Wikileaks, the international internet organization for leaking controversial information, has a new trick up its sleeve.
On Sunday the international leaking machine tweeted the message: “Burn all the books you want, Nazi punks. We already have a copy.”
The “Nazi punks” in question are the US Pentagon’s Department of Defense, and the books in question are the 10,000 first-run copies of the new memoir “Operation Dark Heart,” which the Department of Defense bought and promptly burned on September 20.
After imploring the publisher of “Operation Dark Heart,” by former Army Reserve Office Anthony Shaffer, not to publish the book on the grounds that it revealed national security secrets and having the publisher refuse, citing its first amendment rights, the Pentagon sought an alternate solution, buying the entire first run and burning it. Subsequent pressings will have blacked-out text which the Pentagon can impose on material they deem to be classified.
Since 9/11 American attitudes have dictated that security—at least our best effort at security—is more important than transparency. It’s an idea that justified all kinds of exceptions to American transparency that we would have otherwise objected to—from the Patriot Act allowing us to spy on citizens to holding suspects at Guantanamo without charging them with anything.
Underlying these transgressions from American ideals was the assumption that they were necessary to save American lives—and lives trump ideals.
But the arrival of Wikileaks as a nationless, allegiance-less force for propagating free press may expose a whole new possibility: Is the Pentagon censorship machine a benevolent protector or a bunch of “Nazi punks”? Is information suppressed because it truly needs to be, or because it’ll allow unethical operations to continue?
In the past we’ve never known, because our government had no higher authority—when it wanted information suppressed, it stayed suppressed. But in the age of Wikileaks, information truly wants to be free.
“Someone buying 10,000 books to suppress a story in this digital age is ludicrous,” Shaffer told CNN—and he’s right. Burning 10,000 books won’t suppress that information any more than Terry Jones burning Qu’rans will damper that work’s influence around the world.
One one hand it does seems strange that WIkileaks markets its leaks with tweets like the one above, especially when the US government is hell-bent on keeping the information our of circulation.
But for the first time it does provide an objective look at what information the Pentagon deems unsafe for publishing. “When you look at what they took out (in the 2nd edition), it’s lunacy,” Shaffer says.
For better or worse, it seems there’s no such thing as state secrets any more. In an age when everyone’s a critic, we’ll all be able to judge for ourselves whether this information should have stayed classified, or whether our government is indeed behaving like “Nazi punks,” as Wikileaks asserts.
Unless, of course, this plot trajectory plays out the way it would in any good action film, and Wikileaks director Julian Assange quietly disappears, or dies peacefully in his sleep. Although, should that happen, you can bet there’d be a Wikileak with a revealing autopsy in no time.