‘Of course there are legitimate secrets. There are many, but we must make the default assumption that each individual has the right to communicate knowledge to other individuals.’
‘It is the communication of information that regulates politics, that regulates the legislature, that regulates the behavior of the judiciary, and the behavior of the police. So it is quite important to have the default assumption that the free exchange of information is not to be regulated except in very specific and clear circumstances.’
‘I like protecting victims. I like to engage in intellectual combat.’
These are quotes from Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, in an interview to Time magazine from July 27.
Since WikiLeaks became famous for leaking documents about the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2010, the journalistic organization’s releases of secret information seems to have taken the approach of accepting collateral damage to some individuals as part of its overall mission to dump giant amounts of secret data for public perusal. Whether it’s a reckless approach, or due to the impossibility of vetting all that information, the personal and sensitive information for hundreds of people has been released, putting those innocent people at risk to criminals and to the laws of the country they happen to reside in.
The collateral damage this time comes with the release of confidential government data from the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Some of the things learned from the leak so far:
- A Saudi princess racked up an £882,000 limo bill – and didn’t pay it
- Government officials appear to discuss ways to undermine Iran
- Relations are poor with Israel
- Wikileaks will soon release much more
- We don’t know how the information was gathered
Along with the confidential government documents comes data that has exposed the private information of innocent people, such as:
- sick children
- teenage and other rape victims
- medical files
- sexually transmitted diseases
- arrests for being gay
- sexual abuse victims
- personal phones, addresses
- identity records, including Social Security
- financial data, including personal debts
- refugee status
- psychiatric conditions
- credit card numbers
- academic or employment files
- marriages and divorces
- missing children
- custody battles
- paternity disputes
- virginity status
- infertility status
In Saudi Arabia, the part about exposing a person’s sexual orientation can mean that person would suffer at worst – death by imprisonment, torture, or execution and at best – social stigma and ostracism by friends, loved ones, or total strangers. With so many personal records released, the risk is high. Though the site is censored in Saudi Arabia, just about any outsider can access the information.
Why publish this kind of information? It’s no better than what happened with the reporter who decided to out gay Olympic athletes in Rio in early August, similarly putting them at risk in their home countries.
From his asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange simply calls this story “recycled news” in a Tweet, but the information is still a permanent violation of privacy for the individuals affected. Wikileaks also denied the accusation of releasing information on people’s orientation on Twitter, stating that it was released by the government instead. They feel that this story is circulating because of the upcoming presidential election, rather than the threat to individual’s privacy in Saudi Arabia. See the Tweet below:
No, WikiLeaks did not disclose "gays" to the Saudi govt. Data is from govt & not leaked by us. Story from 2015. Re-run now due to election.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 23, 2016
“We can’t sit on material like this for three years with one person to go through the whole lot, line-by-line, to redact. We have to take the best road that we can,” Assange told a group in London.
Does that road include harming a certain number of innocent people?
There may be some tiny justice in knowing that those who read the information gathered by Wikileaks may be opening themselves to attack by way of Malware embedded throughout the site, according to report about the recently hacked Democratic National Committee.
Former supporters of Wikileaks have become suspect of the group’s methods following revelations of personal information revealed. Most prominently, Edward Snowden has revealed his opinion on Twitter, though Wikileaks arranged for Snowden’s asylum in Russia and replied to him on the Tweet that they believe he is seeking favor with Hillary Clinton. See below:
Democratizing information has never been more vital, and @Wikileaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) July 28, 2016
Wikileaks about the Hillary Clinton email fiasco is still making news, and led to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her clear bias against Bernie Sanders in the DNC. Donald Trump recently made a treasonous joke encouraging Vladimir Putin to access and distribute any information gleaned through espionage on Hillary Clinton’s emails. It’s certain that Wikileaks and/or Russian espionage will influence American politics in the near future. Some are pointing to a scheduled drop in October, as a not-so-unexpected ‘surprise’ to influence easily swayed voters and give Trump an edge. It is known that Assange is not a fan of Hillary Clinton. UPDATE: The day after this article posted, American News X posted an article by Deric Lostutter that Wikileaks has apparently tried to imply that Clinton has a fake illness.
Wikileaks still seems to be able to do as it will unchecked, due to its strategy of hosting its publications on many servers in multiple international jurisdictions with no logs that could be seized. They also use state-of-the-art encryption that hides their trails. The trails of their victims are exposed forever, regardless of what motivation for social good, social evil, or anarchy the real intention may be.
For more insight into the motivations of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, watch his recent interview with Bill Maher below: