Wikileaks National Security vs Freedom of Information Research Paper

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"If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn't hesitate to choose the newspapers."

Thomas Jefferson

Founded in 2006, WikiLeaks is a non-profit organization that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources and news leaks. Recently, the site has been responsible for publishing a multitude of military intelligence as well as diplomatic cables. For example, the Wikileaks Iraq War Logs showed that around 15,000 civilian deaths had not been admitted by the government, that U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse by Iraqi police and soldiers, and that U.S. forces killed almost 700 civilians for coming too close to checkpoints, including pregnant women. The Afghanistan War Logs revealed even more accounts of civilian killing including an incident in which U.S. forces dropped six 2,000-pound bombs on a compound where they believed a high value target was hiding, this however resulted in the deaths of up to 300 civilians. Such accounts are not threatening to our national security, but allowing these actions to continue uncontested can be devastating to our foreign relations. These Wikileaks revelations are more embarrassing to the government than dangerous to national security, and even the Pentagon reported that none of its sensitive intelligence methods had been compromised or that the Taliban had retaliated against any informers. Just the same, the U.S. government look action against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange designed to discredit him and possibly send him to prison, while Bradley Manning is now in Fort Leavenworth military prison and will likely be facing life imprisonment. In addition, the government has attempted to shut down WikiLeaks, cut off its funding, intimidate its supporters or anyone who provides it with information, and attack its servers and websites.

WikiLeaks ( has disclosed a great deal of information about the U.S. government and corporations that has revealed systematic corruption, war crimes, human rights abuses and deception of the public on many issues. For this reason, the U.S. has attempted to destroy the organization and anyone who provides classified information to it, but the damage has already been done. In the United States, parts of the WikiLeaks website are still being blocked by the government, including the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs. On April 25, 2011, it disclosed documents from Guantanamo prison from 2002-08, including the files on 758 or the 779 prisoners who had been held there. These files included memoranda from the Joint Task Force (JTF) at Guantanamo to U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida, which showed that 201 prisoners released in 2002-04 were mostly "innocent men detained by mistake" and "numerous insignificant Taliban conscripts from Afghanistan and Pakistan." Intelligence obtained about the prisoner's alleged links to Al Qaeda was obtained from witnesses "subjected to torture or other forms of coercion," mostly by the CIA in prisons in Poland, Jordan, Egypt, Thailand and even Libya.

Although the government claims that these documents must be kept secret to protect the troops, ironically, the person allegedly responsible for leaking the documents to Wikileaks is from the military. Wikileaks announced that prior to the release it had sought the help of the Pentagon in reviewing some 15,000 documents and received no response. This shows that the government is less concerned with the safety of the troops and their informants than they pretend to be or that the documents posed no real threat. PFC Bradley Manning was also charged with leaking the Collateral Murder Video from Iraq, which was taken from an Apache helicopter gun sight and showed the massacre of over a dozen civilians, including two Reuters' journalists. Reuters was unable to obtain this video through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), while the U.S. military claimed that its investigation proved that the laws or war and rules of engagement had not been violated. This 38-minute video, combined with other military witnesses, proved that statement was false.

WikiLeaks released over 250,000 U.S. State Department cables in November 2010, which dated from 1966 up to the present. This was "the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain," including 15,652 secret cables and 101,748 confidential ones. Iraq was the most discussed country, with 15,365 cables. These records were highly embarrassing to the U.S. government and the countries with which it dealt, and showed a pattern of "U.S. spying on its allies and the UN, turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in 'client states', backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries, lobbying for U.S. corporations." In other words, they showed the true nature of American foreign policy behind the public relations facade. WikiLeaks also reported that Bank of America was cooperating with the Justice Department in hiring high tech companies to sabotage and discredit it. These organizations were using classic counterintelligence methods such as disinformation, provoking conflicts between groups, sabotaging the website and servers, using the Internet and social media to identify leakers, and launching a media campaign against WikiLeaks describing it as "radical," "wild" and "reckless." (

In July 2010, WikiLeaks released 77,000 Afghanistan war documents from 2004-09, which offered a useful description of the war that differed from official public relations and media filtering. While not from the highest levels of secrecy, they portrayed a "ground-level view of the fighting" that was effectively uncensored, and mass media outlets emphasized various aspects of the disclosure, such the control of the Taliban by Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) or the high level of civilian casualties that went unreported and unacknowledged (O'Laughlin 472). President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen all condemned Julian Assange for endangering CIA informants and military personnel, and his legal troubles dated from this time. Unlike the Pentagon Papers leaked by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971, which were so secret that the public probably never would have known about them for decades, if ever, all the WikiLeaks Afghanistan Papers described only "the daily nitty-gritty of war" and did not "contradict the official version of the origins of the conflict" (O'Laughlin 473).

According to the Afghan War Log, Taliban violence had escalated and expanded greatly in 2004-09, especially in the southern and eastern regions of the country, which were the original Pashtun base of the Taliban. This does not differ greatly from the official U.S. government version of the war, and as in Vietnam in 1965-65, it had to make a decision to either escalate the conflict or 'lose' the country. As revealed in these documents, both military and civilian leaders were pessimistic about their ability in win in Afghanistan, and were aware that public opinion had already turned decisively against the war (O'Laughlin 474). As with all military reports -- and most definitely those in Vietnam -- they tended to underestimate civilian casualties and overestimate those of the enemy. Total casualties in Afghanistan in 2004-09 were 23,989 dead and 26,335 wounded, and these increased in 2009-10 as the levels of violence spiked in southern Helmand Province and Kandahar (O'Laughlin 476). Taliban websites "also tend to overstate victorious engagements and governmental losses while minimizing their own setbacks" (O'Laughlin 480). A comparison of the WikiLeaks documents to the Armed Conflict Location Event Data (ACLED) project, confirmed that the levels of violence and casualties were highest in southern and eastern areas of Afghanistan (O'Laughlin 485).

From the standpoint of the U.S. government, Assange is little better than a terrorist who is providing aid and comport to the enemy, although he claims to be the greatest supporter of the First Amendment in the world. If the U.S. ever succeeds in extraditing him from the UK, Sweden or any other country, he will be charged with espionage and face the death penalty or life imprisonment. His fellow Australian John Pilger, a legendary journalist who has been exposing government deception and cover ups since Vietnam, offered to provide his bail money and asserted that the "charges against him in Sweden are absurd and were judged absurd by a senior Swedish prosecutor" (Fowler xi). Assange was originally a cyberpunk and computer hacker with Buddhist views, who wore second-hand clothes, travelled economy class and had no permanent address. His employees and informers at WikiLeaks also worked for free, and his struggle with the U.S. government is a genuine David and Goliath story. As Daniel Ellsberg warned him, his physical safety was in great jeopardy, since the Pentagon and CIA "had drawn together a group of operatives to track him down" and destroy him wherever he went (Fowler xiii).

Assange was born to be a radical anarchist or libertarian, immensely distrustful of all governments and authority figures. He was born to a single mother in 1971 who was active in the counterculture and anti-Vietnam War movement in Australia, who worked as an itinerant artist, always just one step above poverty. She also disliked authority and formal education, so young Julian learned mostly by reading and experience. He had an IQ of over 170 and learned to program a computer by age ten (Fowler 10).…

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