Juan Cole's take on Wikileaks:
A big issue in the Wikileaks controversy has to do with restrictions on freedom of speech in a democratic society, and the use of pressure tactics and of corporate policy to curb speech that is not shown to be illegal. That tendency is very troubling, and recalls the strong arm tactics of the House of Representatives, the FBI, and major corporations during the McCarthy era.
Wikileaks continues to be under political pressure (I say political rather than legal because as far as I can tell, the organization has not been indicted or formally charged with wrongdoing), and I found it impossible to get through to their new Swiss site this morning. But there are now lots of mirror sites up all over Europe. The documents are also being made available via torrents that can be picked up through peer to peer (p2p) networks. Presumably the more important cables are in the “insurance” file available at the various wikileaks mirror sites and also via torrents, and which founder Julian Assange says has been downloaded 100,000 times. An encryption key will be disseminated if anything happens to the organization.
He also comments on the effects of the document dumps form a historian's point of view and quotes Robert Gates:
On the other hand, I don’t see the leaks as the end of the world. Most of the authors of the cables have been rotated to another embassy by now, and leaders come and go. There is no evidence of anyone being killed because of the leaks, though one German spy for the US has been summarily fired. I saw Robert M. Gates on Aljazeera reacting to the leaks in Realist fashion. He said that countries interact with the US for three reasons. Some are friendly and interact on that basis. Others are enemies and seek engagement for that very reason. Still others think they need the US. Gates said he didn’t see in what way the leaked cables would change any of those three sorts of relationship. And he is right.
Open culture provides interviews with Julian Assange that may illuminate his position more fully:
A key passage explaining Assange’s world view appears below, and you can get the full profile right here. Next up, we have Chris Anderson, the head of TED, in conversation Assange. The interview, running 20 minutes, tells you essentially “Why the World Needs WikiLeaks.” And then why not add to the list Forbes’ lengthy interview with Assange, published earlier this week. (Thanks Avi for that.)
He had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution. As a student of Kafka, Koestler, and Solzhenitsyn, he believed that truth, creativity, love, and compassion are corrupted by institutional hierarchies, and by “patronage networks”—one of his favorite expressions—that contort the human spirit. He sketched out a manifesto of sorts, titled “Conspiracy as Governance,” which sought to apply graph theory to politics. Assange wrote that illegitimate governance was by definition conspiratorial—the product of functionaries in “collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population.” He argued that, when a regime’s lines of internal communication are disrupted, the information flow among conspirators must dwindle, and that, as the flow approaches zero, the conspiracy dissolves. Leaks were an instrument of information warfare.