AlterPolitics New Post

What The World Has Been Waiting For: Greater Transparency

by on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 2:53 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks, World

WikiLeaksWikiLeaks has provided the people of the world with something they have sought since the existence of omnipotent empires: greater transparency.  The group has succeeded in creating a replicable model that utilizes encryption technologies and the world wide web to expose the inner-workings of the world’s most powerful governments and their corporate bedfellows.

In pulling the curtain aside on these highly-secretive, entrenched, and formidable power elites, WikiLeaks has revealed a world of lies, corruption, illegalities, cronyism, and a deliberate subversion of our judicial systems.  No less important, has been the revelation that our mainstream press acts more as a guardian for these entrenched power entities, than as an independent check on their power.

In retaliation to WikiLeaks’ publishing of these documents, the power entities have unleashed a whirlwind of slander, propaganda, frivolous arrest warrants, calls for assassination, unlawful reprisals, and corporate sabotage — all against this fledgling whistleblower group.

The world watches intently as this David and Goliath battle plays out before our very eyes, leaving us to wonder whether the end result will be a world with greater transparency, or one with greater authoritarianism.  For one thing is all but certain: transparency and authoritarianism cannot coexist.

The good news is that, despite its egregious efforts to smother WikiLeaks, the establishment has now discovered ‘copycat’ groups popping up around the world — all determined to carry WikiLeaks’ torch.

OpenLeaksDaniel Domscheit-Berg — WikiLeaks’ former second-in-command, behind Julian Assange — recently left the group to form OpenLeaks.  Believing WikiLeaks made some crucial strategic errors, the new group plans to promote transparency in a much different way.  For one, they plan on decentralizing the group’s power structure away from a single figurehead.  They believe this will help them to avoid some of the pitfalls WikiLeaks has endured in recent months.

For example, by making Julian Assange the face of WikiLeaks, the group has found itself in a rather vicarious predicament.  Seemingly frivolous charges of rape have been leveled against Assange, and used in a massive vilification effort against him.  This has helped — at least in part — to divert public attention away from the leaked documents themselves, and onto its accused leader.  WikiLeaks’ viability appears to be inextricably linked to the allegations against Julian Assange.

Another difference between OpenLeaks and WikiLeaks, is the former’s decision not to “publish or verify material; leaving that role to newspapers, ‘NGOs, labour unions and other interested entities’.”  Domscheit-Berg explains the logic behind this strategy:

… the decision to be a “conduit” rather than publisher was made because of the team’s experience at Wikileaks.

“That was another constraint we saw – if your website becomes too popular then you need a lot of resources to process submissions,” he said.

Basically, he intends to provide the technology — “supplying Anonymous online drop-boxes” — to organization and entities around the world (including newspapers), so that they themselves can independently “accept Anonymous submissions in the forms of documents or other information”.

Whistleblowers would anonymously submit their documents directly to the publishers and interested parties of their choice, while removing OpenLeaks entirely from the equation.

Other new whistleblower groups have also emerged from around the world — all intent on ensuring that the transparency movement remains alive and well:

  • BrusselLeaks, formed by former European Union officials and journalists, intends to focus on “obtaining and publishing leaked internal information about the backroom dealings and secrets of the E.U.”.
  • BalkanLeaks, set up by Bulgarian expatriate Atanas Chobanov — now based in Paris — states the group’s goal is the “[promotion of] transparency and [the fighting of] the nexus of organized crime and political corruption in the Balkan states”
  • IndoLeaks, an Indonesian-based WikiLeaks copycat, has “reportedly generated 50,000 downloads of the documents it published, from investigations into the murder of activist Munir Said Thalib to the disastrous Sidoarjo mudflow and a transcribed conversation between former presidents Suharto and Richard Nixon.”  It appears their site has been brought down due to technical problems or DDoS attacks.

So what’s to become of this new populist movement — hellbent on opening up governments and corporations?

It appears that the entrenched power interests have two options before them:

  1. They resign themselves to the fact they are living in a new interconnected world where transparency will continue to thrive.  With this choice, they will be forced to voluntarily curtail their egregious abuses of power, if only for the risk of exposure.
  2. They try and infringe on our 1st Amendment rights by tightening control over the internet and the free flow of information.  In addition, they aggressively target whistleblower groups, publishers, and journalists — and hold them accountable for publishing information provided to them by their whistleblower sources.  This would be tantamount to subjecting the U.S. to a degree of authoritarianism that many of us have never before experienced.

Those journalists who have reflexively jumped the government’s propaganda bandwagon in vilifying WikiLeaks should consider that their very efforts are in fact strengthening the government’s resolve in making a case for option two.