Wikileaks’ collateral damage

“US diplomat in Mexico is 1st casualty of WikiLeaks

Carlos Pascual, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, resigns his post

MEXICO CITY (AP) – The U.S. ambassador to Mexico faced a harsh choice as the release of secret cables made his job nearly impossible: Quit to rescue one of Washington’s most strategic relationships or weather the storm to show that diplomats should not suffer for doing their jobs…

This kind of “casualty” does not involve death or physical injury but it is still an unfortunate kind of collateral damage. I hope the US government will minimize the harm for those who don’t deserve it by reassigning them to good positions.  Nonetheless, this kind of collateral impact may be a small price to pay for a greater good, which is exposing those in government (ours and others) who are not serving the best interests of their citizens.

If  we were more supportive and protective of  whistle-blowers they might have the resources to go through tens of thousands of documents and remove those that serve no compelling public interest. It seems clear to me that whistle-blowers usually operate under such conditions that they do not have that luxury. Leakers may or may not succeed in removing  materials that could endanger innocent lives (Julian Assange and WikiLeaks certainly tried to do so in leaks of military documents), but they usually cannot go through huge volumes of leaked material with a fine-toothed comb to remove information that may hurt the careers or reputations of some who have done no wrong other than doing their jobs side by side with others who HAVE  behaved very badly. That’s too bad, but it is far outweighed by our need to be informed about the misdeeds of those who work in government in our name but who do great harm to us and to others around the world.

We the people need to honor and protect whistle-blowers who act in our interest at their own peril, and we need to provide them with resources that can help them to minimize the collateral damage that is too often the price of our freedoms.

Poor Richard

This is a must-see video: Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange Talk WikiLeaks

“Following the leak by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks of almost 400,000 secret US army field reports from the Iraq war between 2004 and 2009, tune in to hear Julian Assange at the Frontline Club in conversation with one of the most famous whistle blowers in history, Daniel Ellsberg, who was responsible for the leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.”

2 Responses to “Wikileaks’ collateral damage”

  1. Nick Says:

    So what then should Assange say to this ambassador? “Were sorry, but we merely do not have the time to make sure that we don’t ruin your career needlessly,” perhaps? I’m sorry but I find that logic to be sick. Instead of publishing everything that crosses their desks, Wikileaks should sift through their documents and determine if it is worth publishing instead of asking if it should not be published. Assange would have a much better reputation if Wikileaks contained maybe a hundred or so leaks that actually expose corruption instead of the tens of thousands that read like political tabloids. Truth should not be and end in itself, but rather a means to an end, namely, justice. If Assange really believed this, he’d post less crap and focus entirely on actual corruption. Unfortunately, he’s just a big child with half a planet’s worth of worshippers.

    • Poor Richard Says:

      I don’t much care what Julian Assange might say or do. As far as I’m concerned he isn’t the issue. His judgement and his behavior aren’t what I’m concerned about. If others can take the ball and do a better job, I’m all for it.

      What concerns me is our collective judgement and behavior. Assange is one guy. Whatever he gets wrong is up to others (us) to get right. What we are not doing is providing the resources and the public commitment to get the job done right, including as you say sifting through the documents to determine what is really worth publishing. I agree, and I said so in my post.

      Our only choices are 1) do journalism and public accountability right (meaning that the public has to demand it and pay for it), 2) leave it up to the Assanges of the world, or 3) forget about democracy.

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