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Subject: Wikileaks and Julian Assange: The moral dilemma
smitty237    8/3/2010 1:52:09 AM
Wikileaks is a Swedish-based web site that has become a sort of a clearing house for sensitive documents. Their latest venture has been to release sensitive U.S. military documents related to military operations and intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wikileaks was largely responsible for releasing the video showing a U.S. Army Apache gunship attack on a group of Iraqi men in which two Reuters cameramen were killed. Wikileaks appears to be run by a rather nomadic Australian named Julian Assange. He denies being the founder of the site, but admits to be Wikileaks' "editor in chief". Assange is viewed as a sort of celebrity in international anti-censorship circles and has appeared as a keynote speaker in a lot of anti-censorship conferences around the world. In all fairness, Wikileaks has exposed documents from a lot of different government and international companies all across the political spectrum, but most recently they seem to be focusing their attention on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and US foreign military policy specifically. Just last week PFC Bradley Manning, a twenty two year old US Army intelligence specialist serving in the Middle East, was arrested and faces court martial for releasing sensitive military data that was eventually released on Wikileaks. Wikileaks has not confirmed that Manning is the source of some of the footage and documents displayed on its site, but they have hired US defense attorneys to represent him. At this point Manning faces a maximum of fifty two years in prison. The United States government has expressed alarm over some of the documents released on Wikileaks and has said that the information could hamper our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and could result in US military and civilian casualties. The US government has asked Wikileaks to withdraw the documents and to stop displaying classified materials, but not only has Wikileaks refused to stop posting sensitive items, they have indicated that they are going to release thousands of additional documents. A spokesman for the Taliban have stated that they will review the documents released on Wikileaks to see if they can identify informants and punish them accordingly. The media pundits have been discussing what can be legally done to stop Wikileaks from releasing sensitive intelligence that could endanger the lives of military personnel. The problem is that Wikileaks has no official headquarters, and while it is based in Sweden its contributors seem to operate out of private residences or rented office spaces. Reportedly Assange was using a rental house in Iceland to release most of the recent documents and video involving sensitive US documents. Presumably Iceland could expel Assange and foreign nationals working for Wikileaks, but they would simply set up camp somewhere else. Assange is an Australian national, and has indicated that his attorneys have advised him against travelling to the United States. There have been rumblings among some circles in Australia that Assange is aiding the enemies of Australia and endangering the lives of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. The Australian government could revoke his passport and order him to the country, but so far they have not done so, probably fearing the outcry from the media and censorship critics. What, if anything, should be done about Julian Assange and Wikileaks? If Assange were an American citizen this would be easy. PFC Manning will almost definitely be convicted of mishandling classified data and will more than likely spend the next couple of decades making little rocks out of big rocks in Ft. Leavenworth. Two MIT students that may have assisted Bradley are under investigation by the FBI, and for all we know are sweating in an interrogation room right now. An imaginative U.S. Attorney will have no problem finding something to charge them with, and most definitely have the leverage to scare the wits out of them. It is probably wise for Assange to stay out of the United States, but could the Justice Department put out a warrant for his arrest and request extradition? Should they even try? Should the US put pressure on Australia to muzzle Assange? The next question I would submit is this: What if the United States is unable to silence Assange or stop Wikileaks through legal means? At one point does a foreign national or group that exposes intelligence documents sensitive to our national security become considered a threat? You can make arguments all day long that the United States shouldn't target the citizens of foreign nationals living outside the boundaries of the United States, but at one point does a person like Assange become like a foreign terrorist? Assange may not be planting roadside bombs or planning terrorist attacks against American civilians or military personnel, but one could convincingly argue that by releasing sensitive data Assange and his ilk at Wikileaks are placing the lives of Am
 
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Panther       8/8/2010 4:20:05 PM

I can't argue with just about anything you've written (still without taking stances in US domestic politics which to me have become quite hard to unlock). My point - as you understood - was more with a general trend and not with this particular incident. I have only seen little bits and pieces of the leaked documents referred to in this dscussion and rely mostly on media coverage by multiple sources and am thus probably slightly misled on the issue too.

I wasn't my intention to put you at a disadvantage. I  was just offering my perspective.
 

In all cases, in just about every problem in the world, I try to emphasize the importance of proactive measures instead of reprisal (which is always the least important part of what is to be done), and of proactive measures I like to emphasize Looking-In-The-Mirror -maneuver as the first step. In general level that is. In an incident leaking information on individuals on the field (which is unforgivable) there's not much to be done than dig into recruiting policies, psychiatric scanning and HR-function of military units, well maybe to IT-department too but that hardly has been the issue here.

Well, that was what the coalition were doing, they were taking  proactive measures by going after the leadership and in the eyes of an insurgent, i'm sure they saw it as and reported  it as a reprisal to the sympathetic ears of  news reporters and any sympathetic locals.

 

And I am not sure what the proactive measures should be! Finding and moving large amounts of information back and forth is so easy nowadays and becoming easier that one has to think of switching mindsets as all leaks can never be plugged. Better either to fix the roof or installing a water-proof tilted floor than run around placing buckets. This particular bucket of course has to be placed but after the rain stops I should assess this high probability of information leaks as a new aspect to my battle environment and adjust accordingly. Maybe I shouldn't go there since it would require an whole another thread.
 
Well if punishment is not an option for betrayal of trust, then leaks probably are a new form of reality that a commander needs to be constantly aware from now on.



 
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Mikko       8/8/2010 5:43:56 PM




I can't argue with just about anything you've written (still without taking stances in US domestic politics which to me have become quite hard to unlock). My point - as you understood - was more with a general trend and not with this particular incident. I have only seen little bits and pieces of the leaked documents referred to in this dscussion and rely mostly on media coverage by multiple sources and am thus probably slightly misled on the issue too.

I wasn't my intention to put you at a disadvantage. I  was just offering my perspective.

I know. My intention was just to respect your quite apparent better knowledge (no sarcasm). 

In all cases, in just about every problem in the world, I try to emphasize the importance of proactive measures instead of reprisal (which is always the least important part of what is to be done), and of proactive measures I like to emphasize Looking-In-The-Mirror -maneuver as the first step. In general level that is. In an incident leaking information on individuals on the field (which is unforgivable) there's not much to be done than dig into recruiting policies, psychiatric scanning and HR-function of military units, well maybe to IT-department too but that hardly has been the issue here.


Well, that was what the coalition were doing, they were taking  proactive measures by going after the leadership and in the eyes of an insurgent, i'm sure they saw it as and reported  it as a reprisal to the sympathetic ears of  news reporters and any sympathetic locals.


And I am not sure what the proactive measures should be! Finding and moving large amounts of information back and forth is so easy nowadays and becoming easier that one has to think of switching mindsets as all leaks can never be plugged. Better either to fix the roof or installing a water-proof tilted floor than run around placing buckets. This particular bucket of course has to be placed but after the rain stops I should assess this high probability of information leaks as a new aspect to my battle environment and adjust accordingly. Maybe I shouldn't go there since it would require an whole another thread.

Well if punishment is not an option for betrayal of trust, then leaks probably are a new form of reality that a commander needs to be constantly aware from now on.

Punishment is a necessity thanks to human nature as we love to see dickheads bleed but doesn't seem to solve fundamental issues.

 
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LB    How Bad   8/8/2010 9:35:55 PM
How bad is releasing these documents?  Are people going to be killed over it?  Are sources and/or methods going to be compromised?  Are people involved with the docs going to face serious charges?  Is it worth the political fallout to go after wikileaks and those who run it?
 
That's a political decision.  If the answer is yes then have agents of the US Government shut down the website and gain custody of this person(s) for trial in the US.  Either you ignore the issue or deal with it directly and publicly to deter it happening again.
 
Actually it's an interesting matter of international law, that I have not researched, whether this is hostile act and if so what type?  Could Assange be considered a spy, enemy combatant, or any other category of person that could be construed as a legal enemy?
 
Furthermore, how would this be viewed if a Swedish based website published classified docs from China or even the USSR during the Cold War?  Traitor, patriot, whistle blower, journalist or freedom fighter?
 
Is the problem really wikileaks or the US Army allowing access to sensitive information by this PFC?  How about executing this person for treason during wartime?  There's a lot ways to look at this whole issue.  The first one of course is that we screwed up.  Publishing our screw up is on some levels the least of it.
 
In any case it's called civil disobedience because it's against the law and you face penalties for engaging in such acts.
 
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Photon       8/9/2010 11:14:11 AM
At first, I was not amused by WikiLeaks.  However, after a while, no use in crying over a spilled milk.  Also, it is not like WikiLeaks have got hold of ultra sensitive documents in the first place.  At any rate, why blame WikiLeaks?  After all, the one who had handed over documents was under US Army payroll!  (Therefore, if any one of us want to find a guilty party for punishment, should be the Army, not WikiLeaks.  If the Army had sniffed out one of their employees were up to something not to its like and punishe him, that would have been an entirely different story.)
 
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WarNerd       8/10/2010 4:17:06 AM

How bad is releasing these documents? 

Bad.  See the following.

Are people going to be killed over it?

Yes.  WikiLeaks did not redact information identifying many of the Afghan informants.  The Taliban has announced that it is now actively seeking to identify these individuals for purposes of assassinating them and their extended families (grand parents, parents, siblings, and children of same).  It is going to be a blood bath and a serious setback for Coalition Forces.
 

Are sources and/or methods going to be compromised?

Yes.  Though this may be less damaging than the revealing of the informant identities.
 

Are people involved with the docs going to face serious charges?  Is it worth the political fallout to go after wikileaks and those who run it?

The PFC who gave the documents to WikiLeaks should face very grave charges.  Treason may be appropriate.
 
WikiLeaks however may have a fair degree of immunity to criminal charges in the countries where it is based, and in the USA, due to press freedom laws.  Where it may be vulnerable to civil torts from surviving Afghan family members after attacks resulting from the released information under the theory of reckless endangerment.
 
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Panther       8/11/2010 1:05:40 AM

At first, I was not amused by WikiLeaks.  However, after a while, no use in crying over a spilled milk.  Also, it is not like WikiLeaks have got hold of ultra sensitive documents in the first place.
 
No offense intended Photon, but this is coming from a person whose neck is not now on the line. re: Informant. Buh-bye information sources!
 
At any rate, why blame WikiLeaks? 
 
 In the immortal words of a certain British Duke, "Publish and be damned!" They did and....
 
 After all, the one who had handed over documents was under US Army payroll! 
 
 I'm sure he has become a zit they are just itching to pop.
 

 
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Aussiegunneragain       8/11/2010 2:36:58 AM
Julian Assange is just doing what a good journalist is supposed to do, reporting the news without fear or favour. Free speech is the lifeblood of a democracy, even when things get said that run contrary to the immediate interests of our countries. As such irrespective of what anybody thinks of him, he should be left alone.
What's more if the US or Australian governments stop him, be it by legal or extra legal means, he will just become a matyr for others to follow and a case study of the facist ways of the evil Western powers. That would be counterproductive to the war effort and in any case from what he is doing at the moment I get the impression that he might like it.
 
As others have already said, what the US Government needs to do is to get it's house in order to ensure that leaks of information vital to national security don't happen.
 
That said I don't consider leaking of the footage of a US incident involving collateral damage to a couple of camera men constitutes a breach of national security, at least not unless other vital information was released along with it. It is just a potential embarressment to the US Army if all measures weren't taken to prevent the incident. If they were then the US Army can rightly justify its actions and if they weren't then frankly that is bad luck. It is one of the most important duties of a reporter to expose a screw up by a taxpayer funded institution so if this is the case, Assange deserves a well done.
 
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YelliChink       8/21/2010 9:35:47 AM
 
Julian ASSange is wanted by Swedish police for suspected of raping two women in Stockholm.
 
Just saw it on Militaryphotos.net.
 
BTW, enjoy Julia Gillard and her Labour cronies.
 
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YelliChink       8/21/2010 9:44:46 AM
http://www.youtube.com/v/AOALmoK2fN8?fs=1&hl=en_US" />http://www.youtube.com/v/AOALmoK2fN8?fs=1&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385">
 
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WarNerd       8/22/2010 4:29:23 AM

Julian ASSange is wanted by Swedish police for suspected of raping two women in Stockholm.

Just saw it on Militaryphotos.net.

BTW, enjoy Julia Gillard and her Labour cronies.

Charges have already been dropped as false.  The police are looking into the possibility that the charge was filed as a form of harassment.
 
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