Never before has so much information been so accessible, especially with the advent of social media networks for which people “trade” personal information for access. The “pay to play” model is not new; before social media, direct mail “clubs” that sold everything from 99-cent CDs to time-share property made money by selling your information.
Information– from the beginning of civilization to present day–is priceless. As America grew from renegade colonial life to superpower, our government kept a lot of information private and classified, locked away from public scrutiny. This secret information, when made public–or leaked–usually leads to national headlines and/or investigations by oversight/governing committees.
In 1971, a security analyst named Daniel Ellsberg let loose information that changed the country when he sent top-secret files surrounding the US involvement in Vietnam to newspaper.
The 7,000-plus pages, the Pentagon Papers, relate how top military and government officials misled American citizens about the progress of US Troops in the Vietnam War. Despite the efforts of President Nixon to keep the information locked-up, the Pentagon Papers reshaped US perception of the war in Vietnam.
Now, WikiLeaks, an online site that’s self-proclaimed mission is to “protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public,” is releasing over 91,000 documents on the US-led war in Afghanistan against terrorism.
Daniel Elsberg, the source of the Pentagon Papers, stated that this would be the first large-scale, unauthorized disclosure of classified documents since Pentagon papers. This previously classified information, known as the Afghan War Diary, was released on July 25, 2010.
Wikileaks founder, a computer hacker named Julian Asange, and his creation have been criticized in the past for outing confidential sources and sensationalizing information. The site’s leaks have led to the investigation, and criminal arrest, of sources. Not to mention claims by the Obama administration that the information puts US lives in jeopardy.
The leak also damages US credibility in the war on terror with our allies.