Battling Crime One Leak at a Time?

From tax evasion and money laundering to what’s happening at Guantanamo, whistleblowers’ “secret” documents can be posted and seen by anyone with access to the Internet, thanks to Wikileaks. Even a federal judge’s order here in San Francisco can’t completely quash the testimony now. People just post the story on mirror servers and elsewhere. That’s what the Swiss bank Julius Baer (“the best justice Cayman Islands money launderers can buy?”) discovered this month. Even if Julius Baer is able to get those links deleted, the memory of the information stays on the Internet, via BitTorrent. In this case, the whistleblower sued the bank for, “stalking, corruption and coercion.”

Wikileaks mission? “An “uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis.” It has posted more than one million “secret” documents in the past five years.

Wikileaks offers this caveat for the controversial stories it posts, “Couldn’t mass leaking of documents be irresponsible? The simplest and most effective measure here is a worldwide community of informed users and editors who can scrutinize and discuss leaked documents.” Yet at least two respected experts disagree.

“Their idea is a good one, but they’re moving too fast without providing any evidence that they can pull this off,” wrote the often brash Cryptome blogger, John Young.

“They have a very idealistic view of the nature of leaking and its impact. They seem to think that most leakers are crusading do-gooders who are single-handedly battling one evil empire or another,” advises Steven Aftergood, editor at the blog Secrecy News and director of the Project of Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. Yet, like Wikipedia and other Me2We initiatives where the mission is potent, Wikileaks may evolve into an ever more credible us-created reference source as more and more informed citizens and journalists use and contribute to it. Here’s to honing the checks and balances in the Wikileak model as continuing transparency can support.

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