The Debate over Wikileaks

With the most recent release of documents by Wikileaks, a wealth of cables between American embassies across the globe and the State Department, the limits of freedom of expression within the Western World, and in particular in the USA, are being put to the test.

Here is a fairly recent interview with Julian Assange, defending his actions.


The case against Wikileaks is not entirely without merit. However, because of the intensity of the dialogue, more moderate disagreements are not often heard.

Instead, the loudest arguments against the organization are the most militant. See, for instance, Sarah Palin, who had the following to say on her facebook page: “First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop Wikileaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months? Assange is not a “journalist,” any more than the “editor” of al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a “journalist.” He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”

See also Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who wants to designate Wikileaks a terrorist organization and see Julian Assange prosecuted. Here’s an interesting story at Slate about this, and the Republican Party’s reaction to Wikileaks more generally, here.

These reactions bare consideration because they are leading democratic voices, yet they seem to be espousing very anti-democratic sentiments. Why is that they so vehemently oppose the spread of this information?

In Canada, the response is certainly more muted, but the condemnation of the release of information is shared. In this Globe and Mail article, for instance, Peter Mckay, says that “it was an irresponsible attempt to “wreak havoc” and “destabilize global security” that will put lives at risk.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon had a similar sentiment, claiming that “Irresponsible leaks like these are deplorable and do not serve anybody’s national interests.”

On the one hand, you might see his point, in that diplomatic moves attempting to improve Canada’s international standing may be compromised. But on the other hand, being a demcoratic country, it is hard to argue against the fact that are national interest lies in the informed opinions of its electorate. Too often important decisions are made by unelected elites behind closed doors, with reprecussions for the demos. If we are to embrace democracy, and certainly that seems like a reasonable movement prior to exporting it abroad, than knowledge of this sort, knowledge that allows us to see in between the rhetoric and reality of our elected and mostly unelected officials, is beneficial to the democratic process. This is a point made by Noam Chomsky, recently interviewed on Democracy Now!


Regardless, ignore the inundation of commentary if you’d like. I’d be very interested to hear the opinions of our readers. What do you make of Wikileaks? Is it good for democracy, or does it undermine it? And what does it say about the democratic process when the majority of our leaders seem to oppose our knowing about what it is exactly they do?

3 Responses to “The Debate over Wikileaks”
  1. Chris L says:

    Any way you guys could fix that picture?

    I’m sorry I don’t have anything interesting to say. I will attempt to get something together after Dec 17th.

  2. I view Wikileaks and Assange as something akin to heroes. They remind me of the muckraking journalists of days gone by. In my book, it’s almost ALWAYS a good thing to expose hypocrisy and, particularly, hypocrisy that leads to death, oppression and destruction.

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