The release of highly confidential sensitive US defense information sent through secret routers and providing access to this information to newspapers around the world could have two levels and directions of analysis. The Wikileaks phenomenon could represent high levels of public counter spying as all activity of intelligence officials surface for public glare and scrutiny.
The Wikileaks legal branch has defended their position and their decision to go public with the documents reiterating that they haven’t put US or other officials and diplomats at risk. The US government is yet to be assured of this.
The success of Wikileaks suggests a new trend and turning point in political, social and technological affairs. It almost marks a different era of information sharing and exposes the vulnerability of governments and all secret service organizations.
When super secret defense information is exposed, a nation and all its activities face a challenge of adaptation, the need to adapt to the changing demands of an open and accessible information society. Wikileaks marks a beginning, a change and a new era of information sharing. The transition of information access from surfing the net to instant interaction via social networks has gone a step further.
Information sharing will now progress to easy access of private messages, private identification documents. This possibly marks an era in which every individual could potentially have all public and private information about every other individual even if they do not want this.
The information on Wikileaks has however unfolded differently as the information has been obtained directly by hacking through secret IP router networks. The documents accessed are secret government documents rather than private individual documents. However, if secret documents are so easily exposed, exposure of private documents would be a breeze. Wikileaks possibly brings out the inherent dangers of an open information society in which secrets no longer remain secrets and the public will have to learn how to navigate through secret and private information overload.
On the other hand the Wikileaks phenomenon could be a good thing suggesting the public information access services and technologies are better and more advanced than those governments use. The public has the ability to do counter spying and demand explanations for government wrongdoing. This is not just a US phenomenon but could potentially happen anywhere. Governments will have to rethink not only their defense policies and administrative policies but also the technology policies. They need to do a major overhaul of technological infrastructure along with administrative redesign on who should be allowed access to secret information.
The sampling of leaked documents provide extensive information on the Iraq war and the detailed communication between US diplomats around the world and Washington. The documents released on the Iraq war show the torture and death of civilians and detainees apparently by Iraqi authorities.
According to the leaks, although the US authorities knew of the torture of civilians, they did nothing and did not probe further and avoided any extensive investigation. This itself could have severe implications and would make the US government directly responsible for civilian deaths and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The public scrutiny of these documents definitely marks a change in the politics of war. The balance of power shifts to the people. The public could question government responsibility and motives to go to War or could demand an explanation of government defence policies. However the change is not just in the politics of war and this could possibly extrapolate to all other areas of government policies from healthcare to social security, from education to economy.
With Wikileaks, we would possibly hear more of government communication with the business community and have a better understanding of economic policies and the real causes of recessions and inflation. Wikileaks as it seems is an open source of secret information meant to enhance public understanding of ‘what really happens in there’. However, this phenomenon is not without its downsides.
The triumph of Wikileaks marks a new type of information society in which the public is both strong and weak. The society is vulnerable and protected. It is a spy and a victim of spying and this phenomenon possibly reminds us that the public would continue to have quick and ready information.
The public can use computer generated results and will have excess information at their disposal even before they want it. With the approach of Semantic Web, Web 3.0 in which the machine recognizes location and time related information, Google earth and GPS devices would exactly locate time and place of secret or private activities.
Wikileaks would possibly inspire technology that complement this evolving time and place related information sharing to unearth secrets. It could unearth secret activities, communication and agenda that could be potentially shared even before they actually happen. This as we understand could have both positive and negative consequences.