Whistle-blowing is a powerful check on corruption, and it is why moves in Iceland to make it an international center for investigative journalism publishing, by passing the strongest combination of source protection, freedom of speech, and libel-tourism prevention laws in the world are so fundamentally important for everyone interested in the freedom of expression. Called IMMI for short, this clip from Al Jazeera’s Listening Post covers it in detail (and includes a clip from me suggesting why it is even important for journalists in Sri Lanka).
So what does this have to do with Wikileaks? An article published in Salon makes the link. Glenn Greenwald in The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters notes,
WikiLeaks editors, including Assagne, have spent substantial time of late in Iceland because there is a pending bill in that country’s Parliament that would provide meaningful whistle blower protection for what they do, far greater than exists anywhere else. Why is Iceland a leading candidate to do that? Because, last year, that nation suffered full-scale economic collapse. It was then revealed that numerous nefarious causes (corrupt loans, off-shore transactions, concealed warning signs) were hidden completely from the public and even from policy-makers, preventing detection and avoidance. Worse, most of Iceland’s institutions — from its media to its legislative and regulatory bodies — completely failed to penetrate this wall of secrecy, allowing this corruption to fester until it brought about full-scale financial ruin. As a result, Iceland has become very receptive to the fact that the type of investigative exposure provided by WikiLeaks is a vital national good, and there is real political will to provide it with substantial protections.
Glenn’s article I consider essential reading for anyone interested in securing the freedom of expression online, and combatting corruption and the nefarious activities of defence and intelligence industries.
The article is anchored to a document from the CIA on how the U.S. Government can best manipulate public opinion in Germany and France — in order to ensure that those countries continue to fight in Afghanistan. It sounds as if it comes out of a movie script, but the content is real. CIA report into shoring up Afghan war support in Western Europe, released on 26 March 2010, is a classic whistleblower expose, bringing to light outrageous tactics to influence polity and society in favour of US strategic interests. In sum, Cold War redux.
Small wonder then that Wikileaks is looking at IMMI in particular and Iceland as a safe haven for its operations.
A cruel irony
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech, earlier this year, on internet freedom, including the freedom of expression online, was celebrated globally as an unequivocal policy statement against online censorship. And yet, As Glenn’s article in Salon notes, Wikileaks is currently hated in US intelligence and defence circles, because it provides a platform to expose, name and shame outrageous practices that violate human rights.
The Pentagon report also claims that WikiLeaks has disclosed documents that could expose U.S. military plans in Afghanistan and Iraq and endanger the military mission, though its discussion is purely hypothetical and no specifics are provided. Instead, the bulk of the Pentagon report focuses on documents which embarrass the U.S. Government: information which, as they put it, “could be manipulated to provide biased news reports or be used for conducting propaganda, disinformation, misinformation, perception management, or influence operations against the U.S. Army by a variety of domestic and foreign actors.” In other words, the Pentagon is furious that this exposing of its secrets might enable others to engage in exactly the type of “perception management” which the aforementioned CIA Report proposes the U.S. do with regard to the citizenry of our allied countries.
Emphasis in original.
That the US government is, to put mildly, upset with Wikileaks is well documented. But the question must be asked, how congruent is this behaviour with Hillary Clinton’s high-brow ideals for internet freedom expressed in her speech? If the US says one thing, and does another, it becomes a model for repressive countries to justify their own actions to curtail and contain content online.
I have just donated US$25 to Wikileaks to help it continue the work it is doing to uphold values that the US Secretary of State believes in enough to base policy on, and the US military and intelligence services vehemently oppose enough to shut down Wikileaks over.
I encourage you to contribute too.