Steadfastly contending that his primary objective vis-à-vis WikiLeaks was to expose injustice wherever it might reside, Assange told potential collaborators in 2006: “Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal illegal or immoral behavior in their own governments and corporations.” Assange also suggested that a “social movement” to expose incriminating classified information had the potential to “bring down many administrations that rely on concealing reality—including the U.S. administration.” Indeed, it has been the U.S.—rather than Russia and China—that WikiLeaks has targeted.
Recently, Assange posted military documents that included the Social Security numbers of American soldiers. While acknowledging that leaks like these could harm innocent people, he rationalized such possibilities as mere “collateral damage, if you will” and added airily that he could not be expected to calculate, in advance, the importance of every bit of information that might eventually find its way onto WikiLeaks.
On another occasion, WikiLeaks published the results of an Army test which found that certain electromagnetic devices designed to prevent IED explosives from detonating, also tended to compromise the performance of communication systems used by American soldiers. When asked if he would consider not releasing this information, given its potential for being exploited by terrorists intent on killing U.S. troops, Assange replied lamely that in spite of his “harm-minimization policy,” his uncompromising commitment to transparency might ultimately cause him and his fellow WikiLeaks insiders to get “blood on our hands.”
Assange has also published thousands of pages of secret military information detailing Army purchases in Iraq and Afghanistan; the Standard Operating Procedures manual for Camp Delta (in Guantánamo Bay); NATO’s secret plan for the Afghan war; and the contents of Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo account.
With the release of 92,000 military field reports, Assange has now made a serious bid to equal what his imagined mentor Daniel Ellsberg accomplished in 1971. While there are actually few similarities between the Pentagon Papers (a detailed narrative of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that gave a wholly different view than the one offered by the war’s defenders in the White House) and the WikiLeak Papers (random documents), one common thread unites the two men associated with these leaks: Ellsberg intended to help our enemies defeat us 40 years ago, and Assange hopes to accomplish exactly the same thing today.
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