Friday, December 3, 2010

On Cablegate

Just a couple of points on the wikileaks thingy. The United States as far as I know is still a functioning democracy. It operates diplomatic missions all over the world. One of the functions of those missions is data acquisition. At its core data acquisition  involves talking to people. In this respect foreign embassies are similar to the press. And like the press these diplomats have an obligation to protect their sources. Unlike the press however diplomacy is a function of the state, and if that state is a democracy then the diplomatic function is ultimately under the control of the electorate though it's elected representatives.

Julian Assange is a computer hacker. He reports to no government and cannot be elected out of his position at Wikileaks. He is subject to no ethical authority apart from his own sense of right and wrong. In a sense Mr. Assange has placed himself godlike over the interests of  a democracy of 300 million to some presumed personal higher utopia of world openness. Even some cursory social contact should have hinted to him that openness and the human condition are seldom to be mixed. Human beings will rarely speak about the predilections of their acquaintances publicly. Facebook is full of horror stories of those naive fools who candidly discuss the shortcomings of their friends and employers. Its a certain road to ostracism.

The theft of diplomatic cables is, of course theft. The use of these stolen documents by Wikileaks is of course accessory to theft. As a criminal organisation then Wikileaks needs to be prosecuted according to existing laws. As for Wikileaks ushering in a new era of openness I think that the opposite will occur. People will talk less because they will will be unable to trust that what they say in confidence won't become public forum and used against them at some future date. How engendering such distrust is a good thing only Julian Assange can say.
Who talks to a known gossip?

Some examples of the sort of problems that these leaks will cause can be found here and here


Multibrand said...

Hi PJ,

I am glad that you are updating your blog again.

I agree that the theft of diplomatic cable/telex and or bag/pouch is a theft and the use of those stolen document by wikileaks is accessory to theft.

pj said...

I think we are in the minority here Harry. I think its a bit sad that the ethics of the day are those of exposure by any means necessary.