Home opinion-and-analysis Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Wikileaks: a morality play in several acts (and a couple of bedroom scenes)

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Just because someone has a secret, doesn't mean that others agree to keep it.  Far from it.  And conversely just because you know someone's secret doesn't necessarily mean you're obliged to spread it around.

Eight months ago, few people outside of legal and IT circles had heard of Wikileaks and its leader Julian Assange.

That all changed with the release of the "Collateral Murder" video in April this year, followed by several tranches of military information related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Perhaps that should that be 'occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan' for at no time that I recall was war ever formally declared against either country and particularly in the case of Afghanistan, the United States' issue is with a group of people who may or may not actually live in that country.

A couple of weeks ago, Wikileaks commenced the slow trickle release of 250,000 US State Department communications that addressed a wide variety of topics.

There are widely-held beliefs that these were part of the huge tranche of material obtained by Pfc Bradley Manning (which started with the Collateral Murder video) and in fact the chat logs published by Adrian Lamo, who dobbed Manning into authorities, show Manning bragging of 260,000 State Department cables being passed to Wikileaks. 

In fact Lamo has been kind enough to publish a log of all correspondence and writings on his participation in these events.  Amusingly, it seems that Manning was able to bring as much material as he could find out of his secure facility in Baghdad by simply re-burning it onto a CD-RW which came into the building with Lady Gaga music and left with something totally different.

It has been widely reported that as many as 3 million people had unfettered access to material graded as 'secret.'  This was a direct result of criticisms over the lack of information sharing after 9-11.

Browsing the logs suggests a few topics that will soon be aired, including "The Gitmo Papers" and an insight into the Vatican's view on their internal sexual assault 'issues.'

Commencing Sunday 28th November, the 'cables' slowly started to trickle out of the Wikileaks special sub-site.  Around the same time, we learned that a small number of press outlets were receiving the material in advance and were able to provide deeper commentary as it appeared.

Which, of course led to a media feeding frenzy as we learned of both the petty and the serious sides of US State Department correspondence.

US authorities were less than impressed, for instance Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton's comment last week: "This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community."  Um, no, I think it's simply a disclosure of communications the US would have preferred remained secret; the international community is far more 'bemused' than 'attacked.'

Unfortunately, in the rush to wallow in the salacious joy of watching the US squirm, we have tended to set aside the moral issues of the whole affair.

It would be fair to say that every piece of correspondence in the on-going release was written in the expectation that it would remain internal to the US Government.  And in that expectation, words were frequently used that would not normally be shared with an unsuspecting public.


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David Heath

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David Heath has over 25 years experience in the IT industry, specializing particularly in customer support, security and computer networking. Heath has worked previously as head of IT for The Television Shopping Network, as the network and desktop manager for Armstrong Jones (a major funds management organization) and has consulted into various Australian federal government agencies (including the Department of Immigration and the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence). He has also served on various state, national and international committees for Novell Users International; he was also the organising chairman for the 1994 Novell Users' Conference in Brisbane. Heath is currently employed as an Instructional Designer, building technical training courses for industrial process control systems.