WikiLeaks does what journalists are supposed to do — piss off powerful people.

Thanks to Anna Taylor

Truth Telling and the End of Democracy

[…] Put simply, Wikileaks is a journalistic organization. They serve as a clearinghouse for whistleblowers from public and private organizations around the world to leak documents into the public domain. Unlike more traditional news organizations, however, Wikileaks collects, categorizes, and releases raw data, unprocessed by spin. By skipping the value-laden contextualization we commonly associate with, and recognize as, journalism, Wikileaks is as close as it gets to being an unbiased source of news—with their only biases coming in the form of what they chose to release…

Wikileaks isn’t particularly about government documents. It’s about raw data. Their sourcing and verification of raw data has earned them awards for investigative reporting—a reporting that often leaves its analysis to readers or other reporters. Much of what they’ve reported since their 2007 launch has focused on corporate crime. For example, they’ve taken on the private entity that collects highway tolls in Germany and that country’s private health insurance providers. They’ve exposed labor problems at a private, for-profit education corporation in the US. They’ve exposed illegal, immoral, or reckless dealings by banks in Britain, Switzerland, Iceland, the Cayman Islands, and the US. They’ve exposed illegal toxic dumping, suppressed details on a leaky Japanese nuclear reactor, and the so-called “climate-gate” emails that were embraced by Republican climate-change deniers.

Wikileaks has also exposed government corruption in Kenya, East Timor, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, to name a few examples. They laid bare the nuts and bolts of Internet censorship in China and Thailand. They released documents investigating alleged corruption in Shriners hospitals, and the failure of Catholic hospitals to follow that religion’s conservative ethics codes. Wikileaks documented press censorship attempts in Bermuda, and government surveillance of journalists in Germany. They released documents looking at the role officers associated with the former East German secret police play in unified Germany, and examining the activities of Islamic courts in Somalia. In short, the Wikileaks staff does what journalists are supposed to do—piss off powerful people. Only they do it on a global scale, irrespective of political agendas.

The latest batches of Wikileaks expose the backstory on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as the machinations of the Clinton State Department. These documents, like those Wikileaks has previously released exposing governments and corporations around the world, come from—your call—“whistleblowers” or “traitors.” As journalists have done since the beginning of a free press, the Wikileaks staff took data given to them by sources, and put it into the public domain, turning it into “news.” This is what journalism, when done well, is. This is why an independent press is universally regarded as a “Fourth Estate,” charged with the responsibility of keeping the rest of government and society honest.

The current batch of documents has put Wikileaks in the news, and incited an extralegal US government effort to censor, silence, bankrupt, and otherwise harass the organization and its staff. The reason is that the breadth and scope of this release, encompassing as many as three quarters of a million documents, is unprecedented—as is the embarrassment it is causing for the US government and a select group of government officials. While such officials with things to hide have historically been hostile to a free press, this new depth of hostility, with elected officials making felonious threats against Wikileaks editors, reflects both the scope of the release, and the unprecedented access the internet allows to it…

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