Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, writes an op-ed for The Australian defending Wikileaks.

Don’t shoot messenger for revealing uncomfortable truths

In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.

Read about the Pentagon Papers case here. The situation then was similar: A media outlet publishing classified documents exposing lies by the U.S. government in the events before and during the Vietnam War.

Author Tom Slee sums it all up beautifully:

The openness question is always contingent, and to phrase political questions in terms of data is sidestepping the big issue. Your answer to “what data should the government make public?” depends not so much on what you think about data, but what you think about the government.

Indeed.

To me, no entity should be too powerful to question; too holy to desecrate. And most governments fall under this category. Heck, we are allowed to question god more than we are allowed to question governments!

Governments are servants; not rulers, not owners, mere servants. If someone doesn’t agree with that, they shouldn’t be in the government. At the risk of sounding distasteful, do our attitudes towards governments reflect our attitudes towards our servants, or do they reflect our attitudes towards our bosses?

It should be the former, but it is often the latter.

Think about it: Governments are the only entities that feed themselves. I can’t think of a private body that feeds itself to this extent. Sample this: Governments mess up foreign policies, and are then needed to protect us from foreign elements out to seek revenge. Another example: Governments are often the cause of poverty (by way of influencing the market) and are expected to solve the problem of poverty. In almost every instance, governments solve (because they are expected to solve) problems created by governments. They feed themselves. And then they are bloated.

This feedback loop needs to be broken somewhere. Enter Wikileaks.

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Arguments against Wikileaks are one of the following:

1. Ad  hominem attacks.

2. That it endangers lives of informers, soldiers, etc.

3. Some information is better kept away from public sphere.

Most of the attacks are (1). There isn’t any data to prove (2) and leaks are arguably less harmful to lives than governments waging phony wars. I don’t think  (3) should be true either, but we need to gradually get there (perhaps it is too idealistic to ever come true). For instance, in today’s world the locations of nuclear weapons are sensitive. However, looking into an idealistic future, open and transparent governments cannot be sly enough to create a situation that would require an arms race.

*****

Speaking for myself, I am happy with what Wikileaks has accomplished. We need more Wikileaks; we need competition in whistle-blowing; we need market principles to compete for revealing truths (and signs of that happening are positive).

*****

The pseudo-war being waged against Wikileaks is appalling. Amazon pulled its hosting services, EveryDNS stopped hosting the domain name for the website wikileaks.org, Paypal suspended donations to Wikileaks, Visa and Mastercard have blocked their credit cards from being used to donate to Wikileaks, a Swedish bank suspended Assange’s bank account.

You’d think that the government would bring Wikileaks to trial (have you heard of a single case filed against Wikileaks by the government?) and let a judge and jury decide if they indeed did something illegal by publishing classified documents.

The answer to that might well be no, if the Pentagon Papers case is any precedent.

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