The Emergence of WikiLeaks Openness Secrecy and Democracy

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MoreOrLess FinalText x MoreOrLess FinalText x 22 03 12 3 31 PM Page 124. SPENCER ZIFCAK, their secret documents securely to it without prospect that the. sender could be identified had become a global internet. phenomenon of unprecedented scale and significance. Yet at the same time the depositing of large collections of. formerly confidential private and governmental documents in. the public domain carried with it a host of problematic. complex and difficult political and ethical issues In this chapter. I examine some of the most important concentrating in partic. ular upon those bearing on freedom of information and its. centrality to the idea of democracy Before embarking upon that. study however it is worth painting a picture of the background. to these massive fascinating documentary disclosures. WikiLeaks dramatic emergence, The basic idea behind WikiLeaks was that people who wished. to do so could submit leaked documents to the website. anonymously Behind the site lay a complex highly technical. process of encryption designed to ensure that it could not be. hacked so as to expose either those submitting documents or. the means by which the documentation was made secure The. site was said to combine the protection and anonymity of. cutting edge cryptographic technologies That technology was. the means through which the site s philosophical stance could. be made tangible The stance was not difficult to understand. WikiLeaks stood above all for transparency in the gover. nance of public and private sector organisations By exposing. secret documents to public view the organisation saw itself as. in the vanguard of a citizens movement to combat corrup. tion deceit abuse and malpractice in public and private organ. isational aff airs It sought to equalise power between. governments and the governed by providing citizens with the. information they needed to hold their rulers and bosses to. account In this the organisation portrayed itself as a global. advocate for democracy and equality The global focus was. important WikiLeaks in principle did not seek to distinguish. 124 MORE OR LESS DEMOCRACY AND NEW MEDIA, MoreOrLess FinalText x MoreOrLess FinalText x 22 03 12 3 31 PM Page 125. THE EMERGENCE OF WIKILEAKS OPENNESS SECRECY AND DEMOCRACY. between or be selective as to nation states or as between. governments and corporations Its objective was to promote its. ideal of openness governance internationally and multi. nationally No national government international governmen. tal organisation or multinational company would escape its. gaze These were next to impossibly ambitious goals but. between 2008 and 2010 the organisation flew close but. dangerously towards their achievement, WikiLeaks first coup came in Kenya In 2008 it obtained. a copy of a voluminous report that had been commissioned to. investigate the corruption of the former President Daniel. Arap Moi It had been expected that the report would be. released upon its completion But Moi s successor as President. Mwai Kibaki ordered that it should remain secret WikiLeaks. published it Julian Assange later claimed that the publication. had resulted in a shift of 10 in Kenyan voting patterns The. release projected WikiLeaks to prominence following which a. steady stream of leaked material made its way to the site and. with each new release its effectiveness and name became ever. more evident, The crucial turning point for the organisation came.
however with the release of the so called Apache video. Leaked to the website from an unknown source the video. showed a group of civilians caught in cannon fire from a US. helicopter The helicopter fired from a kilometre in the sky. and was therefore almost invisible to those on the ground. Two Reuters journalists were killed in the incident twelve. others died and two young children were seriously injured but. survived Radio transmission from the helicopter appeared to. demonstrate that the air crew were unconcerned that children. had been shot The video was premiered at the National Press. Club in Washington and caused a sensation WikiLeaks had. MORE OR LESS DEMOCRACY AND NEW MEDIA 125, MoreOrLess FinalText x MoreOrLess FinalText x 22 03 12 3 31 PM Page 126. SPENCER ZIFCAK, In 2010 three colossal document disclosures occurred. Each related to different aspects of US foreign and military. policy Each created a political storm whose effects bore not. only upon the conduct of the US administration but also. upon that of its allies Insofar as each related to the conduct of. military and diplomatic affairs in the world s most sensitive and. difficult conflicts the content of the leaked documentation. was of significance to most national governments across the. globe including those with whose regimes the United States. The Afghanistan war logs contained more than 90 000. discrete items of information on the conduct of the war as. described by military officers in the field The war logs were. broken down into detailed categories that related to every. significant action taken by the US military and its allies local. Iraqi and Afghan forces civilians and enemy combatants Each. case was concluded with figures as to numbers killed and. wounded The statistics produced by this method revealed a. substantial variance between official statistics as to casualties in. Afghanistan and those contained in the war log spreadsheets. The documents disclosed that many thousands more had been. killed than had previously been acknowledged, Only a few months later WikiLeaks posted on its website. some 91 000 field reports from the conflict in Iraq Here. again the principal value of the documents lay in the content. of the statistics as to deaths and injuries sustained during the. many years of bloody battles that had taken place in Iraq since. the invasion in early 2003 The US government kept figures. on the rate of casualties among its soldiers but denied that any. other statistics as to the deaths of others in the combat were. available Incident by incident the Iraq logs catalogued the. huge losses suffered by the Iraqi side and by the Iraqi civilian. population The official US figures stated that towards the end. of 2009 some 4 748 US and allied troops had lost their lives. 126 MORE OR LESS DEMOCRACY AND NEW MEDIA, MoreOrLess FinalText x MoreOrLess FinalText x 22 03 12 3 31 PM Page 127. THE EMERGENCE OF WIKILEAKS OPENNESS SECRECY AND DEMOCRACY. The incident reports in the Iraqi war logs combined with the. patient and studious study of casualties conducted by the non. government organisation Iraq Body Count produced a best. estimate as follows 66 081 Iraqi civilians died a further 15 196. members of the Iraqi security forces were killed 23 984. people classified as the enemy were extinguished However. the figure for US and allied dead came down to 3 771 These. figures previously unascertainable shocked the globe. Julian Assange launched the Iraq logs in the ballroom of. the Plaza Hotel on the Thames in London together with Phil. Shiner of Iraq Body Count Three hundred journalists from. around the world attended five times more than those at the. launch of the Afghan logs WikiLeaks and its founder had. become a global phenomenon But the most stunning disclo. sure was yet to come,The 28 November 2010 was the date on which the.
largest ever publication of confidential gover nmental. documents took place In coordination with The Guardian The. New York Times Le Monde Der Spiegel and El Pais WikiLeaks. commenced the disclosure of 251 287 internal state US State. Department communiques written by 280 embassies in 180. different countries The publication produced an uproar The. Guardian newspaper introduced the disclosures on its front. page The headline was US Embassy Cables Leak Sparks. Global Diplomatic Crisis 1 The article that followed focused. especially upon two major diplomatic issues The first was the. disclosure that Arab leaders had privately urged an air strike. upon Iran The second was the revelation that US officials had. been instructed to spy on the leadership of the United. Nations including on the organisation s Secretary General. Ban Ki Moon The Guardian s editor described the publication. of the documents as the biggest story on the globe 2. The US government was appalled Its spokesman declared. that the publication of cables could prejudice candid discus. MORE OR LESS DEMOCRACY AND NEW MEDIA 127, MoreOrLess FinalText x MoreOrLess FinalText x 22 03 12 3 31 PM Page 128. SPENCER ZIFCAK, sions with representatives of foreign governments It would. adversely affect the conduct of US foreign policy and that of. its allies It was reckless and dangerous The Guardian. responded by making it clear that the paper had carefully. scrutinised and redacted the cables it was to publish This had. been done to ensure that named sources particular in the. context of war had been protected and that special operations. would neither be disclosed nor prejudiced, It is with freedom of information of this kind and its. proper limits that the remainder of this chapter will be. concerned An examination like this cannot hope to cover the. entire field of WikiLeaks documentary disclosures I confine. my attention therefore to the release of the diplomatic cables. Openness and secrecy, To set the scene for a discussion of the justification and ethics. of the release of the State Department cables I think it worth. while first to consider the principles on the basis of which a. fair and reasonable balance might be attained between the. desirability of transparency in government administration on. the one hand and the imperatives of secrecy on the other. Jeremy Bentham put a powerful case for transparency in. public administration more than two centuries ago He insisted. that publicity was essential to ensure that gover nment. promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Let us place at the head of the political assembly s. regulations the fittest law for securing the public confi. dence and causing it to constantly to advance towards. the end of its institution the law of publicity 3, Publicity Bentham believed was valuable first and foremost.
because it underpinned democratic accountability It encour. aged citizens to deliberate about public policy and enabled. public officials to learn about and from public opinion In this. context too Bentham warned of the dangers of secrecy. 128 MORE OR LESS DEMOCRACY AND NEW MEDIA, MoreOrLess FinalText x MoreOrLess FinalText x 22 03 12 3 31 PM Page 129. THE EMERGENCE OF WIKILEAKS OPENNESS SECRECY AND DEMOCRACY. Secrecy he argued may act as a powerful encouragement to. the abuse of political power Whom ought we to distrust. Bentham asked if not those in whom is committed great. authority with great temptations to misuse it 4, More recently conceptual argument concerning the idea. of publicity has been advanced within the context of the new. idea of deliberative democracy Within this framework to be. truly democratic public deliberation about political and. ethical questions should not be confined to constitutional. conventions parliamentary debates judicial opinions and so. on but should properly extend throughout the political. process Ideally such deliberation if and when realised would. encourage extensive ethical and political argument as to the. merits of public policies in a diversity of public forums Its aim. would be to arrive at public and political agreement between. competing interests on matters of public concern while at the. same time maintaining mutual respect between contending. In an impressive recent work the Australian political. philosopher Phillip Pettit described the institutional and. procedural requirements for such democratic deliberation in. the following terms, It would mean that at every site of decision making. legislative administrative and judicial there are proce. dures in place which identify the considerations, relevant to the decision thereby enabling citizens to. raise the questions as to whether they are the appropri. ate considerations to play that role And it would mean. that there are procedures in place which enable citizens. to make a judgment on whether the relevant consider. ations actually determined the outcome the decisions. must be made under transparency under the threat of. scrutiny under freedom of information and so on In. arguing for an arrangement in which public decisions. are taken in a deliberative way I make contact with the. idea of a republic of reasons 5,MORE OR LESS DEMOCRACY AND NEW MEDIA 129.
MoreOrLess FinalText x MoreOrLess FinalText x 22 03 12 3 31 PM Page 130. SPENCER ZIFCAK, For deliberative democracy to fulfil its potential it is insuffi. cient to know abstractly or retrospectively that policies could. be justified The justification must be public to secure citizens. consent The giving of public reasons will broaden the moral. and political perspectives upon which citizens can form their. opinions to the betterment of public democratic discussion. Reasons need to be public and reciprocally acceptable to fulfil. a condition of mutual respect that democratic deliberation. seeks to achieve Without publicity the public reasoning that. founds policy formulation might not be self correcting in the. WikiLeaks stood above all for transparency in the gover nance of public and private sector organisations By exposing secret documents to public view the organisation saw itself as in the vanguard of a citizens movement to combat corrup tion deceit abuse and malpractice in public and private organ isational affairs It sought to equalise

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