Wikileaks has been in and out of the news for a few years now. It has had a few major successes over the years, but nothing has generated the press and the notice from governments as the release of the US diplomatic cables that is still (at time of writing) ongoing.
To some extent, the detractors are correct. To the random person outside the US, much of these cables constitute gossip. But the news story here isn’t about what the US thinks of other countries, it’s the disconnect between the US government and it’s people. The things the US government is doing and saying in the name of it’s people are not what those people would have it do. Even for other nations (some of the cables are from other nation’s diplomats and were sent to the US), the revelation of their nation’s position in some multilateral negotiation has been shocking.
Regardless of your position on the content of the cables, the freedom of speech that releases them is important. It’s instructive and ironic that Pravda has criticized the US’s campaign to stop wikileaks as an affront to freedom of speech. It’s equally enlightening, that Daniel Ellsberg, quoted in the New York Times said that given the pentagon papers today, he would have posted them on the internet. Both these papers put the value of the wikileaked cables as informing the American people about their own government.
Early in the morning on December 5th, Wikileaks put out the call for mirrors. Sometime shortly after the 5th began, Slashdot carried word of this call to millions of geeks around the world. A friend drew my attention to the Slashdot post and shortly thereafter I had followed the rather brief instructions to create a mirror account on our webserver. The very same webserver that cranks out this blog. The instructions led me to create the account, but it was the wikileaks minions that actually populated it with content. That happened sometime during the wee hours of the 5th, most likely while I was asleep.
In the morning, I noticed that the account had been populated by some data, but I didn’t really look any further than using du to note that they had loaded 70-ish megabytes of data onto our machine. I wouldn’t want the disk to be overfull, after all.
To be honest, I did it because it was the right thing to do and because I was somewhat prepared to host a high profile site on this web server. I didn’t give the mirror another thought until a few days later when my partner let me know that the National Post was calling to interview whoever created the wikileaks mirror. The result was this article, which at least bears some resemblance to what I said. The BC guy sounds like a real nutter, though.
The next day The Toronto Star called and the result was this article. Then a talk radio station called from BC. The radio host seemed generally surprised that people supported wikileaks. I tried my best to emphasize that freedom of speach important. I asked each reporter if their media outlet was big enough and brave enough to release something of this size. My own feeling is that few media outlets are sufficiently independent to make a release of this importance. Even the venerable New York Times — the paper that did publish the Pentagon Papers — might not have the independence and strength to release these cables. That’s all speculation, though. Once the cables themselves are published on the internet, discussing them in a newspaper is less of a risk.
Media attention waned quickly — as it often does. I didn’t get any more calls. The site continues to get a few thousand hits per day and is again out of mind. During the attention we received many calls encouraging us and only one (anonymous) call denouncing us. We may yet still gain one or two customers (still in the sales process) who called in to switch their internet services to support people who would support wikileaks.
But I didn’t do it because we’d get customers or because I would get my picture in the paper. I did it and would do it again because it is the right thing to do.