Friday, July 30, 2010

WikiLeaks, Killing People Who don't Agree, and Living in the Real World

From today's news:
"U.S. worried more secret documents may be released"
Reuters (July 30, 2010)

"U.S. officials are worried about what other secret documents the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks may possess and have tried to contact the group without success to avoid their release, the State Department said on Friday.

"The shadowy group publicly released more than 90,000 U.S. Afghan war records spanning a six-year period on Sunday. The group also is thought to be in possession of tens of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables passed to it by an Army intelligence analyst, media reports have said.

" 'Do we have concerns about what might be out there? Yes, we do,' State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a briefing, adding that U.S. authorities have not specifically determined which documents may have been leaked to the organization...."
My take on the data dump / leak / whatever? It's not a good thing. I might not have chosen quite so colorful a phrase as some American officials have, but I'm in general agreement with this:

"Both Crowley and Gibbs expressed concern that the document dump might expose U.S. intelligence-gathering methods and place in jeopardy people who had assisted the United States.

" 'You have Taliban spokesmen in the region today saying they're combing through those documents to find people that are cooperating with American and international forces. They're looking through those for names. They said they know how to punish those people,' Gibbs said...."

"The People have a Right to Know"

"The people have a right to know," and permutations on that phrase, have been around for decades. I associate it with the National Inquirer, probably because of that "Inquiring minds want to know" marketing campaign.

The idea that an informed populace is necessary is, I think, correct: at least, in a country where citizens can vote on issues and/or who their leaders will be. Which takes "the people have a right to know" out of the realm of "Diet of Doom" journalism and into a rather more serious area.

Censorship, Freedom of Speech, and Common Sense

The real world isn't particularly well-suited to simple solutions. Not when it gets to the nuts-and-bolts level.

I don't particularly like censorship. I've written about that before. Quite a lot, I see.

On the other hand, I'm aware that there are people in the world who are not nice. At all. Some of them flew airliners into skyscrapers almost 10 years ago, with regrettable results.

Today, quite a few folks sincerely believe that Americans - and anybody else who doesn't live up to their particular version of Islam - should either become their sort of Muslim, or become dead.

The rest of us, including quite a significant numbers of Muslims, would rather not live in a Taliban-style world.

That's where the trouble with these leaked documents comes in.

As I see it, the Taliban thinks that people who are identified in these documents should be dead. The people whose identities have been compromised probably don't agree.

That's the sort of conflict that would, ideally, be settled over a nice cup of tea.

We don't live in an ideal world, so that's not what will happen.

I'd like to believe that whoever has the as-yet-unreleased documents sincerely believed that "the people have a right to know," and had no clue that lives were at stake. And, that the individual will now realize that not-nice people will almost certainly do not-nice things if more secrets are leaked.

I don't think that's likely.

Wouldn't It be Nice, If Everyone was Nice?

We live in a not-nice world. The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and like-minded groups are quite willing to kill people whose ideas don't match theirs. They're not the only trigger-happy ideologues around, of course: but right now they're a major threat.

It'd be very nice if the Taliban's leaders and all the rest would suddenly decide that it isn't nice to kill people who aren't just like themselves - but I seriously doubt that's going to happen.

So, until everybody decides to be nice - we'll need to have secrets. Not many, I hope, but some.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.