It’s been amazing to find how trivial a lot of the “top secret” material released by Wikileaks has been – begging the question: why was it “top secret” in the first place?
Or, as Mungo Macallum put it in Monday’s Crikey:
The zealots who are demanding the head of Julian Assange on a platter tell us that the revelations have placed lives at risk and have compromised the security of nations, but they have supplied absolutely no evidence for either claim. It would appear that most of the cables were stamped “secret” or “confidential” almost as a matter of reflex; there is nothing in them to justify the classification.
It is further proof, if proof were needed, that even democratically elected governments become addicted to control for its own sake. In a free and open society the availability of information should be the default position; it is not a matter of the public’s right to know, which should be a given, but of the government having to justify any restriction of that right.
It is not enough for the punishers and the straighteners, as Manning Clark christened them, to parrot slogans such as “national security” and “operational matters” and “commercial in confidence” in order to suppress what they would prefer not to discuss. They should be compelled to demonstrate that the disclosure would do actual harm. The right to personal privacy is one thing, but the curtailing of public debate by withholding the relevant facts is another entirely.
Talking heads trying to downplay the Wikileaks achievement by asking “who cares?” about the content of the revelations have precisely missed the point: their often trivial nature despite the levels of security applied to them shows just exactly how paranoid and absurd the modern state has become. It has been abusing the power with which we’ve entrusted it to the extent necessary to secure the business of state, instead to cover up its own embarrassing stuff-ups – both damaging the public’s democratic right to know what its representatives are doing, and also the credibility of the security apparatus on which its agents must depend.