I mentioned late last night my surprise at seeing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, resorting to Twitter to deplore the ethics of WikiLeaks. After the jump, a note from Steven T. Corneliussen, who served on a ship with Mullen years ago, arguing that far from being surprising, this is perfectly in character for the man. (Hint: family background.)
Cornelliussen's note also addresses the substance of Mullen's claim that Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks team have "blood on their hands" for releasing reports full of names of Afghans who had worked with US or NATO troops. As time goes on, as more of the reports are publicized and digested, and as Assange himself gets more air time, I find myself agreeing more and more with Clive Crook's position, here. In essence Crook says: the largest-scale "ethics" of this leak will take a long time to judge -- depending what finally proves to be in there, how much harm is done to people unwittingly named, and how if at all it affects the course of the war. But we already know that releasing so many names is, at a minimum, a morally weighty issue -- and by acting as if it is not, Julian Assange is putting himself and his operation in an increasingly bad light.
Here is a reader's note today making a similar argument:
The Times [of London], which is unfortunately (for me) behind the Great Wall of Rupert, ran a story on Afghan informants who may have been outed by wikileaks. It was excerpted by this blog though:
http://www.registan.net/index.php/2010/07/30/taliban-use-wikileaks-to-hunt-murder-named-afghans/ [JF note: The blog item is titled, "Taliban Use WikiLeaks to Hunt, Murder Named Afghans" and goes on to make that case. It then quotes Assange's reaction, which is more or less, "not my problem."]
I found Assange's reaction to be appalling. Either he hadn't considered the consequences of his actions, beyond a simple "transparency is always good" mindset, and reacted defensively and instinctively (which is bad) or he believes that anyone working as an informant to Nato deserves to be outed and tortured/killed by the Taliban and he has no moral qualms about this (which is very, very bad). Reminded me a lot of Mark Zuckerberg, another unexpected internet mogul who seems to have a limited understanding of the consequences of flippant amorality.
Just to be clear, I don't think this necessarily means that the leak was a bad thing, in the grand scheme of things (I think only 10 years worth of hindsight will tell us that). I just wish Assange could show a little more seriousness about the central moral dilemma of it.
I don't pretend to be presenting a full, argued-out position here. Rather this is just a real-time note that, at this stage in the unfolding drama, the "moral" view about this massive data-dump is as complex and dilemma-ridden as most other aspects of the war itself.