Talk to Me: To Wikileaks or Not to Wikileaks

Thursday, January 6, 2011 @ 08:01 AM gHale

There was a time almost 40 years ago when the ideal of journalism was to hold fast to a standard that said nobody was above the laws of the land. An honorable and noble goal. The profession looked at wrong, pointed it out, and then sought avenues to fix the injustice.

The profession helped bring down a President who felt he was above the law. During the entire Watergate investigation, it became clear the President broke laws and the country had a right to know about the ensuing cover up.

Journalists found details, researched and confirmed those details and then wrote stories reporting those details. They didn’t just jump at the first detail and write a story about it; they had to truly research every aspect of the story. Their editors insisted all facts get confirmation by more than one source.

They had a responsibility to their readers and to the person they were writing about to get the story right. They kept advancing the story. They didn’t end up rehashing everything over and over again. Every story was a stepping stone to the next story. The good old days.

Did stories ruffle feathers? Of course. They should. The object is to raise questions and find a solution to problems. Did the government try to stop the media from publishing stories? Yes. Did the story end up hurting the U.S.? Maybe in the short term, but over all, it made the country stronger because the world understood no one was above the law here in the U.S.

The news was important and the American people had a right to know. The President’s office did not want information released and The Washington Post and The New York Times leading the pack fought against the political pushback, threats and lawsuits to champion the cause of freedom of the press.

The reporters and editors back then had an ethical concern to make sure they had the story right and then put it all in perspective.

Why take this trip down memory lane? While the media is evolving in this digital era, the tried and true principals still remain: Uncover injustice wherever it exists. How about exposing police brutality in Kenya or learning about innocent victims of war gunned down by the military? The public has a right to know. Dirty secrets cannot, and should not, stay hidden.

But how far is too far? Take a look at Wikileaks. This new era of journalism helped uncover the police brutality in Kenya and the gunning down of innocent victims of war in Iraq. Once again, a news outlet informed people of wrongdoing.

Now the government is up in arms over the release of their diplomatic cables in November, and is going after them. There was top secret information released that may cause irreparable harm. But will the released information hurt the U.S. over the long haul, or will it cause the government to blush and move ahead? Only time will tell on that one.
Yes, government and companies alike do need to operate in some form of secrecy. But where do you draw that line?

Transparency works. For a democracy to function correctly; it cannot veil itself in secrecy. The United States’ founding fathers were well aware of this, and one of the tenants they operated on was a transparent system of government, where citizens could comprehend the actions of the nation.

But the catch here is Wikileaks should practice responsible journalism. That organization, or any other for that matter, cannot and should not release information for the sake of releasing it. Rather, there needs to be a full-scale solid reason to run with it.

It remains troubling when you see and hear reports from organizations that promise they will not talk about any subject relating to security.

If the government and companies dealing with critical infrastructure want to keep the bad guys out and systems up and running and profitable, there needs to be an open discourse discussing best practices. Secrecy plays into the hands of the bad guys, since they know what attack vector they are going to take.

Advanced technology and open discussion about the subject will keep the critical infrastructure secure.

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