Julian Assange of Wikileaks speaks at TED

The controversial website WikiLeaks collects and posts highly classified documents and video. Founder Julian Assange, who’s reportedly being sought for questioning by US authorities, talks to TED’s Chris Anderson about how the site operates, what it has accomplished — and what drives him. The interview includes graphic footage of a recent US airstrike in Baghdad.

You could say Australian-born Julian Assange has swapped his long-time interest in network security flaws for the far-more-suspect flaws of even bigger targets: governments and corporations. Since his early 20s, he has been using network technology to prod and probe the vulnerable edges of administrative systems, but though he was a computing hobbyist first (in 1991 he was the target of hacking charges after he accessed the computers of an Australian telecom), he’s now taken off his “white hat” and launched a career as one of the world’s most visible human-rights activists.

He calls himself “editor in chief.” He travels the globe as its spokesperson. Yet Assange’s part in WikiLeaks is clearly dicier than that: he’s become the face of creature that, simply, many powerful organizations would rather see the world rid of. His Wikipedia entry says he is “constantly on the move,” and some speculate that his role in publishing decrypted US military video has put him in personal danger. A controversial figure, pundits debate whether his work is reckless and does more harm than good. Amnesty International recognized him with an International Media Award in 2009.

Assange studied physics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne. He wrote Strobe, the first free and open-source port scanner, and contributed to the book Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier.

“WikiLeaks has had more scoops in three years than the Washington Post has had in 30.”

The Possible Prosecution of WikiLeaks

Such journalistic stories are valuable and necessary, because much hush-hush information is overclassified, is kept under wraps only because it is embarrassing to the U.S. government, or is classified to keep the public in the dark about questionable government policies or actions. During the Cold War and continuing to this day, the American public is often the last to know information that is common knowledge among intelligence agencies of adversarial nations. Excessive government secrecy is a serious and underrated problem in a republic and has been exacerbated by the spike in clandestine government actions in the Bush-Obama war on terror.

If the government of a republic is going to keep secrets from its own people for their own good (faith is required here), they should keep the restricted information to the minimum. If the government drastically reduced its vast storehouse of secrets to what was truly needed to protect intelligence agents and troops in the field, whistleblowers such as Manning would have much less reason to leak and would likely have more respect for the necessity not to disclose the remaining vital information.

Most important, if a republican government cannot keep its secrets secret, it should not prosecute third-party, non-governmental recipients of the material, but should concentrate on plugging the leaks in its security system.

Source: http://original.antiwar.com/eland/2010/08/24/the-possible-prosecution-of-wikileaks/