Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wikileaks Publishes List of US Nuclear Sites...

Balancing the need for a free press with national security concerns has always been a defining characteristic of American democracy.

Over the weekend, the US Government Printing Office accidentally revealed the nation's confidential report on its civilian nuclear programs. This report was not intended for public disclosure, but was meant to be read only by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and thus was marked as "Sensitive, but Unclassified".

As Ars Technica reports, "although the document was quickly pulled, the genie is out of the bottle: the report lives on at Wikileaks."

Wikileaks is a website whose stated purpose is to publish "classified, censored or otherwise restricted material of political, diplomatic or ethical significance". In the past, it has exposed both government and private sector corruption and has been a safe haven for whistle-blowers.

While this may be a noble purpose, does anyone else think that Wikileaks is going too far by pubishing confidential information about all US civilian nuclear sites?

Granted, this information was not officially "Classified", but its troubling nonetheless. Part of what makes Wikileaks so effective is that it makes sure that it can't be easily shut down by national governments. As of this morning, it is hosting the report from sites in Sweden, US, Latvia, Slovakia, UK, Finland, Netherlands, Poland, Tonga, and Europe. Also, Wikileaks outwardly declares that "online submissions are routed via Sweden and Belgium which have first rate journalist-source shield laws." As a result, "it's safe to assume that, even if the US attempts to take action to have it pulled, it will be a long, drawn out fight that will probably wind up ensuring that any interested parties have the opportunity to get their copy in the mean time".

National security concerns ought to trump whistle-blower claims in this case, however, the architecture of the Web renders even the U.S. government rather helpless to rectify the problem, at least in the immediate-term. The bureaucrat at the US Government Printing Office who accidentally published the report ought to be fired for negligence. But it's still almost unbelievable how, in the Internet Age, the unwitting actions of just one individual can place us all in harm's way.


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