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The secrets and danger in WikiLeaks by Michael Corio.
By Admin (from 24/09/2010 @ 10:00:16, in en - Global Observatory, read 1522 times)

The Internet age has spawned a culture in which information is rapidly assimilated and distributed around the world every second of every day. WikiLeaks, an organization that exposes classified information, has caused much controversy in recent months.

The documents that WikiLeaks publishes are leaked by individuals in corporate, religious, and government organizations.

The WikiLeaks organization states on its website that its mission is "to protect whistleblowers, journalists, and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public." In effect, it is a site dedicated to the exposure of classified information and asserts a message that advocates for "better accountability by governments and other institutions."

"The Internet is wonderful but increasingly problematic. Sometimes we are kept in the dark for a reason. I would not want retaliation against innocent people due to the release of such information," said Stephanie Howell, a communications professor.

"While I do appreciate exposure of government, implications can be problematic and people can be hurt when the whole story isn't told."

In late July 2010 WikiLeaks released 77,000 documents pertaining to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, followed by an additional 15,000 classified reports leaked illegally by Private Bradley Manning. Entitled the "Afghan War Diaries," this collection of highly sensitive military information paints a comprehensive picture of past and ongoing efforts of the war, including possible evidence of war crimes and military misconduct.

This included the release of a 2007 video entitled "Collateral Murder," filmed from the cockpit of a U.S. Army Apache helicopter. The video displays a lethal airstrike resulting in the deaths of a group of Afghan citizens and two Reuters news journalists, allegedly based on the premise of one man's possession of an artillery weapon. Various human rights groups and media organizations have lodged their support for the site, and despite some initial criticism surrounding the leak of names of Afghani informants, organizations such as Reporters Without Borders have pledged "support for WikiLeaks, its work, and its founding principles."

Critics have argued that the indiscriminate disclosure of intimate details on the war threatens both ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and the safety of its Afghani informants.

Opinions are sharply divided along ideological lines in the U.S., outlying the struggle to balance national security interests with First Amendment rights.

Benjamin Cosic, a senior majoring in communications and business, is in favor of WikiLeaks as long as it does not put peoples' lives or well-being in danger.

"WikiLeaks must take into account the ethical consequences of releasing such information to the public. However, websites like WikiLeaks could be revolutionary in terms of contributing to a more neutral, informed public," said Cosic.

"Most major news outlets are for profit corporations and possess a bias based on the need to present information in a way that turns a profit."

This debate has intensified with the Internet's capability of providing an anonymous forum for opinion and a venue in which to share information. With the rise of such technology, the notion of privacy and confidentiality, in the traditional sense, is rapidly changing.

WikiLeaks reflects a struggle between the right to free speech and the necessity to protect information critical to corporate, government, and organizational security. The question posed to modern-day society is how to draw the line between Internet freedom and necessary secrecy.

"If an open society means that people have to censor themselves, I believe people will be more cautious about what they put online," said Paul Booth, an assistant professor in the College of Communications who specializes in technology and new media.

"It's hard to say if the majority of people have a favorable opinion of WikiLeaks, but I think most people are in favor of open dialogue and debate. They don't want to compromise the safety of others, but they want to have as much information as possible."

Source: depauliaonline.com

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