THE founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has been taking shelter in the embassy of Ecuador in London since last summer, fearing arrest and eventual extradition to the United States. The man who leaked the classified US diplomatic cables, Bradley Manning, pleaded guilty to the charge in February in the hope of escaping the more serious allegation of “aiding the enemy”. WikiLeaks, however, is continuing to play a valuable part in bringing to light information that the US apparently wanted hidden from the public eye. In a move that will prove invaluable no doubt to researchers, on Monday it launched the ‘Public Library of US Diplomacy’, a searchable archive containing 1.7 million US State Department documents from 1973 to 1976, known as the ‘Kissinger Cables’. The archive includes the 250,000 cables leaked by WikiLeaks in 2010. The latest cables had been declassified but could be accessed only through the US National Archives in a non-searchable PDF format. With all this information now available at the click of a mouse, light is bound to be shed on parts of history that have so far been kept under wraps.
The charges against Mr Assange have yet to be proved or disproved, but what’s certain is that the US is unhappy with the leaks. However, the US administration and indeed all other governments around the world need to understand that in the digital age the old tricks of doing business — dabbling in shady manoeuvres and then keeping mum about it — is increasingly unviable. With methods of mass dissemination easily available, and the ability to remain anonymous, there will always be whistleblowers. If just for this reason, governments need to keep their hands clean and records pristine. Since governments are accountable to their people, they need to operate with greater transparency and fairness.