By Devin Brown
As Wikileaks founder Julian Assange continues to deal with personal legal problems, some former Wikileaks employees have started their own whistleblower website, called “Openleaks.” The site went public on January 26, but apparently is not open for business yet.
According to the Openleaks website, Openleaks will be different from Wikileaks in that “OpenLeaks will not accept or publish documents on its own platform, but rather create many ‘digital dropboxes’ for its community members, each adapted to the specific needs of our members so that they can provide a safe and trusted leaking option for whistleblowers.”
The leak of over 250,000 US diplomatic cables by the organization WikiLeaks last fall took a step towards securing democracy. The United States was founded on free speech and press, with the idea that people openly sharing their criticisms of government would ensure a true democracy. We see it daily in our newspapers, an open forum for praise and criticism of every end of politics. Constantly, all over the world, corporate and government documents surface from the depths of closed-door meetings or memos that would never have been written had the authors any idea who might see them.
These meetings and discussions happen out of the public’s view, and politicians can paint whatever picture they desire for the guessing public. What are relations between the United States and Pakistan really like? We don’t know anything other than what is released to us by politicians – until there is a massive breech of candid conversations between US diplomats in all corners of the globe. Then we find out that our relationship with Pakistan isn’t quite what we, the citizens of course, thought it was.
Any time there is a breach of confidential information such as this one, people wonder why the inconsistency between the information released and the truth? These messy spills of information help the citizens gauge how honest their government really is, especially when examining how hard the government tries to clean them up.
But where is the line between keeping government officials honest and putting people in danger? Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said to the New York Times, “this theft of U.S. government information and its publication without regard to the consequences is deeply distressing.”
Maybe she has a point here. The possible motives of Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, have to be explored. He and his whistleblower organization are known for exposing secret documents and videos concealed by governments and corporations, so releasing a cache of secret documents it receives is only natural. But of course certain measures must be taken before presenting these documents to the public. These measures come in the form of redactions, modifications to the original documents to leave out key people or places that may jeopardize US operations or worse yet, the lives of people working in secret across the globe. It seems that these precautions must be handled very carefully due to the risks, but only if the handler of such sensitive materials is interested in protecting the citizens, and not just attempting to stir the pot.
Assange’s intentions probably wouldn’t be in question if he wasn’t in continuous hiding or if he hadn’t threatened to release “many more confidential diplomatic cables if legal action is taken against him or his organization,” as reported by the New York Times, who also reported him claiming to have given copies of all 251,287 cables to “over 100,000 people.” He is smart to have established a safeguard for himself, but what if one of the “100,000 people” slips the information with improper redactions, or none at all? As the Guardian said, “Every cable that has been published [by the Guardian] has been looked at.”
So how does a mass dump of diplomatic cables help ensure democracy? By making the government accountable for their actions.
The government has taken a swing at WikiLeaks, even if they don’t have legal ground to make any charges. Companies like PayPal, Amazon, EveryDNS.com, and MasterCard have been urged by the US government cut services to WikiLeaks on the grounds that they are involved with illegal activities, even though no charges have been made to WikiLeaks or Assange.
Democracy depends on a free press. America’s founders knew this, and so does the media. It’s the press’s duty to give the people it serves any information relevant and helpful, so when there is a dump of information, it’s the media’s duty to report on it.
However, when people like Assange have secret information regarding governments, like the US, it is hard to decide whom to root for. Openleaks hopes to eliminate the personal baggage Assange carries and provide the public with a more efficient place to whistle blow.