Having recently disclosed over 90,000 documents related to the Afghanistan War, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and those accused of providing his website with sensitive data, have met with resounding criticism. Although most have vocally condemned the cavalier manner in which Wikileaks has offered previously undisclosed documents for public consumption, many have in fact downplayed the significance of the information revealed.
Some have even lauded his efforts as a great step toward increased “transparency” in government. This attitude simply disregards the harm that will likely result from Assange’s callous decision to release previously classified information.
The rationale for many who support the circulation of the Wikileaks documents has been a desire to promote “transparency.” Proper governance requires a well-informed electorate and government alone cannot be entrusted to determine what information should be kept from public view.
Perhaps on many issues this argument resonates; however, with respect to issues of national security, of which sensitive documents related to an ongoing war effort certainly must be considered, the question must be asked: To whom should we defer judgment on the revelation of such documents? The government or an interested third-party with a clear desire to influence public policy?
Assange has been a vocal opponent of the war in Afghanistan and holds nothing back in articulating his desire to see the Wikileaks documents influence U.S. policy in the Middle East.
“This material shines light on the everyday brutality and squalor of war. The archive will change public opinion and it will change the opinion of people in positions of political and diplomatic influence,” said Assange in an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel.
He continued by emphasizing the need to sway public opinion against the war efforts in Afghanistan and the role that Wikileaks could play in such an effort. “There is a mood to end the war in Afghanistan. This information won’t do it alone, but it will shift political will in a significant manner.”
While Assange is unwavering in his belief that the knowledge gleaned from the Wikileaks data can support the anti-war effort, he is unrepentant and dismissive about the potential harm wrought by the sensitive information revealed in the documents.
When pressed about the dangers that could befall military personnel or military informants within Afghanistan, Assange defended his actions, suggesting that the Wikileaks “source went through their own harm-minimization process and instructed us to conduct our usual review to make sure there was not a significant chance of innocents being negatively affected.”
Unfortunately, Assange’s purported concern for the welfare of “innocents” does not match reality. The Wall Street Journal noted that in a perfunctory review of the Wikileaks data, the Times of London “found the names of dozens of Afghans credited with providing detailed intelligence to U.S. forces. Their villages are given for identification and also, in many cases, their fathers’ names.”
These revelations do not demonstrate a comprehensive attempt to minimize the danger to innocents; rather, the release of this information likely endangers the lives of numerous brave Afghans who have chosen to side with the U.S.-led efforts to suppress the repressive and brutal Taliban regime.
Assange bristles at these notions and directs ire toward the U.S. government when confronted with the suggestion that his actions make him a dangerous man. “The most dangerous men are those who are in charge of war, and they need to be stopped. If that makes me dangerous in their eyes, so be it.”
The publication of the Wikileaks documents shows that there is no limit to what many within the anti-war movement will do to advance their cause. Regardless of whether this data was offered under the guise of increasing “transparency,” the Wikileaks revelations nonetheless amount to nothing more than an attempt to undermine the U.S. war effort.
It is not surprising that the Wikileaks documents have provoked an outpouring of support among the most virulent anti-war advocates. One such commentator wrote, “Cheers to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for exposing the Pentagon spin factory. WikiLeaks and well-informed Americans know that corporate profiteers, and the generals, are willing to sacrifice soldiers to gain profit.”
Irrespective of one’s opinion toward the war in Afghanistan, the actions of Julian Assange, and others who participate in the aggregation and dissemination of sensitive information, should command the strongest rebuke from those concerned with national security and the welfare of military personnel currently deployed overseas. By acting with such brazen disregard for these considerations, Assange may have endangered American lives, and those of our allies abroad.
Scott G. Erickson is an advocate of conservative, principled solutions to the issues facing America. He has worked to advance conservative priorities through coalition building and is an active participant in myriad organizations seeking to restore the foundational principles of America. A committed public servant, he has worked in the field of law enforcement for the past decade and holds both his B.S. and M.S. in Criminal Justice Studies. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.