Wikileaks : some thoughts on what is happening and where it might lead

The current Wikileaks/’cablegate‘ affair raises quite a range of issues, not all of which are clear cut.  But I have to say that one thing which should be beyond dispute is that, whatever one’s views might be about what Wikileaks is doing or about Julian Assange as an individual, it is not good enough for our government to sit back and say nothing while senior US political figures (as well as at least one influential Canadian) openly call for his assassination, or for him to be declared a ‘terrorist’ or an ‘enemy combatant’.

It is little short of an incitement to murder, and our government (and we as a nation) should be very clearly stating that this is completely unacceptable for Australians citizens to be threatened in this way, especially by leaders of our major ally.  I hope our government acts quickly in response to this open letter, signed by many Australians, and provides a clear statement to this effect.

Debate and coverage about the matters made public by Wikileaks – and, it should be remembered, by a number of major mainstream media outlets –  looks likely to continue for a while yet, helped along by the dwindling of other political news now that Parliament has finished for the year and Christmas approaches.

Included in that debate are quite a range of issues raised about Wikileaks itself and what it is doing (and it should also be remembered that ‘Wikileaks’ clearly involves a far greater number of people than just Julian Assange.  If anything, the strong focus on what is happening to him is distracting from a lot of wider and important issues.

Quite a few of those issues were explored in this discussion with Peter Black on my weekly 4ZzZ radio show.

I had no problem with the previous material that Wikileaks released which exposed some of the many lies and apparent crimes involved in war activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I think this latest round of releases involves a few more shades of grey, not least in terms of what the longer-term impacts might be in how governments relate to each other and communicate internally – I’m not sure anyone can fully predict how these things might change as a consequence of this (beyond the US undoubtedly moving to tighten up who gets access to what information internally), but I am sure that some change will occur.

There is also the age old balance between what are matters of public interest, and what matters are just of interest to some of the public (i.e. gossip), as well as when matters do genuinely compromise security – although I think much of the clamour about the alleged endangering of lives or creation of security risks has been greatly overstated, I don’t think it can be completely discounted. Having said that, both Wikileaks and the mainstream media outlets that have been publishing this material clearly made efforts to provide the US government with the opportunity to make a case for redacting or withholding individual names or specific material.

What is also interesting is how civil society, (for want of a better term), is responding to the attacks on Wikileaks from governments, including some attempts to take down sites and freeze access to funds which would make communist China proud. Following cyber-attacks on the Wikileaks site and attempts to  deny them access to internet servers, there has been a mushrooming of mirror sites – 729 at time of writing – and getting close to one million Facebook users following the Wikileaks page there and well over 400 000 followers on Twitter.   Some people have responded much more directly, such as targeting the website of the Swiss bank that froze Julian Assange’s bank account.  Boycott calls have also been made against other organisations such as Amazon and Paypal who have decided to end or deny service to Wikileaks – and presumably they and other organisations who have reacted in this way (often as a result of very direct pressure from the US government also face the potential of cyber-attacks.

Perhaps it will all calm down again soon, but I must say I do get the feeling that if the heat in this keeps being turned up governments, and we get an escalating series of actions and reactions, it might start to feed into some of the wider, very serious social and political unrest (and unease) that is also starting to come to the boil in many European countries – most notably in Ireland of late, but also in countries like Greece, Spain and France – as a result of the continuing major financial and economic catastrophes that is causing serious stresses on the Euro and the whole political/financial institution of the European Union.  It is quite significant, and perhaps no coincidence, that the next likely subject of a Wikileaks document dump is a major US bank, which will undoubtedly lead to howls of outrage from the financial sector to match that coming from many governments at present.

Guy Rundle made a similar point about a week ago. At the time I thought he might have been over-dramatising things, but now I am starting to feel the same thing. Something is happening – I’m not quite sure what or where it will end up, but I’m not sure anyone else is either.  Which makes it all the more important that we keep trying to talk about it and engage with it, ideally without the hysteria which is infecting the responses of many from the ruling political, financial and media elites.

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17 Comments

  1. We are at a nexus. Of that I have no doubt. The great danger for the ”rulers’ is that they are increasingly looking shonky. We see wars fought, people tortured and murdered almost every day in the name of some mysterious danger. Of course there are dangers present, and ‘terrorists’ whatever they are, are among them.
    The real danger is that corporations and government have united to become terrorist creators. Torture breeds terror and the response will be ‘terrorists’. Inneffectual governments, corruption, lies, inequality and poor economies all breed terrorists. The difference here is that the governments have been caught out making torture, murder, assassination everyday business, hidden for a while but now and forever in the public view. The right reaction of governments would be to deal with the issues raised in the leaks, not shoot the messenger. Failing to do so and attacking the messenger is going to breed some internal dissent. If that dissent is fuelled then the consequences could be severe in the short term. No doubt some governments will invoke Stalinist tactics aka the USA and others will see governments fall. Cyber dissent is probably the least desirable for governments (and financial institutions) as they are significantly behind the game, and if dissent is internal there is little chance of governments keeping any secrets at all. Is Julian just the alter-ego whistleblower and exposer of bad deeds inside all of us, only we’re too afraid to speak out?There are no doubt some of us who feel a little ashamed to think that our troops may be ordered to do the same things US troops do. I pity the Australian soldiers returning from Iraq because they may find that in the end they are less popular than Vietnam veterans were after that fiasco. At least they didn’t have to deal with allegations of routine torture. I pity any country which sends it finest to do such bidding as is being done in our names. Handing thousands of people over to become victims of abuse, torture, rape and murder is not what they signed up for. Turning a blind eye is not doing them or us any good. What jobs will we give these ignorers of torture and abuse when they return home. Perhaps we’d like them to police our children. The US may be able to live with that but it will kill the Australia I was born in.
    That is the great danger for us.
    Are our hopes dashed that Australia’s first ever woman Prime Minister might have brought better judgement, some compassion and humanity to the office? Thus far she has shown herself wanting in regard to Julian Assange. Is it a sign of what is to become of all of us?

  2. Fact is that secrets are hard to keep.Cork out of the bottle. post-it-all 1-to:world. Technology is a thread, it always was.. it always was unstoppable.
    Maybe this technological evolution is a good thing. CrCrises and the cable gate shows government is not so much in control of the global society. We need proper steering mechanism to survive the global society we created with technology. Whould we have gone to Iraq over Weapons of mass destruction is we were part of the diplomatic cable discussion ? Will reading the cables prevent us from another stupid global decision based upon wrong leader ego’s/shortvision ? Probably our global society is in the long run better of with more transparency. Shutting down the discussion/web is not an option. Its like banning books.
    You hackers made a point. You don’t need to be a stupid suicide soldier. The Press is really slow, on the core discussion julian asks for. Give the world some time to adapt and don,t spread AE21 files anymore. Showing military facilities is bad. Responsibility starts with yourself.

  3. Julian Assange Is A very Brave Man, Or he has no Regard for Life , people like Him Have a Strange way of going missing ,lets hope he gets enough Support to keep him above ground , Good on Him ,i think We need more like Him , economic Catastrophe WHO caused this ?? Millions of American baby boomer’s ready for retirement but they Can’t because there Government Borrowed all The Money ,and Wrote I,O,U’s to itself ,25 or 30 years ago Bob Santa-maria ,ABC ,{ Point of View } When the government Brought in compulsory Supper and long Service His Parting word’s were ,Quote, These People Can’t Manage Millions ,How are they Going to manage ,BILLIONS , Where is all the Money Gone ,it doesn’t just Vanish ,Some one Must Have it ,,Before the First War to end all War’s ,,,Depression ,,the Second War to End all Wars ,,Depression ,,This G,F,C,,Caused By W,M,D’s ,I’m Afraid I’m With ,Guy Rundle ,,Something is Going Down

  4. “not least in terms of what the longer-term impacts might be in how governments relate to each other and communicate internally”

    Surely it’s a little naive to sugest that any political player capable of getting into the position to run a country doesn’t know exactly how `this stuff works’. After-all, they would have to do the same sorts of things to get to the top.

    Any of the posturing is merely for the locals – it’s pretty safe to presume that none of the documents will have any material impact on relations between any nation.

    If it does embarrass or even take down a few pollies that is merely a local issue, and there will always be some other player eager to take their place.

    The extreme over-reaction from the USA and it’s hangers on is much more disturbing, given their position as the ‘world police’ and the so-called ‘good guys’.

  5. I also liked this piece in Eureka street .. Assange’s character flaws, as it says, and his unusual lifestyle, are probably gonig to be the subject of big exposes soon, but I am impressed .. and as someone said in I think The Australian today, what a shame he didn’t dig the dirt on the Soccer World Cup shenannigans. He’d be a national hero if he forced THAT process to be more transparent.

    Let me get this right – he exposes the lies that have lead to the deaths of many hundreds of thousand, if not millions, and HE is hte baddie?

  6. Togret youare so right.They are are trying to make Assange the issue, not the leaks. Discredit Assange and you discredit the leaks.
    But people like yourself and Dean Procter seem to see thru it all, any way.
    Must be a worry for the surveillance agencies, if many others also feel that way.

  7. Assange needs to be applauded for trying to drag world governments kicking and screaming towards open democracy.

  8. Well now I’m waiting with bated breath, in the hope that the US financial sector will be next to cop the caning it deserves.

    It’s about time global banks got the punishment they deserve for deliberately destroying the economies and sovereignties of international governments, and thieving everyone’s superannuation moneys via Hedge Funds and Ponzi Schemes.

    Off with their heads!

  9. I can’t believe US security could be so lax that so much material has been releases. What did someone walk out with it on a USB memory stick? For a Country that prides itself with technology and security etc, this is a serious joke

  10. Interesting turnout Andrew.

    Good of you to stick to the important theme instead of speculating about the Swedish stuff.
    Sorry, had to mention that because, given the flagrant miscarriage of process he’s been confronted with, I’d like to see a spot of expeditious, pre-emptive, exfiltration of Julian’s person back to Oz.

    I’d like to see the Townsville lad back here on familiar ground and provided with adequate resources to make his case as a Queenslander and Australian citizen being subject to a world of hate that cannot justifiably be sustained.

    I’d like to see him safe back in Oz , firstly, because he seems to have one helluva lot of support from us here in OZ.

    Then, given the amount of international support the lad has achieved, managing his defence from here would bring world attention to the weirdo stuff coming out of the office of the Chief torturer of the Inquisition, QLD, Mr. Cameron Dick.

    Without a doubt it would be a risky proposition but worth the cost of bringing ‘Old Hypotheticals” himself, Mr Geoffrey Robertson, QC back with Julian in support of his righteous cause.

    Imagine the outcomes Andrew –
    The international exposure would force queensland courts to arrive at just decisions for the first time ever.

    That NEED to arrive at just decisions would force retirements from the oh so compromised Qld judiciary and the Domino Effect from that would air more dirty laundry than Julian ever imagined from his boring old home state.

    And if all that was forwarded in a properly constituted forum under the rule of REAL law – all the corruption would be revealed and dealt with and a properly constituted parliament with lower and upper houses would be elected and – and –

    Oh – now I know why our ‘masters’ don’t want Julian back –

    Sorry for mentioning it.

  11. I don’t know exactly Andrew.Over at OpinionMaker.com some writers there were a bit disputative about the efforts of painting Pakistan corrupt.General Gul copped it,and he suggested and others in my search, that these were Blackwater analyses.I also have seen in print, more DUI bombs dropped by Drone in the borders of Pakistan.I cannot place it to a website,but a lot of this stuff was approved by the U.S.A. State Dept.To me Assange seems suckered ,a sucker or thought he could get away with something he cannot now.The essential relationship with New York Times The Guardian and a Rothschild lawyer to some seem to suggest he is part of a conscious process to deceive..His childhood with some years with the White Survivalist strange stolen kids phenomena seems to coalesce with those who accused him of rape etc.Some very dated uninformed journalism has occured at the Sydney Morning Herald.Rense.com in his archives now would have all the ,below level of Government mistrust of Assange amongst the U.S.A.bloggery.I cannot cheer him any longer,being an Australian doesn’t seem to be what he is about.Wether the American Government doing what it is attempting,bothers me some as Obama can be himself traced to being a C.I.A. Operative in Afghanistan.And perhaps his mother was a murderer.Some matters of information I read are not necessarily very easy to accept.Hope you will survive the very watery conditions of Brisbane.

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