Wikileaks and Untraceable Document Disclosure

01.03.07 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A new internet initiative called Wikileaks seeks to promote good government and democratization by enabling anonymous disclosure and publication of confidential government records.

“WikiLeaks is developing an uncensorable version of WikiPedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis,” according to the project web site.

“Our primary targets are highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia, central eurasia, the middle east and sub-saharan Africa, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations.”

“A system [that] enables everyone to leak safely to a ready audience is the most cost effective means of promoting good government — in health and medicine, in food supply, in human rights, in arms control and democratic institutions.”

Wikileaks says that it has already acquired over one million documents that it is now preparing for publication.

The project web site is not yet fully “live.” But an initial offering — a document purportedly authored by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys of Somalia’s radical Islamic Courts Union — is posted in a zipped file here.

An analysis of the document’s authenticity and implications is posted here.

Wikileaks invited Secrecy News to serve on its advisory board. We explained that we do not favor automated or indiscriminate publication of confidential records.

In the absence of accountable editorial oversight, publication can more easily become an act of aggression or an incitement to violence, not to mention an invasion of privacy or an offense against good taste.

So we disagree on first principles? No problem, replied Wikileaks: “Advisory positions are just that — advisory! If you want to advise us to censor, then by all means do so.”

While Wikileaks seeks to make unauthorized disclosures technologically immune to government control, an opposing school of thought proposes to expand U.S. government authority to seize control of information that is already in the public domain when its continued availability is deemed unacceptably dangerous.

“Although existing authorities do not directly address the subject, it appears that reasonable restrictions upon the possession and dissemination of catastrophically dangerous information can be constitutionally implemented,” suggests Stewart Harris of the Appalachian School of Law. See “Restrictions are justifiable,” National Law Journal, December 11, 2006.