(To read the rest of "On Violence’s Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2010", please click here and scroll to the bottom.)
Since Wikileaks is our “Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of the Year” clearly one post couldn’t handle it all--a whole week of posts can barely contain it--and no one post can capture all the emotions related to Wikileaks. So today I want to go through Wikileaks from the perspective of the several different hats I wear, and share my reactions:
Historian - Ecstatic. Could any thing have done as much good for the history of these wars as the Iraq War Diary and Afghanistan War Logs did? As history marches on, historians tend to have have more information to draw on. Now, we have fresh, first hand information here for all historians during the conflict. We have records of almost every US patrol, almost every US meeting, almost every intelligence product. Sure, they were leaked, but could you want more? Combined with all the blogs charting soldiers and marines’ opinions, this will be the most recorded war (from one side) ever. (Now if only we could get the leaked conversations between President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their staff about Iraq. That would be an interesting read.)
Military Intelligence Officer - Terrified. Who else could do this to the US? Was Bradley Manning the first? Is Congress investigating this behind closed doors that are ironically classified Secret or Top Secret? Would a foreign intelligence service, like Israel’s, China’s or Russia’s, be even better at breaching our system? Do they know everything about us already, they just haven’t leaked it to the media? Can we do the same thing to them? Have we? Can nations even keep secrets if we don’t radically change our technology?
But the most important question is this: if a single private first class could collect all this classified information, what’s to say he is the first? I mean, if a foreign intelligence service accessed the US military’s computer system and did exactly what Bradley Manning did, would we even know? Sure terrorist groups wouldn’t have access, but foreign intelligence services that are hostile to the US could easily share with them the juicy portions.
That scares me plenty more than Wikileaks.
Libertarian - Disappointed. Wikileaks will ultimately be bad for the Freedom of Information Act. As I said in the “Defining the Problem” post, the issue isn’t Wikileaks leaking the information, the issue is that we over-classify too much, then keep it over-classified for way too long. The Freedom of Information Act process is slow, bureaucratic and not embraced wholeheartedly by our government. So while I am glad that Wikileaks did so much to discredit conspiracy theorists, I am afraid this set libertarians who want an open government back.
Military Officer - Motivated to drop my retirement paperwork. I am a Military Intelligence officer. Knowledge and the ability to use it are the touchstones of my job. Instead of reacting logically to Wikileaks, though, the MI community freaked out. As soon as the leaks came out, we were told to not look at it by the Pentagon. It is true that soldiers with security clearances can’t keep classified information on unclassifed systems (like home computers) but once the information is leaked, then multiplied across the Internet and backed up thousands of times, what is the point in pretending like it didn’t happen?
Instead of crowdsourcing the new information, and embracing all the computer whizzes who were crunching the numbers and finding new intelligence, the MI community ignored it. The Pentagon took the least creative, least surprising and least innovative approach to Wikileaks, and no one was really shocked by that.
I am still facepalming (trademark Starbuck).