bootsontheground 12/09/10

The Wrong Kind of Transparency

It has been called a "slow-motion avalanche." The media-frenzy inducing gradual release of a quarter million leaked U.S. government cables on the Wikileaks website. Its owner, a self-styled hacker who claims to be releasing the documents in the name of "transparency" is now in jail, but the fallout from his revelations will continue to be felt for years to come.

Here are a few reasons why Assange's idea of government "transparency" is bad for America.

1. Keeping our country safe from terrorists depends on the free flow of information within government. Indeed, the 9/11 attacks were accomplished by exploiting areas of weak communication that have since been remedied by making sensitive information more accessible to more people within government. The Wikileaks scandal will have the effect of rolling back some of that progress.

2. Our allies will be less willing to offer support for programs and policies "under the table" that might hurt them politically if the information became public. These kinds of deals have been an important part of diplomacy throughout history, but especially since 9/11. Governments like Yemen, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who have their own reasons for wanting to drive terrorism from their shores, but whose citizens hold many views contrary to Western values, will now be more reluctant to work with us behind the scenes for fear that their compromises will be compromised, so to speak. This is bad for everyone.

3. The Wikileaks cables will have the effect of increasing both bureaucratic friction and institutional timidity within our government, both things we could do with much less of at this stage of the game. This makes getting anything positive accomplished that much more difficult in an already risk-averse government and military culture. Access to timely, frank, and accurate information literally saves lives on the battlefield. Now, that's less likely to happen.

Bottom line, there really are some things that we don't need to know, or at least have confirmed in writing. Assange and his supporters may think they are "sticking it to the man" by releasing sensitive information, much of which is fascinating, if not earthshaking in its scope. But in reality, they are sticking it to you and me – making our country more vulnerable and cumbersome to protect.

So thanks for nothing, Julian Assange.