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WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency

Overview

The United States government is diligent—some might say to the point of obsession—in defending its borders against invaders, be they terrorists, natural disasters, or illegal immigrants. Now we are told a small, international band of renegades armed with nothing more than laptops presents the greatest threat to the U.S. regime since the close of the Cold War. WikiLeaks’ release of a massive trove of secret official documents has riled politicians from across the spectrum. The WikiLeaks organizers themselves “are ...
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WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency

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Overview

The United States government is diligent—some might say to the point of obsession—in defending its borders against invaders, be they terrorists, natural disasters, or illegal immigrants. Now we are told a small, international band of renegades armed with nothing more than laptops presents the greatest threat to the U.S. regime since the close of the Cold War. WikiLeaks’ release of a massive trove of secret official documents has riled politicians from across the spectrum. The WikiLeaks organizers themselves “are going to have blood on their hands” (U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman), it is the “9/11 of world diplomacy” (Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini), they present “a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States” (U.S. Congressman Peter King). Even noted free-speech advocate Floyd Abrams says that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “may yet have much to answer for” and blames him for the certain defeat of federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists. Hyperbole, hysteria? Certainly. We heard much the same in 1971, when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times (ironically, Abrams was the Times’ lawyer in that case).

Welcome to the Age of Transparency. But political analyst and writer Micah Sifry argues that WikiLeaks is not the whole story: it is a symptom, an indicator of an ongoing generational and philosophical struggle between older, closed systems, and the new open culture of the Internet. “What is new,” he writes, “is our ability to connect, individually and together, with greater ease than at any time in human history. As a result, information is flowing more freely into the public arena, powered by seemingly unstoppable networks of people all over the world cooperating to share vital data and prevent its suppression.” Despite Assange’s arrest, the publication of secret documents continues, and websites replicating WikiLeaks’ activities have sprung up in Indonesia, Russia, the European Union, and elsewhere. As Sifry shows, this is part of a larger movement for greater governmental and corporate transparency: “when you combine connectivity with transparency—the ability for more people to see, share and shape what is going on around them—the result is a huge increase in social energy, which is being channeled in all kinds of directions.”
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While WikiLeaks is discussed at some length, Sifry (co-author of Is That a Politician in Your Pocket) is more interested in the big picture of government transparency that Julian Assange's organization has come to represent. Sifry declares that "secrecy and the hoarding of information are ending; openness and the sharing of information are coming," and begins by discussing the leaked Collateral Murder video showing U.S. Apache helicopters killing Iraqi civilians. Sifry undertakes a historical account of "networked politics," from Howard Dean's first online town hall meeting to the web presence of Barack Obama. He notes that there is a "growing pool of networked citizens who want to do more than just consume information, they want to help create it and shape it, too," and he examines these issues in a global context, telling the stories of people like Marko Rakar of the Croation blog Pollitika.com and Ory Okolloh of KenyanPundit.com, both working for more openness from their governments. Finally, Sifry calls out the Obama administration for failing to make good on campaign promises of greater transparency. "This is not a treatise," Sifry states early on, and he's right; it's an absorbing, comprehensive examination of one of the most vital issues of our time. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582437798
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.82 (w) x 5.02 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

As the co-founder and curator of the Personal Democracy Forum (where Julian Assange has spoken twice), editor of its award-winning techPresident.com blog, and a senior technology adviser to the Sunlight Foundation, Micah L. Sifry is perfectly situated for this analysis, the first book-length discussion of WikiLeaks to appear in print. A former editor and writer at The Nation Magazine, he is the author of one book (Spoiling for a Fight, 2002), co-author of another (Is that a Politician in Your Pocket?, 2004) and co-editor of two anthologies: The Iraq War Reader (2003) and The Gulf War Reader (1991). He is also a member of the board of Consumers Union. His personal blog is at micah.sifry.com.
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Table of Contents

Foreword Andrew Rasiej 9

Introduction 15

1 The WikiLeaks Moment 21

2 The Beginning of the Age of Networked politics 41

3 From Scarcity to Abundance 51

4 Kicking Down the Door to the Smoke-Filled Room 67

5 The Global Transparency Movement 87

6 Open Government: A Movement or a Mirage? 107

7 The End of Secrecy 137

8 WikiLeaks and the Future of the Transparency Movement 169

Notes 191

Resource Guide 209

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