Friday, 10 December 2010

Wikileaks: so someone offers you stolen property. What do you do?

As the wikileaks saga continues, immorality and extraordinary rationalisations for it also seem to be escalating.

The most extreme example of this is the hacker attacks on Visa and Mastercard, fair game apparently in the eyes of wikileaks supporters because they refused to process donations to Wikileaks.

But let's consider too, the question of who is to blame.

Lax security

An understandably upset and annoyed Mr Rudd has attacked the US for its lax security.  Fair enough.  It is absolutely extraordinary that a lowly corporal could have access to such a wide variety and volume of material and be able to get away with downloading it and passing it to third parties.

Former Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull - at least consistent in his position given his use of Godwin Grech to undermine Australian Government confientiality - thinks openness is a great thing.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that, whoever the leaker was, he passed on the material illegally.

So if someone gives you stolen property, and you know it is stolen, where does your duty lie?

Fencing and making use of stolen property

Except in very unusual circumstances indeed it is certainly not to just use the property yourself and actively facilitate others to do likewise.  Indeed, knowingly on-selling stolen property  - fencing - generally is considered a crime.  So is making a profit out of its use.

And that is what both Assange and newspapers such as the Fairfax press are doing.

And yes, I know Assange doesn't directly charge newspapers for the cables. But just because he uses a business model appropriate for the modern era doesn't make it any less a commercial proposition, and less unauthorized use of stolen property for either him or the newspapers he is drip feeding the cables to.

Justified by the nature of what is revealed?

There could of course be a possible defense in the public good from the release of the material: uncovering outright crimes for example that would otherwise continue, or go unpunished. 

But can such as case really be made for the material that has been released so far?  So far its largely been about gossip, opinion and behind the scenes manoeuvring, not crime.

In reality the motivation for its release seems to be a dislike for and desire to undermine American and other Western Government policies.  Whatever your views on those policies, its not a good enough rationale, at least in Catholic thinking, for undermining our system of government and aiding those who wish to bring it down.

Annabel Crabb has named wikileaks as The North Korea of the Internet.  Indeed.

No surprise that the Green-front Get Up is now launching a campaign to support Assange.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your points are well made. When, I wonder, can we expect an exposure of the inner workings and funding of GetUp? (That of course, would be written off in PC-land as an outrageous breach of privacy.)