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What Glenn Beck and WikiLeaks' Julian Assange have in common

The philosophy that appears to drive WikiLeaks' Julian Assange lies in a deep-seated distrust of governments – something that bridges any left-right divide.

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A whistleblower in the true sense of the word reveals illegal or immoral behavior from within an organization, taking a stand against his corporate or national loyalties in service of exposing a rot within. The information they reveal is typically tailored to a specific crime or injustice. But WikiLeaks, with bits of scandal drowned in a flood of documents that range from the banal to the prurient to the enlightening, is something else again.

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To be sure, Assange says he wants to shed light on dark secrets, but he also says he's happy if that leads to more secrecy, since it will weaken the systems of the US and other governments.

Assange himself appears to believe he's in the vanguard of a struggle against an entire international system that he clearly abhors. Consider this Dec. 31, 2006, blog post on the website, owned by Assange, titled "The non linear effects of leaks on unjust systems of governance."

"The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie," he wrote. "This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive 'secrecy tax') and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power."

'Secrecy tax' and 'stovepiping'

In the US, former State Department and other government officials have worried that just such a "secrecy tax" – with the recompartmentalizing of information flows that were relaxed after 9/11 to improve US intelligence analysis – could be a result of WikiLeaks' release of 250,000 State Department cables to several news organizations, along with their gradual publication on WikiLeaks' website.

Wayne White, a retired senior State Department intelligence analyst, told the Monitor last month that he worried that a rolling back of intelligence reforms could be WikiLeaks' biggest legacy. "I helped work on trying to end the suffocating stovepiping that led to flawed decisions," Mr. White said. "They’re going to re-stovepipe, which is precisely what we spent a decade trying to stamp out, with the US government's left hand often not knowing what the right was doing."

Why is that a problem? Because people like White fear, if it were to happen, that the US will be less likely to piece together bits of disparate information and head off terror plots against it. This, say White and others, is a big reason that terror attacks such as 9/11 have succeeded.

Assange disagrees. Earlier this month, he told Time magazine that pushing the US towards greater secrecy is a goal, and implies that it's more likely to push the current US system closer to collapse.

Assange, the guru of managerial efficiency?


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