By Chic Hollis – Philosophical Musings
WikiLeaks release of confidential U.S. Government documents proves once again the wisdom of the rabbit, Thumper, in the movie Bambi: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Not everyone who works for the federal government is an election-spooked, tongue-tied politician, and even many of the elected politicians say things they regret later.
Every competent system analyst knows that when a person attempts to upgrade a system, as humans are inclined to do, he or she has to review all the essential elements and functions that the abandoned system had in place. Each individual function initially had a raison d’etre or it wouldn’t be part of the system being replaced. The vital functions may have been a nuisance, and they may be need improvements, but none of them can be overlooked during the upgrading process.
When people stopped using the Post Office and the Telegraph System for correspondence and began to use the Internet, the Internet correspondents felt that the secrecy of the older systems was automatically “taken care of” by the Internet designers so that confidential information would only arrive at the email box of the intended addressees. Bad assumption!
Diplomacy at any level depends on the secret interchange of controversial ideas that can be promoted, rejected, or altered for publication to the general public. Publishing private conversations may help educate the masses about “how the sausage is made,” but it rarely helps in bringing friends and adversaries closer together. Consequently, the obvious lack of security for the voluminous interchange of data and ideas on the Internet must be addressed or the freedom on the Internet will be curtailed.
Troublemakers, whether they are idealistic or vengeful, enjoy embarrassing the elite, the rich, and the powerful. Stealing information is a tactic used in all human activities. The power of accurate information is undeniable. “Intelligence” is sought for investing, negotiating with an adversary, or fighting a nasty war. Keeping secrets is a very difficult task for humans. For that very reason, the best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry, as Robert Burns astutely observed.
With the explosion of reliable and unreliable information being circulated on the Internet, there is always the possibility of denial as to the intent of the sender and the authenticity of the info or data released. The protection of a source of info permitted to the Fourth Estate vanishes with the use of the Internet. Someone is always trying to peddle information, valid or not. The scammers are active day and night, and a low percentage of success can render their nefarious schemes quite profitable.
The release of supposedly secret diplomatic communications doesn’t do much harm to politicians who are seldom trusted by anyone of the general public who has observed the political scene very long. Political rhetoric is deliberately nuanced and usually very general. Details and specifics are seldom sought and rarely published (if too controversial) by those journalists who seek repeated interviews with the high and mighty. Public Relations spokesmen and women are friendly people but not very generous with the facts nor outgoing about their boss’s strategy.
Humans learn to live with scanty information because most people are totally occupied with making a living, paying their bills, and seeking some pleasant diversion from their daily routine. Adults know whom to ask for honest answers to tough questions, and they know the fine line of not pressing for info that a friend or associate is reluctant to provide. Many insightful people take the words expressed by politicians, talking heads on TV, and reticent bosses with a grain of salt. The truth will come out sooner or later, and knowing too much can be annoying and stressful to some.
Foreigners I worked with overseas always wondered why Americans were so casual with information. They were very careful of what they said to me and how they conveyed an unwelcome message. A realist isn’t alarmed with the truth, but he is suspicious of good news because bad news often accompanies good news or follows it soon thereafter.
The curse of the Internet is that too much information is being circulated and more than can be digested each day. Verification of facts and statements of so many users of the Internet is impossible. Censorship is unwanted, and most users are spoiled by the freedom they have and the low cost of satisfying their curiosity. Can the lack of Internet security actually be overcome? Can personal data be withheld when bankers and sellers need that to verify a person’s identity?
The WikiLeaks only verify the suspicions of the wary that at high levels of government, strategies are investigated to try to head off conflicts with those countries whose leaders disagree with our nation’s policies and propaganda about how wonderful regimented democracy is for all citizens. Where was that alert Australian Wikileaks CEO when Osama bin Laden was planning the attacks on the Twin Towers in NYC?
Regardless of the highfalutin foreign denouncements and the feigned journalistic shock in the local media caused by the WikiLeaks, I must hearken back to what I learned growing up on the streets of Detroit, MI: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me! Two atom bombs will promptly end the aggressive actions of those nations with imperialistic ambitions.” Is there anyone else thinking about using nuclear weapons on their enemies other that the head of the government in Iran and his religious protector, the Supreme Ayatollah? How about the constant threats from the young head of the government of North Korea who has a few low potency A-bombs?
Shame on our leaders for being so careless with confidential information. They should apologize and move on. What else can an imperialistic nation do when someone discovers the fact that the Emperor has no clothes and no reliable security system?