WikiLeaks

I wasn’t sure what I thought about WikiLeaks, at first.

I understand that there are some legitimate government activities that are best kept secret from the general public, and exposing details could cause severe problems.

On the other hand, if the government can’t keep something secret from WikiLeaks, then they probably can’t keep them secret from other, motivated, interested, parties and we may as well all know about it.

I am quite concerned about excessive government surveillance of citizens, and have never been impressed by responses in the form of “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t be worried about people finding out about it.” I think private people and organizations have a right to secrets. Not everybody has a right to all of our information, and sometimes the truth hurts people unnecessarily.

But, the government is supposed to be operating on our behalf, not its own. Too much government activity is classified. Much of what they do should be subject to public scrutiny; that’s really the basis of the only check we have on them. We can’t effectively decide to change our representatives unless we can judge what they and their subordinates are doing. Some of what is done should be kept secret, but the vast majority of it should not. Most of the time, it would be better if government agents operated under the assumption that what they are doing will become public. Maybe they would do fewer things that they would be ashamed of.

So, a lot of the released information is embarrassing and inconvenient. Too bad. No, actually it’s good! It’s good for the public to be frequently disabused of the illusion that their government operates competently and effectively. This is the myth that many statists operate under and base their arguments upon. It’s wrong and dangerous and the more often people are forced to face its falsehood, the better.

Among other things, these incidents have demonstrated that the United States government sucks at keeping secrets. Maybe this will help give people, at the margins, reason to doubt the wisdom of turning more and more of our liberties over to the state.

So, while WikiLeaks may not have done a perfect job at deciding what was appropriate to release, and Julian Assange may be a wacko scumbag, I’m confident that on the whole they’ve been doing a great public service, and all this talk of it being a terrorist organization is authoritarian crap.

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