Monday, July 26, 2010

WikiLeaks and classified information

In the aftermath of Wikileaks' release of some 90,000 classified documents pertaining to the war in Afghanistan (2004-2010) many have condemned the site for endangering our troops. Since its launch in 2007, WikiLeaks has been responsible for bringing us video of a helicopter attack on civilians and journalists, corporate documents relating to toxic dumping, and even a DOD intelligence report on WikiLeaks itself.

The notion that the site, which posts documents and information that is anonymously submitted, has been accused of endangering coalition troops in Aghanistan with this most recent release. I would ask those that are making this claim to explain how they believe the soldiers are being put at risk. Do they believe that an incident report from 2004 exposes any information that is still relevant to where the troops are today? Do they believe that there is strategic data in those reports that can be mined by Al Qaeda to target coalition forces? Or is it the even more ridiculous argument that the information in those reports is proof of civilian deaths at the hands of coalition forces and that somehow the publication will enrage the local population?

I deem the last argument to be the most ridiculous because if you had traveled through Afghanistan a month ago, long before these documents surfaced, the local people in the combat areas already knew of the civilian deaths accumulating under the occupation. These revelations are only revelations to the American people and are not new information to the Afghans. To believe that they are somehow ignorant to their neighbors deaths from coalition air strikes and firefights is so absurd that it borders on the delusional. The only people surprised by the information in the leaked documents are the American people and it's about time they knew the truth of the occupation of Afghanistan.

What we should take away from this document leak is that there are far too many items that are classified for no good reason. Hiding documents by classifying them as state secrets is a convenient means for the government to hide the truth from the voters, thus preventing them having the information necessary to be an informed citizenry. If the abuse of that authority were curtailed, then more weight might be given to documents deemed "classified," but so long as every slightly embarrassing document is deemed a state secret vital to national defense...well, we know what happens when you cry wolf.

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