by the United States and United Kingdom who suggested the disclosures put lives at risk.” (Karhula). The documents of the leak showed its readers that the government was hiding something from its people and while they were, it should not have been a serious scandal in war times. It should be known that wars have casualties and the files state that civilians in Afghanistan were killed but WikiLeaks promoted the concept that this was a serious issue which would encourage strong distrust and dislike of the government. The release of every secret document in the War in Afghanistan is not necessarily for the people’s benefit as “it is a mistake to assume that revealing the entirety of what has been secret will liberate us” (Žižek). While knowing how one’s government operates can benefit participation in politics, it is detrimental to the people to know what horrible actions had to be made during a war.

The information released by WikiLeaks is also not extraordinary, but rather confirmation of what many perceive the government as. The scandal around WikiLeaks’ released documents is false because much of the information revealed by WikiLeaks is not extraordinary or revolutionary (Eco 219). Torture and death, ubiquitous in the Iraq War logs and Afghan War Diary, is a subject which many people refuse to discuss even though it is used by the United States in a time of war. While many speak out against torture, it is still used on Americans and by Americans in Foreign countries during a war. The revelations of the WikiLeaks documents are nothing more than a confirmation and detailed explanation of how exactly the United States government and army acts during war. With the lack of truth to the WikiLeaks scandal, the “[distribution] to major newspapers” (Ludlow) makes it even worse as WikiLeaks promoted its philosophy through mainstream media. By doing this, WikiLeaks was essentially forcing anti-establishmentarianism upon its readers, and forcing a reaction from the government. The two possible reactions from the government would be an increase or decrease in security, which would slowdown efficiency or force the government to stop taking risks, both detrimental to the operation of the United States. Through WikiLeaks methods of releasing information and promoting an anti-establishment belief, it encourages that the United States people slander the government’s name, in the hope that the government changes its policies of security.

Even though some of the actions performed by WikiLeaks are unethical and detrimental to society, the ideology of freedom of information, is a reasonable and good-natured one. In March 2007, WikiLeaks released the Guantanamo prison camp standard operating manual for the United States military which revealed that some prisoners were placed outside of Red Cross allowed areas, even though the government denied this previously (Karhula). The release of the Guantanamo manual had beneficial implications as it encouraged a better understanding of war and foreign policy from United States citizens. The lie by the government shown by the Guantanamo manual gave insight into how the United States military operated. The release of the Guantanamo manual showed the United States public that there were lies in the government. Even though the Iraq War Logs and Afghan War Diary promoted unreasonable distrust, they both informed the public of the horror of war.

The philosophy behind WikiLeaks’ releases follows hacktivist culture, which in philosophy, is beneficial as “the political compass of these hacktivist groups has never pointed true right or true left” (Ludlow). WikiLeaks’ promotion of freedom of information is not meant to sway someone one way or another, it is simply meant to inform and make the reader aware of the world and their government. Even though information may change one’s political opinion, WikiLeaks is not trying to force one specific ideology. The leaks are meant to show that the government should not always be trusted, even though they encourage a complete disconnect from, or reconfiguration of the government. It is true that the government should not always be trusted, and the voting public of the United States should understand this.

While WikiLeaks’ execution of releasing information is flawed, the major implication of WikiLeaks is that “no government in the world will be able to maintain areas of secrecy if it continues to entrust its secret communications and its archives to the Internet or other forms of electronic memory” (Eco 219) which may be beneficial. WikiLeaks is something of a warning to the governments of the world, saying that they cannot entrust secret information to the internet anymore. This fear of being hacked which WikiLeaks has instilled in governments should make them more secure and stronger. Who is to say a terrorist organization cannot hack the United States government like WikiLeaks has? While some may consider WikiLeaks a terrorist group, it is simply doing what a potential terrorist could do in the future without action. WikiLeaks’ release of information also encourages people to bring about a “different functioning of power that might reach beyond the limits of representative democracy” (Žižek) which can be beneficial to United States citizens. The representative democracy of the United States is currently limited in its true ability to represent people, somewhat due to the secrets which representatives could hold. The information released by WikiLeaks works to encourage a better society where people know and like their representatives in the government. While it is true that uprooting the current form of democracy is not going to happen any time soon, WikiLeaks is placing in the minds of its readers that the government is flawed and should be improved. This is not what most readers have gained from WikiLeaks, however, and it has not been successful.

Even though WikiLeaks has a generally good philosophy and mission, the execution and results so far have proven to hurt individuals more than help the United States public. This can be seen in the initial reaction to the releasing of 251,000 State Department Cables which may have changed the world (Greenberg 3). Department Cables or telegrams are confidential text messages exchanged between members of foreign embassies and their parent country. The release of the State Department Cables and public reaction made it clear to the Obama administration that people were not in his favor. When Obama said that he would pull troops from Iraq, many believed this to be a reaction to the Iraq War Logs, and while it was good that soldiers would be returning, this may have been against Obama’s free will as president. Because of the extreme backlash from the public on the Iraq war logs, “the Obama administration was quick to distance itself from WikiLeaks” (Thompson-Jones 287). As soon as the leaks came out and showed Obama in a bad light, citizens were fast to change opinions of him and this hurt his ability to function as president. While WikiLeaks did not directly attack Obama, the leaks of the United States government hurt him and caused diplomatic issues.

Another more prominent instance of WikiLeaks harming a political figure is the Hillary Clinton email scandal. In March 2015, 55,000 pages of supposedly delated emails on a personal account were leaked by WikiLeaks (Thompson-Jones 284) While Clinton’s leaked emails were not of illegal nature, they “distracted the public from her presidential campaign” (Thompson-Jones 290) and hurt her image as she was running for president. The leaked emails displayed Clinton’s poor decisions in foreign policy and must have swayed the opinions of some who were going to vote for her. While WikiLeaks may have not had a direct agenda against Clinton, the leak provided people information against her and reason not to vote. The reason WikiLeaks had such an impact with little repercussions is because the it is almost completely anonymous. One of the most dangerous implications of anonymity is that of assassination politics: assassinating a political figure to achieve a political agenda (Greenberg 117). While WikiLeaks does not specifically promote assassination politics, the leaks can be used by anyone how is willing to go to that level. WikiLeaks has not been a direct cause of harm to politicians but it encourages direct harm with the methods it uses to leak information through the press and news stories.

WikiLeaks seems to be a good idea, and on the surface, it is, but the implications and reactions to WikiLeaks are detrimental to the United States society and livelihood of some. Even though WikiLeaks should be censored, it most likely never will be, at least not completely. There are still thousands of hackers and whistle-blowers who will continue WikiLeaks if its founder is imprisoned.

Word Count: 1616

Works Cited

Eco, Umberto. “Thoughts on WikiLeaks.” Inventing the Enemy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, NY, 2012, pp. 217-222.

Greenberg, Andy. “Prologue.” This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information, Dutton, New York, NY, 2012, pp. 1-8.

Karhula, Päivikki. “What Is the Effect of WikiLeaks for Freedom of Information?” FAIFE Spotlight, IFLA, 5 Oct. 2012, www.ifla.org/publications/what-is-the-effect-of-wikileaks-for-freedom-of-information.

Ludlow, Peter. “WikiLeaks and Hacktivist Culture.” The Nation, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, 29 June 2015, www.thenation.com/article/wikileaks-and-hacktivist-culture/.

Thompson-Jones, Mary. “251,287 Leaked Cables.” To The Secretary: Leaked Embassy Cables and America’s Foreign Policy Disconnect, W.W. Norton and Company, New York, NY, 2016, pp. 24-34.

Žižek, Slavoj. “Good Manners in the Age of WikiLeaks.” London Review of Books, Nicholas Spice, 20 Jan. 2011, www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n02/slavoj-zizek/good-manners-in-the-age-of-wikileaks.

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