Wikileaks. It’s like the Freedom of Information Act turned up to 10. And not surprisingly, right now it’s causing a storm at the Pentagon, across the web and among fans of transparency.
Based on the founder’s premise that ‘if journalism is good, it is controversial by its nature,’ (he says it here), the first major case blown open by Julian Assange’s whistleblowing site, has resulted in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. More than 90,000 classified internal records of US military incidents in Afghanistan (AKA ‘warlogs’) over the past six years were published on Sunday.
These include: fine-grained accounts of incidences of intelligence received; Taliban attacks; NATO troop actions; methods employed by the coalition army in Afghanistan to fight insurgents and those on the so-called ‘Kill or capture’ list, all published online — although they are at least seven months old.
WikiLeaks, which allows members of the public to upload any document which unveils dishonourable government action, is groundbreaking. Not in the over-used-washing-powder-advert sense of the word, but truly groundbreaking. I don’t know of anything similar.
As a fan of the use of the web to enhance democracy and as a channel for the greater good of society and more broadly, the world, I am excited about Wikileaks for these reasons:
1. It aims, according to the founders, to create more accountability among governments and other institutions and they want to use technology to leak documents, thus raising the bar globally.
2. The founders say they expect Wikileaks to encourage citizens aware of unethical shenanigans to be the whistleblower, even if this is something they have neverconsidered doing.
3. By collating facts and evidence online and consequently unveiling facts behind actions the government would rather not make too much noise about, the public will gain rare and immediate access to the facts of the war, unglossed and without the airbrushing of a government PR team.
4. It can enable the outing of governments not acting on important or life threatening issues or lift the lid on government corruption.
At the time of writing, the website was coming up with an error message, possibly due to traffic overload but I am so keen to see which story Wikileaks will blast open next.