The leaks speak again

| Staff Columnist

Hanna Xu | Student Life
So the word’s out…again. Last week, while the student population blithely tucked in to another slab of pumpkin pie or slept off our tryptophan-induced comas, the diplomatic community was in a state of emergency. Again. For on Nov. 22, Julian Assange and his team of carefully trained Internet minions released a form of controlled chaos on the web: a quarter-million US diplomatic cables from 1966 to the present day.

The results, shall we say, weren’t pretty. The leaks covered everything from nuclear dealings with Pakistan to proposals for a unified Korea and the fate of Guantanamo’s detainees. These revelations have been accompanied by a mixture of outrage and weary resignation that feels all too familiar from the days of the Afghanistan war documents in July. It’s yet another ugly scar on the already pockmarked complexion of America’s international reputation.

But the latest in leaks leaves us wondering: If loose lips once sunk ships, what can a click of the mouse do to entire diplomatic networks? In his time as the face of WikiLeaks, the flaxen-haired Assange has been denounced and deified. He has been condemned as a megalomaniac with a nasty habit of putting the very real lives that exist outside of a paper trail in danger. But he has also been hailed as a whistleblower who fights for transparency and truth.

The issue of transparency is brought up a lot in modern American politics. We hold our elected officials responsible for everything, from the superficial to the significant, from marital conduct to corporate corruption. But we have become reckless in our quest for truth and the ensuing collision with endlessly expanding cyberspace. This year has been marked by a cry for accountability—for the economy, for the war, for a general lack of action. At this point, we might as well make like the Bible and send a bleating scapegoat out into the wilds to pardon us for our sins. It would certainly be a lot easier.

Yet what WikiLeaks represents is not accountability in the right light. Instead, this latest influx of information has cast a harsh mirror on our zeal for scandal, to the point where our international relationships could be irreparably damaged—not to mention the thousands of diplomatic associates and informants whose lives are now at risk.

In this age of technology, it is easy to gaze at the warm, anonymous glow of a computer screen and see what we wish to see in flickering black and white. But it has also been equally easy to dismiss the responsibilities of such free disclosure. So in our pursuit of accountability, we should remember a few things: The truth has always been murky and the lines have always been gray. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any to cross.