After sitting through my hundredth lecture on Julian Assange, I finally sparked an interest into the international, online organization of government secrets, Wikileaks.
To refresh your memory, (as I had too myself), Wikileaks, staying true to its name, is a website that publishes top secret documents and news leaks from anonymous sources, typically journalists and whistle blowers. It was launched in 2006 in Iceland and is directed by Australian internet activist, Jullian Assange. According to their website, their purpose is “…to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists. 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.” – Wikileaks. Wikileaks has become front page news on several occasions, raising questions about our governments, military actions, mass surveillance, privacy and other issues. One of their biggest leaks was the 2010 Collateral Murder video, which revealed footage from the July 12 2007 Baghdad airstrike, where two US Army AH-64 Apache helicopters attacked a group of nine to eleven armed and unarmed men during Iraqi insurgency. Two of the men were journalists, working as war correspondents for Reuters. Along with the release of other documents, such as the Afghan War Diary, The Guantanamo Files and the US State Department Diplomatic Cables, the public were being able to access raw, uncensored material that had been regulated and hidden by higher authorities.
Other than writing about my disgust of war and what is it good for, especially after being exposed to Collateral Murder video – which our lecturer, Marcus O’Donnell, points out is very similar to a first person shooter video game, (another issue brought to the medias attention), I walked past this:
As I stared into the CCTV surveillance, used at Bondi Junction station for my safety, I wondered who was on the other end of that camera lens and where this footage could end up. Was this CCTV really used for my security, or is it collecting content for a confidential project?
Everyday, people all over the country turn on their televisions to watch the news, trusting the woman on the silver screen to provide them with information on what is happening in the world and why. But what about all those stories that are hidden from us, that organizations that Wikileaks have exposed us too. How do we know we are being told the truth or at least somewhat of it. If CCTV cameras are being placed at every corner of every street we walk on, for the sole purpose of our safety, why aren’t we given access to see footage like the Collateral Murder video, where soldiers are said to be protecting our country, fighting for our safety.
Surveillance companies have incorporated their own little gizmo’s and gadget’s into our everyday tools, such as our mobile phones. At a panel in 2011 chaired by Julian Assange, Pratap Chatterjee of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism stated: “that your phone could be used to record and send information about you even when it is in stand-by mode. That data included location, recordings of your conversations and even photographs. This spy software could run on iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows mobile kit.” – Leach, A., 2011. Representative Steven Murdoch from Cambridge Security group added, “We’re seeing increasingly wholesale monitoring of entire populations with no suspicion of wrongdoing – the data is being monitored and stored in the hope that it might one day be useful…Without controls on this industry, the threat that surveillance poses to freedom on expression and human rights in general is only going to increase.” – Leach, A., 2011.
Once again this leaves me thinking why. Why are government bodies allowed to hide material of war, violence, intervention and so on, when we are given almost no say when it comes to mass surveillance in our very own homes. Who is given the right to make the decisions upon secrecy on behalf of our nation? Are government bodies really protecting us from sabotage and espionage? Or are they covering their tracks in the actions they make without the nations consent?
In case you’re still unclear about the point I am getting at, I am basically questioning – why should we give higher authorities access to our privacy, our freedom, for their hidden unknown usage?
What are your thoughts on Wikileaks and Julian Assange?
Assange, J., 2014, About Wikileaks, Wikileaks, viewed 17/03/2014, https://wikileaks.org/
Davies, N., 26 July 2010, ‘Afghanistan war logs: Story behind biggest leak in intelligence history’, The Guardian, viewed 17/03/2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jul/25/wikileaks-war-logs-back-story
Jarvis, J., 4 December 2010, ‘Wikileaks: Power shifts from secrecy to transparency’, BuzzMachine, viewed 17/03/2013, http://buzzmachine.com/2010/12/04/wikileaks-power-shifts-from-secrecy-to-transparency/
Leach, A., 1 December 2011, ‘Assange: ‘iPhone, BlackBerry, Gmail users – you’re all screwed’, The Register, viewed 17/03/2014, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/01/julian_assange_surveillance/
O’Donnell, M., ‘Wikileaks’, Lecture Presentation, BCM310, University of Wollongong, 10/03/2014, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/193463/mod_resource/content/0/Wk2-wikileaks.pdf