WikiLeaks is Necessary For a Free Society

With the release of WikiLeaks’ documentary “Mediastan” on Oct. 11, I thought it necessary to reiterate the importance of WikiLeaks in a free society. The film raises pressing questions about the regulation of global media and the importance of freedom of information. WikiLeaks and affiliated whistleblowers have recently been getting considerable flak from federal governments. Cases such as that of Army Private Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, born Bradley Edward Manning — a U.S. soldier convicted to 35 years in prison and dishonorably discharged for releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks — and the Edward Snowden scandal have drawn intense government scrutiny. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, claimed that WikiLeaks’ releases are an “attack on U.S. foreign policy interests.”

However, WikiLeaks is important because it exposes deception in government and holds it accountable for its actions. WikiLeaks exposed PRISM, a National Security Agency program designed to collect personal information from major companies like Google, Facebook, Skype, Youtube, Microsoft and Apple. Most of the information about PRISM, including court proceedings, is kept confidential, so it’s hard to question its constitutionality. Additionally, the U.S. House and Senate intelligence committees are only exposed to a one-sided argument due to the secrecy of the program. The existence of WikiLeaks brought this information to public knowledge so that it could be acknowledged in the first place: a major win for democracy.

Those who support mass surveillance and media censorship believe that these actions should be permitted so that a nation can protect its citizens. They claim that if the government’s actions are transparent, we’ll be in danger. However, while national security should be a concern, it should not take priority over inalienable rights. Without a check, like free press and WikiLeaks, the government has little to stop it from breaching our Fourth Amendment rights.

The Fourth Amendment protects American citizens from unreasonable search and seizure: the reason why police can’t just walk into your house and search for stuff. By actively collecting and storing one’s personal information, the government assumes that everyone is potentially guilty of a crime and should have information collected about them. There is a reason we are assumed innocent until we are proven guilty: It’s so the burden of proof doesn’t lie on citizens to justify why they are innocent.

Freedom of information is important because we should be able to observe and judge the actions and deliberations of our governments through what WikiLeaks calls “principled leaking” — when a citizen leaks confidential documents that he/she feels is a breach of inalienable rights. As WikiLeaks puts it as, “Open governance is the most effective method of promoting good governance.” Unfettered information is necessary so those in power don’t abuse it, and WikiLeaks offers an unprecedented opportunity to check authoritarian tendencies and expose government misdeeds.

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