Monday, February 18, 2008

What's the sound of a whistle not blowing?

Yesterday, I ranted about the Executive Branch decision to shut down a website that provides easy access to all manner of economic data. Today, the good folks at Daily Kos brought us this little ray of sunshine from the Judicial Branch.

It seems that U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in California has ordered that Wikileaks be shut down. (The link is not intentionally broken; that is the message currently displayed.) According to the BBC, Swiss bank Julius Baer is in a tizzy because some information leaked on the site about the bank might reveal some shady dealings in the Cayman Islands. It seems the bank is in the middle of a court case right now.

Here is the official ruling:
"Dynadot shall immediately clear and remove all DNS hosting records for the domain name and prevent the domain name from resolving to the website or any other website or server other than a blank park page, until further order of this Court."
I'm taking bets on when we hear a "further order" from the court. I'm taking 2182 AD. In the meantime, the site that claims to have leaked 1.2 million documents since 2006 has been entirely silenced over one court case and the documents in question are likely to be released in court sooner or later anyway.

Wikileaks was a powerful tool that allowed whistle-blowers to anonymously post government and corporate documents. It had particularly irritated the governments of China and Thailand because the site allowed people to documents regarding non-spurious issues like human rights abuses and misinformation about the Iraq War.

I guess corporate interests trump human rights and transparency yet again.

Yesterday, I made the point that democracy requires open government. Daniel Ellsberg proved that in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers and Senator Mike Gavel read them into the Congressional Record, making them a public record. (A congressional committee later determined that only .5 percent of the 7000 pages were indeed "top secret." I will add an attribution later.) That information helped end the Vietnam War.

As Daily Kos' stephen soldz so eloquently points out, Nixon did not try to shut down the New York Times and Washington Post entirely for printing the Pentagon Papers. My own educated guess, though, is that Nixon would not have been too upset about that, but he could not find a judge to go along with him.

Whistle blowers are an integral part of any democracy. As a nation, we entrust our government to operate in our own best interests. With such a large government entrusted with so much power, there will be abuses of power. That's the sad reality. The silver lining is that there are ways, like "blowing the whistle," that uncover abuses of power and that is the first step toward correcting abuses. Our judiciary did no favors today for American democracy or for democratization efforts across the globe.

Keep digging into those government records.

1 comment:

Wharf Rat said...

The Ddos attacks and fire only affect WikiLeaks' American DNS. You can still access the page through int'l address extensions like .be and .de.