Behind WikiLeaks

Sometimes a story hits the news that kind of takes over, yet I have less interest in it than the news outlets do. That’s pretty much how I feel about the whole WikiLeaks controversy. It’s not that I don’t recognize it as a genuine story—I even have deep concern over the unauthorized leaking of private government information. It’s just that it is so covered that I don’t simply want to rehash what everyone already knows.

However, I have discovered that the two individuals most closely connected to this controversy have backgrounds and beliefs that I haven’t really heard mentioned on the newscasts.

Take Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier who illegally released thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables. What do you learn about him on a typical newscast? You know he is currently being held at Quantico facing a court martial and up to 52 years in prison for his actions. But that’s about all.

A simple Google search reveals much more. For instance, he was raised a Catholic, but says he never believed any of it. His antipathy to Christianity is so pronounced that he wore customized dogtags labeled “Humanist.”

Manning also is homosexual, but I’ve never heard that publicly proclaimed. He apparently is angry over the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Those who were classmates in his younger days describe him as someone who always had a bit of an attitude. Add to all of this an ongoing pity party— complaining to an online acquintance that people ignored him, that he felt isolated, and that he was self-medicating “like crazy.” Well, now he has one wish fulfilled—he’s not being ignored any longer.

Then there’s the guy who decided to take what Manning gave him and broadcast it all to the world: Julian Assange. He’s rather secretive himself, which is ironic, but it appears that he was raised by a single mother in Australia, moving 37 times before age 15. He became a computer hacker at an early age and got in trouble with the law over it—arrested in 1991 and charged with 30 criminal counts. Facing prison, he was able to strike a plea deal in which he only had to pay a fine.

Currently, Assange is in hiding as Interpol just added him to its Most Wanted list after Sweden issued a new arrest warrant against him in a sex crimes probe.

Trying to discern Assange’s guiding philosophy is difficult. In an article in yesterday’s Christian Science Monitor, the writer poses these questions: “Is he anticorruption? Antiwar? … What is he hoping to accomplish? In the end, what does Julian Assange want?” The writer concludes that he just seems to be on a crusade against secrecy of all kinds, yet WikiLeaks itself is shrouded in mystery:

But WikiLeaks itself may be turning into just the sort of opaque entity it criticizes. Its hierarchy is unknown, its funders are unclear, and its plans are unverifiable. It reserves the right to decide whether it is in the public interest to disclose the information it obtains (as do many mainstream media outlets). Those who feel victimized by its actions – such as, say, Afghans who work with the US and didn’t want their names known to the Taliban – don’t get to argue the case for continued secrecy before damage is done.

In other words, Assange doesn’t want to be held to the same standard he applies to everyone else. His next target, by the way, is bank records.

Upon examination of the character of both Manning and Assange, I can say unconditionally that neither is a hero. Their actions only undermine the kind of secrecy that is sometimes necessary, particularly in dealing with other countries.

Manning should be imprisoned for his actions; Assange should be held accountable for what he has done as well.