WikiLeaks panel discusses legal issues


Adam Jones

A crowd of nearly 100 people listened attentively to a panel of Saddleback instructors last Tuesday as they discussed the historical precedents, legal questions, and the political and philosophical ramifications of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks is an organization dedicated to revealing truthful information to the public. According to their website, “Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth.”

Instructors Timothy Braatz, history, Mike Reed, journalism, Jim Repka, geology, David DiLeo, history, and Larry Twicken, political science, sat on the panel discussing WikiLeaks and its creator Julian Assange.

The panel opened with Braatz reading a description of WikiLeaks and its work so far, along with some recent news regarding WikiLeaks and Assange. He discussed the hardship that WikiLeaks has faced, and why individuals should not consider it a malicious organization.

WikiLeaks was originally funded by donations through MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, and other money transferring websites. In recent years, these websites have shut down donations to WikiLeaks because of the controversies that it has brought to light. PayPal said WikiLeaks broke their user agreement which states that no user may use PayPal’s services to “encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”

Despite controversy over what should be secret and what should be public, no deaths have occurred as a result of the information released by WikiLeaks. According to the panel, the United States Attorney General is uninterested in prosecuting Assange, because he has not yet presented any danger to the government or the people of the United States.

In order to censor free speech in regards to the United States, a message must present a “clear and present danger” to either the people or the country, according to Reed. While Assange has leaked some compromising details about war efforts, he has not endangered any lives, nor has he weakened national security. The panel stated that it is extremely unlikely that there will be any policy changes in the United States due to the actions of WikiLeaks.

However, there are secrets that the government would consider dangerous. For example, if Assange received information on the process by which the U. S. launches a nuclear missile, the government may decide that he has created a clear and present danger to the people, and would make an effort to censor that information, according to the panel.

The panel went on to discuss the cyberwar going on between pro- and anti-WikiLeaks hackers. WikiLeaks is constantly under assault by corporations that do not want their secret practices and documents released. In fact, in recent weeks, a group indirectly associated with Bank of America outlined a plan of attack to bring down the encryption of WikiLeaks to expose the people leaking information to the website.

Supporters of WikiLeaks make efforts to protect the website through their own means. MasterCard and Visa had their websites and online databases thoroughly disrupted by hackers after the websites shut down donations to WikiLeaks, according to the panel.

In regards to Assange himself, the panel agreed that he was a journalist. As a reporter, editor, and gatekeeper for the information that is presented by WikiLeaks, Assange is interested in releasing the truth, not attacking governments maliciously. The panel concluded that he interprets the U. S. Constitution in his own way, and while that has lead to some discrepancies, Assange does not do it for the purpose of assaulting the government.