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The conflicting influence of Wikileaks

It’s been a long time since someone has received as many different reputations as Julian Assange ó Sarah Palin compared him to Osama Bin Laden, Daniel Ellsburg, the man responsible for “The Pentagon Papers,” has said that he’s “serving our democracy,” and Assange has probably at one time or another heard everything in between.

Wikileaks has already proved its value internationally as well as domestically.† In reaction to China calling Kim Jong Il and North Korea a “spoiled child,” the leader’s top advisor immediately traveled to Beijing in order to smooth out differences with maybe the country’s only defender left in the world.† Furthermore, these leaks also show United States’ officials potentially breaking major international and federal laws ó and these things do need to be pointed out.† Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for instance, is now in hot water after allegedly asking some staff members to spy on members of the United Nations, including the Secretary General.

Additionally, transparency as a policy was highlighted as a key idea for the Obama administration.† However, the White House still deems 75 percent more documents to be “classified” than 1994 (although that number has been more than halved since the second Bush term).† It’s important that transparency has now forcibly become a policy.

On the other hand, viewing Wikileaks as merely a worthy extension of the Freedom of Information Act is a little too kind to Assange and his website.† While these cables aren’t the most important U.S. secrets around, some of the cables have potential to be disastrous to U.S. foreign policy.

A cable was released with Arab leaders privately urging the U.S. to more forcibly try to shut down Iran’s nuclear missile program.† There aren’t many things more dangerous than backing an evil dictator into a corner, forcing him to react.

Additionally, the release of these cables breaks the trust that many foreign leaders have with the U.S.† diplomats worldwide are scrambling to explain the release of the cables, and in especially volatile areas (Iraq and Afghanistan), missions are having to be reevaluated.

Another huge concern that must be addressed is the fact that a large chunk of these classified documents were released by an Army private who downloaded terabytes of information. If our privacy is easily infiltrated by the lowest rank of soldier, how can we be confident in our network security?

Wikileaks has been responsible for the release of many important documents, some of which should have seen the media’s light of day.† Many are concerned that newspapers and other media outlets are tied directly to the U.S. government and that this bias has hurt the credibility of newspaper reporting.

For reversing this trend, Assange and his website should get plenty of credit.† On the other hand, part of diplomacy and foreign policy relies on privacy, and Wikileaks has jeopardized many missions abroad.† At the very least though, Wikileaks is a double-edged sword ó a creation we should both appreciate as well as question.

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