a blog about cents, in every form & measure

Monday, November 29, 2010

secrets aren't always kept: journalism, government, and the role of secrecy

Here we go - wow. I popped open my laptop yesterday to read the paper online as a break from chores...and this headline greeted me: The Decision to Publish Diplomatic Documents. I don't want to sound overly dramatic, but my jaw basically dropped to the table in reaction to the second instance of sensitive government information leaked to the public. It's absolutely thrilling and terrifying to live in an age where events like this comprise my daily news, and I'm trying to remember each moment, every reaction, and the details of the events which have shaped my adulthood.

The memos released are "based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. The documents — some 250,000 individual cables, the daily traffic between the State Department and more than 270 American diplomatic outposts around the world — were made available to The Times by a source who insisted on anonymity. They were originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to exposing official secrets, allegedly from a disenchanted, low-level Army intelligence analyst who exploited a security loophole.,,WikiLeaks intends to publish this archive on its Web site in stages, with each batch of documents related to a particular country or topic. Except for the timing of publication, the material was provided without conditions. Each news organization decided independently what to write about the cables."

So there you have it. Omgee indeed. My first thought was exactly that, followed by an instant curiosity about the secrets revealed that were no longer secret to the world at large. Anyone who has the desire to learn the contents of these cables can - and so the goal of the New York Times will be fulfilled. To provide knowledge to the public at large; to create a means of communication through which to enrich our lives - that is the purpose of journalism. That, and to publish whatever content will keep them afloat. Either or. Crazy though - what organization has private communications that aren't potentially damaging or embarassing? What do I really have to learn from these cables, which all date from 2007 or later? What can I do about it? What do these cables reveal about our government and its relationships in a post 9/11 world?

I'll be thinking about my own answers to these questions, but what do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment