Saturday, December 11, 2010

Less-controversially awesome things Wikileaks has done

(disclaimer: I really love this thing)

These days most people who recognize the name "Wikileaks" know it from recent hits like "Iraq War Diary" and "U.S. Diplomatic Cables." Unfortunately these well-known works don't suit everyone's tastes and critics are divided on Wikileaks. While I'm still making up my mind on their recent offerings, I thought I'd highlight some of their vintage efforts that might appeal to a wider range of tastes.

Translation: It's a big question whether the recent releases by Wikileaks are a good idea. Not sure what I think myself. But as a long-time fan of them it's troubling hearing so many assessments of Wikileaks and its merits from people (understandably) unaware of the sort of organization it's been up to this point. To help out, I compiled a list of previous releases of theirs that define my impression of them as an organization fiercely committed to free and open information. Then you can judge whether they still do more harm than good.

(credit to Wikipedia for the master list)

2007: Corruption of former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi

Wasn't even aware of this, but apparently Wikileaks helped expose a web of corruption led by this Kenyan president who funneled millions of dollars out of the country.

2008: Scientology's secret documents

During Project Chanology, they published highly-secret documents about rituals and beliefs in the Church of Scientology. When the Church predictably reacted with all sorts of rabidly litigious threats (including demanding logs identifying the source), Wikileaks reacted with one of the most awesome statements in the history of free speech: "in response to the attempted suppression, WikiLeaks will release several thousand additional pages of Scientology material next week" (which they did).

2008: British National Party membership list

The BNP is a British political party. All you really need to know about it is that membership is restricted to white people and it's so bad it has to keep its membership list very secret. Wikileaks obtained and released it.

2009: ACMA blacklist (Australian internet censorship)

The Australian government has been considering censoring the internet, originally with the excuse of filtering only extreme and illegal pornography. Wikileaks released their developing blacklist, which shows how it has expanded to a much wider range of questionably "objectionable" material and completely unrelated sites like Youtube pages, Wikipedia articles, and the websites of religious organizations. In an interesting case of how quickly they're falling down the slippery slope of censorship, Wikileaks itself was on the list before the release, because they'd released a similar Danish blacklist.

2009: Congressional Research Service reports

The CRS is an organization under the Library of Congress that produces research to help with policymaking in Congress. Their reports aren't released to the general public unless the office of the congressmember that requested it allows it. These are nonpartisan researchers (an expert called them "even-handed to a fault") and their work is a great resource when trying to find information on national issues. Which is why I think most people could agree that it's a huge benefit that Wikileaks published thousands of CRS reports in 2009.
Read more at the Washington Post.

after the jump:
More-controversial things that may still be more palatable than the war logs and diplomatic cables

2007: Guantanamo Bay practices

In 2007 Wikileaks posted "Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta," which detailed conditions for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Apparently some prisoners had been designated "off-limits" to the Red Cross, which doesn't sound good or internationally legal.

2008: Sarah Palin email account

Remember when Sarah Palin's email account got hacked? During the election? Wikileaks posted her emails which included use of her personal account to conduct state business. Honestly I really just like this story because it makes clear how stupid and insecure "secret questions" are for online accounts.

2009: mirrored climategate emails

For those of you who think Wikileaks only acts in line with a left-leaning agenda, note that they were one of the sites that posted the climategate emails that caused intense scrutiny of climate change scientists.

2009: 9/11 pager messages

Again, on accusations of being a left-wing mouthpiece, note that they released 570,000 intercepted pager messages sent on September 11th. I think we can agree it's generally beneficial to right-wing Americans to remind us how we felt and and how we were thinking on September 11th.

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