The controversy surrounding WikiLeaks continues to spiral out of control, as government organizations across the world turn their sights upon the start-up website and the freedom of information that it represents.
Why is WikiLeaks on Banned Sites Lists?
For those of you who don’t know, WikiLeaks is a website started in 2006 by a group of international, formerly anonymous founders from the U.S., Taiwan, Australia, South Africa and Europe. The website provides a submission form, where anyone can submit documents that reveal corruption, immorality or questionable actions and communications by governments, military organizations and any other entity across the world. Within the first year, the database of leaks had allegedly grown to over 1.2 million documents.
At the center of the storm, a single public figure – an Australian journalist and activist named Julian Assange – has become the personification of the website, as the director of the organization.
So why are more and more government entities banning access to WikiLeaks servers? Because true freedom of information presents a fundamental threat to authoritarian groups that seek to maintain control and order over a society. WikiLeaks represents the ultimate fear of almost every national intelligence organization in the world – it lets its own insiders that may have classified clearances share sensitive information with the public, without fear of punishment.
Past WikiLeaks Leaks
Over just a few years, the website has already provided earth-shattering information to the public.
- ->In 2008, WikiLeaks won the UK Media Award for the publication, "Kenya: The Cry of Blood"
- ->In 2010, New York Daily News called WikiLeaks a "website that could totally change the news."
- ->In April, 2010, WikiLeaks provided video that appeared to show U.S. forces in Iraq attacking and killing Iraqi civilians with a gunship helicopter.
- ->In July, 2010, WikiLeaks released almost 80,000 documents of new information about the War in Afghanistan, titled Afghan War Diary, including some over-the-top expenditures.
- ->In 2010, L.A. Times reported that a CIA memo released by WikiLeaks was rather mundane, but still marked as "Secret"
As of 2009, over 1,200 volunteers registered to help WikiLeaks in its efforts. The standing stated goal of the website is "in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet block, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East," but the site also mentions that it's ultimate purpose is to help people, "reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations.
Therefore, it is little surprise that major U.S. corporate and government powerhouses are going on the attack against WikiLeaks.
The Attack Against WikiLeaks
Countless attacks and harassment by government entities and organization is now ongoing against WikiLeaks. The most outrageous effort comes from the Australian government and its rather silly effort to censor the Internet through its "blacklisted hyperlinks list." Apparently, Australian websites that link to any of those URLs can face fines of up to $11,000 per day. Australia has placed WikiLeaks on that list.
The latest ridiculous move by the U.S. military was first reported by the Washington Times.
By August 2010, the Pentagon admitted that the Navy and the Marines had banned military personnel from accessing the WikiLeak's website. In the Navy Statement to troops, almost like text from Big Brother straight out of Orson Wells 1984, the statement reads:
"Government information technology capabilities should be used to enable our war fighters, promote information sharing in defense of our homeland, and to maximize efficiencies in operations. It should not be used as a means to harm national security through unauthorized disclosure of our information on publicly accessible websites or chat rooms."
Wired quickly noted the irony in the military's message to troops in an article titled, "Pentagon to Troops, Taliban Can Read WikiLeaks, You Can't."
The harassment of WikiLeaks members has already begun:
- ->Julian Assange reports that he and volunteers are under constant surveillance by law enforcement and FBI.
- ->Volunteers have been detained by police and have had computer equipment seized.
- ->WikiLeaks reports both Paypal and Facebook have intermittently shut down or canceled their accounts without reason.
- ->German police raided the home of the domain holder for one of WikiLeak's Germain domain name.
- ->The Chinese government censors the site from its Internet traffic.
- ->Officials once detained Appelbaum, searched his bags and seized his phone, during a flight from Holland to the U.S.
The common reaction between dictatorship governments and the U.S. government should give all Americans serious pause.
WikiLeaks has not backed down in the face of harassment. Instead, they've stood stronger. All data servers have been moved to a bomb-proof data center in Bahnhoff?s Pionen, White Mountain in Stockholm. It is housed under 30 meters of solid bedrock and virtually inaccessible to international governments.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the public face of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has applied for residency in the neutral country of Sweden, to seek refuge from the constant harassment. Still, he now faces accusations that he molested two Swedish women - he maintains his innocence.
Many people believe that the Constitution guarantees anonymity in political discourse. The real question, now that there is a protected vehicle for members of any corporation or military to share secret and classified information with the public - should it be legal, or should it be protected by free speech?
Does the public benefit of purging intelligence, military and government organizations of corruption, or exposing corporate greed and corruption, outweigh any danger that might exist to so-called "national security?" One must first answer - to what extent "national security" can be used as an excuse to keep terrible secrets about corruption and unethical acts?
What's your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.