Wikileaks is a sociological Rorschach test: Start a conversation with someone about it, and you’ll find out their opinion on privacy, freedom of the press, government transparency and their willingness to temporarily overlook those values for short-term political gains.
That sounds critical, but truthfully Wikileaks is a moral minefield to walk through, and it’s hard to land on an opinion without setting off an ethical explosion. But the conversation matters, and there are good reasons for us as Christians, and our country in general, to be concerned about the implications of Wikileaks.
OKAY, SO WHAT IS WIKILEAKS AGAIN?
If you’re a little fuzzy on what Wikileaks is, you’re not alone. Quickly, here are the basic details.
Wikileaks is a secretive organization run by controversial iconoclast Julian Assange. Assange has been confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for four years to avoid extradition to Sweden where he has been accused of sexual assault.
Wikileaks’ mission is forced government transparency via the mass release of classified documents. In theory, their scope is global, but the vast majority of their recent work has targeted the United States. They receive classified documents from anonymous sources (more on that in a minute) they then release publicly through their own channels and mass media outlets.
WHAT TO LIKE ABOUT WIKILEAKS
If you’re pro-Wikileaks it probably comes down to one reason: You don’t trust the government. Over the past few years Assange and company have exposed that the U.S. government tapped the German Prime Minister’s phone, that the Democratic National Convention probably preferred Clinton as a candidate over Sanders (although there’s no proof of any actual interference), and peered behind the secretive current Clinton has placed on several parts of her life, most notably transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street investment firms.
If you’re a small government purist who believes our elected officials are taking more and more of our freedoms, Wikileaks are the heroes in the trenches fighting against hidden corruption.
BUT THEN THERE’S THE UGLY STUFF
Let’s start with Julian Assange. As I mentioned before, Assange is currently avoiding extradition to Sweden after two women claimed he sexually assaulted them. But putting that aside, Assange is far from an unbiased truth crusader. First, Assange has a very strong anti-American bias. He has written at length about the evils of the United States “empire” and is on a mission to do whatever he can to discredit and disrupt U.S. global influence.
He specifically has a grudge against Hillary Clinton. He hasn’t specifically stated his reasons why but both in terms of who Wikileaks has targeted and the timing of their releases Assange is doing everything he can to undercut Clinton’s presidential campaign. He’s publicly stated that while Trump is a wildcard Clinton represents everything he is against. This might be because of Clinton’s traditional pro-military interventionist tendencies. It might be because Clinton has long advocated Assange being tried for what she claims is his threat to U.S. national security. Whatever the reason, Assange is unapologetically out to hurt Clinton however he can.
For many, this is something to celebrate. The more anti-Hillary you are, the easier it is to overlook the more unseemly side of Assange and say “well, at least right now I’m for what he’s doing.” The problem is how he’s releasing the information.
THIS HAS LESS TO DO WITH CONSERVATIVE v. LIBERAL AND MORE TO DO WITH U.S. v. RUSSIA
First, there are strong reasons to believe Wikileaks has developed strong ties with Russia, and that Russia is almost certainly behind the recent round of DNC hacks (here is more information about that). In other words, Russia is actively hacking our government, giving the information to Assange, who is then strategically releasing it to disrupt our electoral process. Combine this with Trump’s weird fondness for Russia and Putin and the current Wikileaks dumps start feeling less about discrediting Democrats and more about the integrity of the American electoral process.
Considering Putin’s recommitment to very Cold War-esque tactics to grow in world influence, this concern can’t just be dismissed.
THERE ARE REAL CONCERNS ABOUT PERSONAL PRIVACY
It’s not just about our national security, though. Lost in the debate about Wikileaks is how haphazard they have been in the information they’ve released. Included in the DNC email dump were the social security and credit card numbers of DNC donors. After the failed coup in Turkey Wikileaks released 30,000 emails from the Turkish prime minister, but in the process released a database containing the address and cell phone numbers of almost every voting adult woman in the country. Wikileaks doesn’t seem to care about what they release, only that they get as much press as possible when they release.
Regardless of how biased you believe “mainstream media” to be, one thing they navigate well (for legal reasons as much as anything) is discerning which information violates peoples’ right to privacy versus a collective need to know. Wikileaks doesn’t have these legal restraints and instead releases whatever they want, for whatever reasons they want, to accomplish whatever ends they want.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Ultimately it’s hard to see how whatever Wikileaks is accomplishing outweighs its ugly associations. On the one hand, Wikileaks gives us some minor scandals and a recipe for a killer risotto. On the other hand, we are supporting a man on the run from the law who is partnering with a country we should rightly suspect, using means that are ethically indefensible.
It’s tempting to peer behind the curtain of political secrecy, and there’s a time for that. But not at this cost.