In today’s society, news travels at light speed. Where in olden times, the time it took for news to be delivered, the message would soon become old news (pardon the pun). However, in today’s world, the happenings around the globe are a mere fingertip away on computers, laptops, televisions, and radios. In spite of the ease of access to the information of the world, what the vigilant individual needs to be aware of is that the news flows through facets that are corporate entities or government controlled enterprises. The information is not as free as one may assume. In this ambiguous present, a new source of information emerges, Wikileaks.
What does it mean that the information is not necessarily free? In most instances, the impact of this statement is not noticeable. A natural disaster strikes, a crime takes place, and other such occurrences stimulate the news networks around the globe without much thought behind the reporting. However, when a story such as the RBGH controversy turns up, the question of honesty in then news world becomes much more vital. To those not acquainted with this story, it took place when two Fox reporters discovered that dairy farmers were injecting their cows with growth hormones which in turn had harmful effects on the health of consumers. Instead of reporting outright about this controversy, the reporters were essentially gagged by the network. The reason behind this action was that the maker of the bovine growth hormone was the chemical company “Monsanto”. This company just happened to be a major advertiser and monetary supporter of Fox news. This created what they call a conflict of interest.
Another factor that impacts the ability of the news to be delivered is the control that the various governments have over the flow of information. For example, the functions and machinations of the United States government are considered a matter of national security to a degree and are therefore subject to secrecy and redaction at the government’s discretion. What this means for the general public is a lack of disclosure. This fact makes the issue of governmental accountability rather difficult when situations that may involve corrupt bureaucrats or questionable military tactics arise.
Ultimately, what these two issues come back to is disclosure, accountability, and an ethical obligation to the people. Out of this moral quandary, we see the birth of a wild card, Wikileaks. Wikileaks is a non-profit international organization that publishes submissions of private, classified, and anonymous documents on their website. Since it’s formation in 2006, Wikileaks has claimed to be in possession of classified documents quantified in the millions. The publications to date have included such releases as “Afghan War Diary”, “Iraq War Logs”, “U.S State Department Diplomatic Cables”, and other such documents. It goes without saying that a large portion of information released by Wikileaks is making many officials cringe. Wikileaks stands for the freedom of information and is viewed by many to be the savior of the information age. Yet, is it really?
There is another side of the coin to this organization. How does Wikileaks come by the information that it publishes? It receives the classified documents and secret communications through individuals that violate the national security of their given nation and illegally obtain these documents, giving them to Wikileaks for publishing. The problem arises with the lack of control regarding the leaked information. The documents that get published may contain harmless tidbits about international diplomacy or they can contain strategic military maneuvers that have no business being public knowledge.
The current trend is to applaud Wikileaks for the honest “reporting” that it provides. However, at the end of the day, Americans are putting stock in the moral compass of an organization that has openly expressed anti-American sentiment. The problem with an organization like Wikileaks is a complete lack of checks and balances. This is not an organization that is concerned with issues of national security or necessary statutes of secrecy. They open a can of worms and leave those that are affected to deal with the fallout. What if the information that this organization releases exposes vulnerabilities in domestic security, putting lives in jeopardy?
Issues such as disclosure and accountability should always be approached with the idea of a balanced solution. Declassifying documents after an event has run its course is less risky than revealing those documents in the middle of an operation. The question isn’t always if something should be revealed, but when. Wikileaks is not willing to engage in this balancing act. Utilizing the simplest category of operation, Wikileaks is a radical organization. This organization is willing to do whatever it needs to in order to achieve the necessary objective. However, the masterminds running the website are not interested in ethical quandaries or the ultimate impact of operation.
As was stated at the beginning of this article, the news isn’t free. The government may have a say in the control of information and corporate obligations skew the bottom line. However, does this mean that we must put our stock in an organization like Wikileaks? The answer is no. Wikileaks is an organization with no conscience. The purpose of this company is to reveal secrets without a thought to the aftermath. Furthermore, the past statements released by the founder, Julian Assange, have revealed that Wikileaks is biased in it’s culture and operation. This is what it all comes down to; an organization that knows more than it should with the power to make waves. The problem is that those waves will be directed by the prejudiced and biased views of Wikileaks.