WikiLeaks and Accountability.

Julian Assange has apparently prepared a poison pill of damaging classified files to release should WikiLeaks be threatened. However, it also appears that the files will be released if he is detained in response to sexual-assault allegations in Sweden. That's troubling, to say the least: If Assange's blackmail threat is taken seriously, he will have no accountability whatsoever -- for the actions of his organization or himself. While arguments about the need for transparency carry serious weight in times when institutions are losing the public's faith at breakneck speed, executing these ideas without proper planning can be damaging. It appears that the cash value of the diplomatic cables release, at least thus far, has been to increase the likelihood of conflict and diminish effective diplomacy. Assange's organization raises a serious who-watches-the-watchmen problem, especially when it is acting to both protect itself from institutional critics and protect its founders from prosecution for crimes that are, depressingly, typically evaded by powerful men.

One other question: Doesn't this secret cache of emergency documents contravene the idea that all information should be freely available? Now, rather than serving the governments or corporations it was lifted from, or at least public awareness, it appears that WikiLeaks is using the power of that information for its own benefit.

-- Tim Fernholz

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