Over the years we’ve seen many online causes spread virally and change the world as we know it. Take, for instance, the hilarious Double Rainbow and the Old Spice commercials. But few have caused as much of a stir as WikiLeaks.
It started with a memory stick no larger than a piece of gum. The size of the object was small, but its contents would eventually shock the world. What were the contents included on the device? More than 250,000 state department cables, including communications from US embassies all around the world. And yesterday these documents were released.
It’s simply incredible the reach one can have with the power of the internet combined with strategic digital marketing. Julian Assange, the public face of WikiLeaks, understands this very well. This is evident in his decision against immediately making the cables public. Instead, as they put it on their website, it was aimed at “maximizing political impact”, by releasing news of the leaks to key media outlets all around the world.
WikiLeaks described the release as “the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain.”
In case you’re wondering what all the fuss in about, here are some highlights from the documents, as detailed in The New York Times:
- Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear program
- China directed cyber attacks on the United States
- The U.S. has been secretly working, unsuccessfully so far, to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor to keep it from being diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device
- American and South Korean officials have been planning for a unified Korea, anticipating the collapse of North Korea
- U.S. diplomats made deals with other nations to resettle Guantanamo Bay detainees
- The U.S. was suspicious of corruption in the Afghan government
- The Chinese government carried out a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage against Google, the American government and allies, and American businesses
- American diplomats in 2009 reported a cozy relationship between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi
- The U.S.’s inability to prevent Syria from supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon
- Clashes with the German government over human rights
- Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s mixed records fighting terrorism
As you can imagine, this is the sort of information that a US diplomat wouldn’t want others to hear or see.
There has been much debate on both sides of this issue. Some believe that releasing the information was the right thing to do, as that information should be free and available to the public. Others believe that the release has risked the lives of US diplomats, and severely damaged US diplomacy around the world—and because of this, the information is not appropriate for the public.
I couldn’t possibly give a final review on such a complicated subject. So for the sake of encouraging discussion, I give WikiLeaks a thumbs sideways.
We want to hear what your thoughts are on the subject. What do you think about WikiLeaks and the recent release of secret documents? Let us know in the comments below.