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leaking information

You leak, but I brief. Who is the scoundrel?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Secret meetingJames Callaghan, Labor Party Prime Minister of Great Britain (1976-1979), is reported to have quipped: “You leak, but I brief”. In other words, while the politician that he was addressing leaked official documents to the media (a wrong, probably illegal move) he merely briefed the media. His practice, he was implying, was less blameworthy. The question is: is it?

Leaks of official documents and the leakers involved are in the news a lot these days. Some of these leakers are leaking documents on an epic scale, exploiting the weaknesses of modern electronic document management systems. Documents that in the past you would have had to break into safes in a thousand different locations around the world to access you can now find in a single online repository…if you have the right hacking or document stealing skills. While in the past a leaker would send a single document by mail to the editor of a leading newspaper, now we are getting thousands of pages stolen and shared all at once.

There is a romantic, Hollywood view of the epic leakers, and movies are also being made about them, usually hagiographies. The epic leakers are seen as heroic figures, doughty champions acting in the overall public interest. Perhaps. I have no doubt that there are leakers who are genuine whistle blowers, determined to expose wrong doing by public officials. But one also suspects that some of these leakers are complexly motivated individuals. And some of the epic leakers are egomaniacs who fancy themselves as world-historic figures.

WikiLeaks: “The Intelligence Agency Of The People”

Naniette Coleman's picture

I am not sure if I stumbled upon a tool for fighting corruption or a conspiracy theorist’s dream. Either way, I will report and leave the judgments and interpretations to you, the reader. Before you begin reading this particular blog post, I would recommend that you close your door, pull down the shades and close all other browser windows; after all, you never know who could be watching.

WikiLeaks says they have a “history of breaking major stories in every major media outlet and robustly protecting sources and press freedoms.” They claim that “no source has ever been exposed and no material has ever been censored since their formation in 2007.”  WikiLeaks claims they have been “victorious over every legal (and illegal) attack, including those from the Pentagon, the Chinese Public Security Bureau, the Former president of Kenya, the Premier of Bermuda, Scientology, the Catholic & Mormon Church, the largest Swiss private bank, and Russian companies.” And, as if that is not enough of a soap box on which to stand, WikiLeaks claims to have “released more classified intelligence documents than the rest of the world press combined.” If you do not believe WikiLeaks, perhaps you might trust another source, Time Magazine who suggests that WikiLeaks “...could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”