The Cost of WikiLeaks


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In 2006, a group of activists organized WikiLeaks, which has since grown to be one of the most controversial websites on the Internet. The core mission of this organization includes the complete exposure of all classified government information, to include secret and top secret information. This is because its founders believe in complete information transparency among state bureaucracies and even nongovernmental organizations. WikiLeaks’s supporters argue that the organization’s mission is merely to expose questionable government activities, crimes, and corruption for the public to see.  The overwhelming majority of their revelations, however, help the public very little, if at all. Among its disclosures which may have positively informed the public, WikiLeaks has shared vast amounts of classified information which are assessed to have high potential in causing extreme loss to United States national security. Government action against this website has been slight thus far, and greater international involvement needs to be made to remove this threatening entity. The potential damage caused by WikiLeaks’s shared information warrants shut down by the U.S. government.

wikiIn order to understand the threat of WikiLeaks, it is important to understand the nature of its disclosures. Consider the definitions of secret and top secret information, two classifications of data that have been released massively by WikiLeaks. Information is only classified as secret when the government predicts it to cause “grave damage to national security” when released. Information is classified as top secret when it is predicted to cause “exceptionally grave damage” when released. These explanations show the probable harm that looms at WikiLeaks’s every release. It is debatable that WikiLeaks’s massive information releases have caused such injury to our nation’s security, but the potential effects of WikiLeaks’s actions call into question their regard for the welfare of the United States.

WikiLeaks’s actions have had adverse consequences for not only our nation’s security, but also international relations. One of these accounts is a WikiLeaks disclosure of secret data regarding the NSA’s ability to access computers that are not connected to the Internet. Even though WikiLeaks could not find any proof that the NSA had ever used these assets against Americans, and the NSA stated that they would be used “only against valid foreign intelligence targets”, WikiLeaks went ahead and published the data anyway. This classified information is the type that could directly or indirectly risk the lives of intelligence operators or informants who are working to fight terrorism and protect American freedom. Thiessen further states that this revealed NSA program “poses precisely zero threat to American civil liberties”, and further asks, “What ‘abuse’ is being revealed? Why is this something the public needs to know? The answers are: None”. Sure it may have imperceptibly benefitted Americans knowing this NSA fact, but weigh this against how it may have benefitted terrorists. Any terrorists who have learned of this NSA capability likely now know they need to make their computers even less detectable by the U.S. They who have evaded surveillance or capture live to see another day in which they can emplace another bomb or conspire with other terrorists to kill more soldiers. WikiLeaks sees these potential results as collateral damage for its greater purpose. These revelations from its website have hidden consequences which may never be measured, but which cannot be ignored. This is one example of many, which shows the degree of risk WikiLeaks takes and the possible loss of national security and international trust.

When discussing the degradation of national security, it is important to elaborate on specific catastrophes that could subsequently occur. It is likely that, rather than released information causing a catastrophe, catastrophes might not be able to be prevented. As seen in the latter case involving a leak of NSA capabilities for detecting terrorists, there are releases of information that could result in further organization of terrorist activity. These individuals could therefore contribute to the various terror bombings and attacks which have been plaguing the West in recent years. Leaks of sensitive government information also prevent the U.S. from effectively working with other countries to fight terrorism. Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton states that a massive cable leak “puts people’s lives in danger, threatens national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems”. Clinton highlights the very issues that are here being examined in the case of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks’s actions not only endanger the lives of Americans, but they also prevent us to be able to effectively work with other countries to promote peace and thwart violence. The aforementioned disclosures that were disseminated through WikiLeaks, by definition, have caused grave damage to national security.

The debate as to whether or not WikiLeaks should be shut down frequently returns to the notion that it hasn’t caused any real injury to America, but has rather revealed much information which has informed and enlightened us. The problem with this notion is that the impairment inflicted on our nation by WikiLeaks cannot be measured and will likely never be known. It would be near impossible to connect the death of a group of civilians to the release of classified information by means of WikiLeaks. The release of this information, however, could indirectly affect the increased capacity and knowledge of terrorists to further evade capture and continue their plots.

Also, the danger of WikiLeaks should not be measured by how many adverse consequences it has caused thus far, but by the amount it may cause. The government should intervene and prevent WikiLeaks from participating in the further dissemination of our classified information. Every WikiLeaks posting risks “exceptionally grave damage” which could eventually directly affect the U.S. or our allies. Do we want to wait until a devastating attack is connected to the transparency of WikiLeaks? The direct effects of WikiLeaks can only be speculated upon, but the potential for harm is quite obvious. The obligation of the U.S. to stop WikiLeaks stretches to Iceland where the group has found sanctuary in a combination of free speech laws. U.S. policymakers should enter into negotiation with the Icelandic government in order to establish grounds whereby WikiLeaks can no longer find safe haven. Iceland is a NATO ally and thus could be influenced to reform its laws to prevent further dissemination of classified information which risks the safety of NATO forces. It is likely that U.S. intervention in Icelandic policy would be able to make the changes necessary to end the danger WikiLeaks poses to our national security.

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