I was looking at the financial statements of Wikileaks online and could not find them. Greenpeace, Oxfam, Wikipedia and other NGOs that solicit money are very transparent about their financial situation. To me Wikileaks becomes much less credible if they do not have that level of transparency but yet they claim to bring transparency to the world.

It is becoming common for people to say they don’t like Wikileaks because they can’t stand Assange. This is misleading. Few sympathize with Assange as a character. Most of us, myself included, have never met with him. But the issue here is not Assange, his hair or whether he does, or does not have, the ability to have sex with women while they are asleep. What is crucial instead, is the wealth of information that we have learned thanks to Wikileaks. Here’s a good summary from The Guardian. And yes, it is a lot of information. And there is much more. No matter how many experts out there say that “they already knew it all”. Because regardless of whether some experts really “knew it all”, the average Mohammed, Rui or Juana did not. And they are angry. It’s not suprising then that Foreign Policy calls the Tunisian revolt “the first Wikileaks revolution”. Wikileaks has been a catalyst for change in Egypt, Tunisia and in lesser degrees in many other countries. Wikileaks revelations will likely continue to outrage demonstrators and activists around the world for quite a while. And all that change we owe to the diplomatic service of the United States which turned out to be a group of remarkable journalists, the courage of one soldier, and the entrepreneurial spirit of everyone who worked at Wikileaks, including Julian Assange.

Both Joe Biden and Gaddafi agree in their hatred for Wikileaks. But they have different styles. Biden likens Wikileaks to a high tech terrorist organization. Now Gaddafi, a real terrorist responsible for the downing of a commercial jet among other deeds, has a more unusual way to speak about Wikileaks. He calls Wikileaks “Kleenex” and then goes on with a rant about the Internet in general that is just funny (so long as you forget that it comes from a bloody dictator). He says:

Even you, my Tunisian brothers. You may be reading this Kleenex and empty talk on the Internet.
This Internet, which any demented person, any drunk can get drunk and write in, do you believe it? The Internet is like a vacuum cleaner, it can suck anything. Any useless person; any liar; any drunkard; anyone under the influence; anyone high on drugs; can talk on the Internet, and you read what he writes and you believe it. This is talk which is for free. Shall we become the victims of “Facebook” and “Kleenex”* and “YouTube”! Shall we become victims to tools they created so that they can laugh at our moods?

This text comes from this article in Global Voices.

First of all I would like to say that I am sorry for the repression and the people who have died in Tunisia but excited about the unexpected overthrow of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by its own people.

While I am no expert on Tunisia and defer to others for an in depth analysis I have visited the country a few times as well as many other Arab/Muslim countries (Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt and others). Most Muslim nations have rulers for life and I am happy to see that for once, a corrupt dictator who has been in power since 1987 was thrown out by popular rebellion. And as this article explains it took the American diplomats and Wikileaks efforts to reveal what many Tunisians suspected and that is the extent of the government’s corruption and abuse and ignite the overthrow. Now the paradox here is obvious. USA spends hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of human lives are lost in a bloody military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq with very little success in establishing democracies. And instead, diplomats telling a detailed story about corruption in Tunisia and a group of determined journalist at Wikileaks and a hacker (Bradley Manning) accomplished what a decade of military intervention in the Middle East could not and that is a popular uprising against corruption and dictatorship. Yes, the realities of Afghanistan, Iraq and Tunisia are different but as this New York Times article explains, many in the Arab/Muslim world are watching Tunisia and wondering how long will they put up with their own “Ben Alis”. Especially in nearby Egypt.

It is interesting though that it took a combination of Wikileaks, US diplomacy and a dissident soldier to ignite the rebellion. Most likely if it had been Hillary Clinton alone telling this to the Tunisian people how corrupt Ben Ali was, it would have backfired. I think the State Department should learn a lot from Tunisia and rethink Wikileaks, cellular networks, social networks, and the power of the raw truth when dictators lose control of the popular message.

Here’s a slightly different version of this article in the Huffington Post

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, at New Media Days 09
Image by New Media Days via Flickr

I am in the process of downloading a file that contains all the unedited cables that Wikileaks has obtained.  You can do the same by downloading this link using a program like Vuze. This is a 1.4GB file so it may take a while.  As far as I know it is not illegal to download it as it is not copyright material.  In any case it is probably not illegal because you cannot read whatever it is that you are downloaded as it is encrypted.  What this file is is a Poison Pill.  Assange goes, this file is open for humanity to see.

I am downloading this file for two reasons.  One is because I believe that if it was so easy for Wikileaks to obtain this information whoever our enemies are probably have it as well.  Secondly because while I had mixed feelings on what Julian Assange was doing, I am so disgusted about how Western democracies are reacting towards a person who has not been formally accused of any crime that I think it’s time to stand by Wikileaks to defend freedom of the press.

Lately I have a strong feeling that the Chinese must be rejoicing at all the “retroactive law invention” that is going on in the West to put one man in jail.  Because if Assange had been a Chinese citizen promoting transparency in China we would be lining up to give him the Nobel Prize.  We can’t demand transparency from others and censorship for ourselves.

If the US government did not want its secrets known, all they had to do was to encrypt these secrets as Wikileak’s Assange is doing with this file. As CNN argues it comes with an encryption that not one of all the encryption crackers in the world can figure out.  Think about it, we will all have this file but we will not be able to read it.  Can’t the US government do the same if something is really a secret? How can real secrets be distributed among over a million of people with easy access to matters way beyond their jurisdiction and unencrypted?   From now on, if you want a secret, encrypt it, and make it a crime to break the encryption.

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When I read articles like this one on CNN arguing how Wikileaks is providing potential target lists to terrorists I worry.  Probably so do you.  But think about this.  It was so easy for all this information to leak out that we should all wonder how safe it was to begin with.  If Wikileaks, without any special spying skills, just being there to collect info, could get all this sensitive data, why couldn’t have Al Qaeda or any other of our enemies have done or do the same thing?  While we may object to the style of Wikileaks I have no doubt that thanks to Wikileaks, USA will completely rebuild the way it handles sensitive data and as a result the safety of the system will have been improved.  Wikileaks has the effect on security that hackers have on software development.  Wikileaks found simple bugs everywhere.  It is up to the people whose job is to make us safer to fix it.  Yes, granted, Wikileaks could have given all this info to the State Department and not publish it.  But sometimes it takes a shock like this for things to really change and what should be transparent be transparent and what should be classified be classified.

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