By Andrew Field
Today, the media dwelled upon the recent exposure of previously classified information by Wikileaks. They have just published 400 thousand pages of a United States Army situation reports during the Iraq occupation, causing much retrospective indignation. The material leaked is old news, there are few surprises. It has renewed the disclosure cravings of Iraq war critics. Despite pre-release media hype, the information is stale, and while revealing a few points of interest, there is no major scoop.
One does not know whether to scorn or admire Wikileaks. For what purpose do they act? They say ‘transparency creates a better society for all people’, and that ‘better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations’. Fair enough, if we were living in a pure world, but what of our enemies’ institutions who benefit from this ‘principled leaking’? Was there no corruption by the principled leaker?
What some struggle to come to terms with, is that while western nations are collaborating to prevent or fight terrorism, thus protecting its citizens; there are those who choose to expose their secrets, unwittingly perhaps, to the enemy, in the interests of such transparency. We seem to be losing the plot here, if wicked nations and organizations are really intent upon your absolute destruction.
For centuries conflict and political turmoil, and even commercial competitiveness, have given rise to a world immersed in cloak and dagger activity, spying and snooping. This has been enhanced hugely by technology in the last few decades. Our institutions have much to gain from information about their enemies, adversaries and competitors. Is this so thoroughly immoral?
To most, this is known as intelligence and an echelon of organizations and agencies has blossomed to perform this simple task of information one-upmanship upon your enemy, to defend your democracy. By their very nature, they do have blood on their hands, some more than others, and one would like to think mostly that of their foes. There is no purity in warfare.
Evidently, and acknowledging that no conflict is clean, much hard work is done to secure information, in some cases by devious means, which is why intelligence becomes so secretive. And this seems to irk some people, because while secrecy provides protection to those gathering and providing intelligence, it also covers up truths, eliminates transparency or things which in normal circumstances should properly be exposed. Where do we draw the line?
Our enemies, and we do have them, are going to pursue their objectives by the most evil means possible, and terrorism seems to be the vogue at the moment. Terrorists have another view of utopia, and will happily deny you yours, no matter how much you demand pure and absolute democracy and freedom, civil rights or equality for all, including your enemies.
No democratically minded citizen wants this evil of terrorism on their door steps. Such conflict brings death and destruction in the ugliest way. Warfare is a filthy thing, but a necessary evil if you are on the receiving end of a threat. Sadly, the successful counter-insurgency does not conduct itself by the ‘Queensbury Rules’, so blood does get spilled.
In fact, things get very dirty out there and on both sides of the fray. But when people within your own community decide upon ‘principled leaking’, passing on our secrets to a would-be whistleblower, then surely there is something wrong. It is morally incomprehensible and corrupt for the custodian of secrets to pass them on. When our whistleblower discloses the leak, he is in fact feeding and serving the enemy.
From a purely intelligence perspective, there is an ethical clash between the transparency you demand, being the supposed democratizer, and the undoing of secret intelligence networks and conduits used. Intelligence plays a part, apparently, in protecting those citizens, who claim this right to know, in the face of deadly adversity. Think about it. This is akin to wetting one’s powder when the beast is charging.
Intelligence conduits will dry up if we broadcast our intelligence modus operandi to the opposing world. By the same token we don’t want governments or their agencies to get away with their crimes under a cloak of secrecy, such as the tortures which occurred in Iraq. They who choose to support and feed this destructive whistle blowing should examine their collective conscience. It may be suicidal to uphold Wikileaks’ rights to spill the beans acquired through corrupt leakages.