There are two types of whistleblowers: those who change the course of history for good and those who throw caution to the wind.
Earlier this year, WikiLeaks, led by founder Julian Assange, released a classified military video of U.S. armed forces killing civilians and two reporters in Iraq. Whether or not the military decision to attack those people was a tragic error in judgment or plain carelessness, WikiLeaks exposed an aspect of the harsh reality of modern warfare. Most people are aware of the suspect actions soldiers, commanders, and militaries sometimes take, but to see it first-hand from military video was shocking and proved how military intelligence in that area was faulty and that war often times kills more civilians and allies than real enemies. With that in mind, I was hopeful WikiLeaks would continue to expose crimes committed by other militaries, national or insurgent in character.
Within the last year, Wikileaks obtained roughly 250,000 secret documents from American military and State Department cables from embassies around the world. It was at this stage that I believe Julian Assange and his close crew approached a fork in the road. The public disclosure of these highly sensitive documents only serves to hamper the progress nations were making together, as well as reopen old wounds. Why release documents exposing to terrorists how our military communicates? Why release State Department cables showing how what we hear and see in the news isn’t always as it seems? It seems to me it would have been more prudent to hold off releasing these documents given the uncertainty of current political conditions.
Julian Assange has thrown caution to the wind. He has exposed for the sake of exposing. He has grown arrogant and is doing what he is just because he can. He has let the power of WikiLeaks get to his head, and he will pay the price for that.
The situation with the State Department cables has some good and bad mixed with it. When reading some of the cables from Tel Aviv to America, the countries’ feelings towards Iran seemed a lot more desperate that what has been reported in the media. Even other nations in the Middle East fear a nuclear Iran. What good can come from exposing such deep-rooted fears? Now that everyday people have access to State Department cables, there may be a sudden urge to confront Iran. I’m not talking about UN sanctions; the United Nations has no power in the world these days. Every sanction imposed on Iran has only strengthened Tehran’s political resolve and nuclear ambitions.
On the other hand, the release of these cables has created tension with our allies. While back-talking and harshly criticizing political counterparts is nothing new, WikiLeaks has undermined the security of our government. If a few low-ranking soldiers can get their hands on highly secretive information, what’s to stop more organized and skillful organizations, such as Al Qaeda, from gaining access to more dangerous information like nuclear codes? The State Department, FBI, CIA, NSA and other defense organizations need to revamp their internal security if they never want to hear from Julian Assange again.
The biggest problem I have with WikiLeaks’ latest release is that it fails to consider the often fragile balance international policy seeks to maintain. Assange and WikiLeaks are missing the point about why most of these cables are kept secret. Do they have any idea how many possible wars have been averted, how many treaties have been signed, or how many allies have been made behind closed doors? There is a reason why Egypt, for example, does not want to be publicly portrayed as a major ally to Israel. The last time Egypt went out of their way to show the rest of the Arab world that Jews and Arabs can live side by side, Prime Minister Anwar Sadat was assassinated. No wonder they want to do business under the radar. Doing so has saved lives in the Middle East.
Politics is about perception. Sometimes senators, presidents and ambassadors say certain things in public that aren’t always 100 percent accurate. We do not know what goes on behind closed doors. The public would be naïve, though, to think there isn’t constant communication between President Obama, Harry Reid and John Boehner. But, imagine if the discussions President Kennedy and his staff were having with the Russians and Cubans were exposed as they were happening? If so, the Cold War may have thawed due to a nuclear blast.
It is one thing to be controversial and quite another to be reckless. WikiLeaks’ actions are very much the latter. Although the organization could show the world how some governments operate in an educational manner, they just throw whatever they can find at the public. There also seems to be a double standard, as WikiLeaks has yet to find documents from terrorist organizations or nations which support terrorism. If Julian Assange wants more global credibility, he needs to stop aiming the barrel of his gun at America and our allies. No one really believes angels are running the Department of Defense; nothing in these leaks is very surprising. However, the documents’ content could prove to be fatal obstacles to world consensus and peace.
Roy Ribitzky is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at