TED Conversations

Daniel Sheehan


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Where do we stand on on WikiLeaks?

To what extent should we support or oppose WikiLeaks?
Are there limits to what should be exposed to the public by investigators? And who should decide these limits?
When corruption is exposed through leaks how far up or down the ladder should we assign responsibility?
How should bias in reporting leaks be balanced?
If these leaks are produced for corrupt purposes how do we deal with it?
How can we present and prosecute exposed corruption in the public theater without it turning into a witch-hunt?


Closing Statement from Daniel Sheehan

A great deal of this conversation has been on whether our governments have a right to keep secrets from us. Many have pointed out corruptions that the secrets have protected, others site our loss of privacy at the hands of our governments.
Also many insist that transparency is protection from the abuses of authority by the people that we place our most sensitive information with, but few agree that "total transparency" can be achieved or as an over all goal is appropriate.
But it is clear that we believe that whistle blowers should be protected from retaliation.

I believe that we have an increasing problem with the "Free Press" which has become more of a commercialized or biased press that is more concerned with profits or has fallen to the hands of specialized interests, and is enthralled by the depthless mirrored image of spectacle. What had once been an instrument of information now serves mainly to incite and titillate the masses.

It's my opinion that WikiLeaks, and sites like it that supply an outlet for whistle blowers, should have our support as members of the Fourth Estate.

A grateful thank you to everyone that has participated in this discussion.

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    Oct 23 2012: I support wikileaks on the following basis:

    Language and communication constitue the primary advantage of humans.
    However, if we turn that advantage against each other we lose the advantage as a species.

    If communication is laced with untruth and concealment, then it is indicative of turning the advantage of communication against the species.

    Conversely, if you do not consider the species worthy of such great advantage, lies and secrets are the ideal way to exterminate it.

    However, nothing is ever that cut-and-dried. A person can, in all honesty utter an untruth. This is becasue of the gap between perception and reality. So we must be prepared to demand evidence and unbiased confirmations.

    Now to the assumption that other groups of people posit a threat to "us". If this is true, then it makes sense not to empower these "others" with knowledge of your weaknesses. .. mind you, that is admitting to weaknesses .. and perhaps it would work better to fix the weaknesses rather than hide them..
    But well, yes, it can occur that "others" have motive to harm "us". I suspect it's a whole lot less than we are lead to believe, but OK - sure, threats exist.
    Why do threats exist?
    Perhaps some work could be done to reduce the threat motives?

    But, you will say, "what about Adolf Hitler?" ..

    Hmm true - psychopath wasn't he?

    Well, how about, instead of registering just paedophiles, we also register psychopaths?

    So to reduce threat motives, address our own weaknesses and detect the damage caused by psychopaths .. and at the same time restore our species advantage?

    Hey - i suppose having access to the truth will help - so long as we acknowledge that people can sometimes be honestly wrong.
    (Edit: BTW - if you appoint someone to represent your interests - would you expect to have access to what they are doing in your name? Probably, And - would it be also reasonable that your appointee has complete access to your information outside of the scope of the appointment? Um .. why?)
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      Oct 23 2012: (Quote): "Now to the assumption that other groups of people posit a threat to "us". If this is true, then it makes sense not to empower these "others" with knowledge of your weaknesses. .. mind you, that is admitting to weaknesses .. and perhaps it would work better to fix the weaknesses rather than hide them."

      Mitch, having a secret is not necessarily admitting a weakness. It can also be hiding a strength. It only becomes a weakness when the strength becomes "public" knowledge, and then a "threat to us" knows how to counter that previously secret strength. Then it becomes a weakness that can be very costly (again) to develop a new strength.

      That's why places like Area 51 exist and the government doesn't give public tours of them. And why the military and the government keep some military capabilities secret. And other capabilities of other disciplines associated with "national security".
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        Oct 23 2012: No, I can't follow that arguement ..

        You are saying that strength is more effective when it is hidden?

        Let me ask you - do you break the speed limit when there's a cop driving behind you?

        Or this one: is the mouse aware of teh strength in the trap?

        Why do we hide a strength? - There can be 2 reasons:
        1. Because we want to entrap victims. This is a psychopathic activity.
        2. Because there is no strength - we are using the cloak to generate a mythical strength that will act as well as a real one.

        For instance - along the roads in my country are speed cameras in little boxes-on-poles. THere are warnings about these cameras on prominent sign-posts up to 1 kilometre approaching the cameras.

        All the drivers cease speeding and drop up to 5 KPH below the limit until the camera-box is past, then resume speeding up to 5KPH over the limit.

        Many of these speed cameras are just empty boxes - but the affect is the same.

        So either, USA has a weakness that should be filled by more than an empty box, or it is a psychopath who is eager to spring the trap.
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          Oct 23 2012: Love you Mitch Smith. Been watching Julia Gillard on tv here getting annoyed about misogyny. Been watching US presidential candidates as well. Want to offer M.C. Escher visual metaphor sky and water to debate nature of communities. Love Aussie history, love creationist stories. Lots of clues about behaviour of humans in etiology of texts. Cheers for feedback on 'free will' debate. Did you ever watch the Hollywood movie 'The Green Mile' Did you ever see the cartoon 'Pinky and the Brain'. From your picture probably about the same chronological age, did you ever see cartoon 'Top Cat'. USA import on NZ tv in 1970s. What teamwork - and the purpose ? Pinky and the Brain - one is a genius and the other insane. Lab mice who must be back in their cages before dawn breaks or they will be dissected. So similar to NZ creationist myths about getting of fire and other myths about visiting the dead etc. Conflict always ultimately about surviving with minimal damage to self so can live to fight another day. Have a look at another of Escher's visual metaphors about the Tower of Babel. Hours of fun.
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        Oct 23 2012: My apology for the either/or falacy.

        There is another angle:

        If you are already in a conflict, then you will have motive to spring traps defensively.
        Best keep them secret so that your enemy is murdered.

        But one has to ask - what is the conflict about?
        Why is there a conflict and what are the objectives of winning it?
        Are these objectives worth it?
        Could the conflict be terminated by addressing the "enemies' motive?

        I had a friend who became a paranoid schizophrenic. He was convinced that there was a bike-gang camped on the other side of a hill that were planning to come in the night and murder him and his family. He kept firearms and layed early-warning devices and booby traps to stop the bike gang.
        We took him to the other side of the hill and showed him that there were no bikies, but he insisted that they saw us coming and covered their tracks.
        Not long after that, he shot himself with one of the firearms "to protect his family" the note said.
        It took us a few days to dismantle his booby traps.
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          Oct 23 2012: While I will agree with some of your conclusions, I have to disagree with them as being "all inclusive".

          I have a "secret" warplane. I may have to put a human pilot in it to defend my country if my country is attacked. Keeping the capabilities of that aircraft secret prevents an enemy from learning how to counter its effectiveness, not to mention more easily destroy the aircraft and kill the human pilot flying it in a combat situation. As long as the aircraft's capabilities are secret, it is a strength (advantage). If I tell all the secrets about it's strength to everybody, it is THEN a weakness.

          So I keep it's strengths a secret. That makes me a psychopath?

          Don't think so. How psychopathic (moral?) would it be to send that pilot into combat and just before he/she took off, I tell him/her, "Oh, by the way. We told the enemy everything about the defensive capabilities of your aircraft, so they are probably gonna be able to shoot you down now and you will die. Have a nice flight."

          There's a reason all those F-111's and B-2 Stealth aircraft were so effective in bombing Baghdad and we didn't lose any aircrew members during the process. (No...I don't want to get into a debate about the Iraq War here. Not topic relative).
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        Oct 23 2012: ERm .. Rick ..

        I did expand the range of inclusion. And I'd like to explore that range.
        But the assumption of conflict falls into paranoia if there is no conflict.
        It is not advantageous to cite the Gulf - that was a clear example of psychopathy on the part of US administration. Specially since I discovered that Haliburton had already arranged the re-build projects before the war was announced. Personal discovery that was - not quoting some youtube conspiracy flick.

        So, by your own arguement, you require military secrets to engage in questionable agressions?
        The fixation on hardware seems interesting, specially when Iran landed one of your drones recently. Your estranged hand seems to be under the control of others - if they could do that, do you not question why they have not strangled you with it?
        Could it be that they have greater wisdom about the dangers of paranoia?
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          Oct 23 2012: Your whole argument is based on the assumption of "questionable aggression". Not everybody would agree with you about that, like maybe the Kuwait population that was currently occupied by the Iraqi military forces, nor the Saudi government who may have been next on the list of Iraq's invasion forces.

          Oh, by the way, your Haliburton comparison is irrational. When we invaded Germany and Japan to end WW2, we already had plans in place on how to re-build those countries after the war too. Those plans included american corporate businesses providing goods and support for the rebuilding.

          I'll agree to disagree with you. We aren't going to change each other's minds.
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        Oct 23 2012: Just to balance this out a bit, I will admit to one scenario where I employed a secret for self-defence:

        I had sacked an employee becuase he was threatening violence to the other employees.
        He came to my house and broke 2 of my ribs (His ex Navy training I suppose - but i did not attempt to defend - good thing because it would escalate the attack).
        After that i installed razor blades on my window sills - this fellow had a record for break-and-enter.
        I filed an asault charge against him.
        He came to my home again and demanded entrance - the plate-glass door was locked.
        When he realised that I was not going to unlock the door, he backed up to get enough momentum to smash through.
        So i stepped back and grabbed a length of steel which i concealed behind my body - my secret weapon. He saw the concealment and, in his mind had to evaluate if it was a firearm or a knife.
        This made him back down.

        So. There was an existing conflict - had my oponent seen that my weapon was flimsy, he might have executed the attack - but he would have died from head injury as he blinked coming through the glass.
        My oponent was a psychopath.
        My mistake was to have anything to do with him in the first place. He was a conflict just waiting to happen.
        If I had a firearm, it would take only one glance for him to back down .. I was confident of winning, but the subterfuge prevented a killing.
        Once again - strength in demonstration is better than subterfuge.
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        Oct 23 2012: LOL So the USA wants to keep secrets so that it can use agression to enrich US companies!

        Well, that's no surprise.

        You need secrecy to bolster your imperialism and rapacious greed.
        You also need it to keep your people repressed. Based on recent defensive moves to greater secrecy,The real enemy of the USA seems to be primarily the people of the USA.

        We are all watching on with great interest to see how the USA defeats itself.
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          Oct 23 2012: "The real enemy of the USA seems to be primarily the people of the USA."

          There's a lot of truth to that Mitch, depending on how it is interpreted.

          And just to be sure, you and I are fine as far as I'm concerned too. One of the great things about the U.S. is that it allows debate, regardless of how controversial it may become. I base my beliefs on my life experiences, which as you mentioned concerning this topic are primarily "military oriented". So if I use an aircraft as an example as why we need to have some secrets, it's based on my experiences of why it is needed that way.

          My main "debate" in this whole topic is the OP's question about "leaks". Doesn't matter to me if it is Wikileaks or an individual citizen doing it. Or a "whistleblower". A leak is a leak. The OP asked questions, and I tried to answer them from my experience and perspective. And my main point has been that a totally transparant, secret-free society is not a viable nor rational expectation to solve perceived problems. My experience indicates it causes more problems not only for a government, but also for the citizens of that country. Obviously, there are people in the world who don't agree with that for whatever reasons they may believe. That's not unexpected by me with a country of 350 million people and a world with 7 billion people, all of whom can have different opinions.

          I'm fine with your position. I spent 25+ years of my life defending your right to state it.
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        Oct 23 2012: Maybe you take a look at this compilation of all revealed truths from the past.


        If he American people at the time had known the truth that was denied over and over by the government the world today would be a much better place.
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          Oct 23 2012: Can't really respond to the credibility of that link, Frans. People will go to and believe whatever sources they want to believe in. Kinda like if they have a pre-conceived notion about the "truth" to begin with, they will search for information that only supports their pre-conceived views. There is not much of anything really objective on that link. It revolves around a pre-conceived notion, then the information on it supports that notion.

          It's like conservatives and liberals choosing to get their information from FOX or CNN or wherever they feel "group membership" agrees with them. They will go to the site that supports their own views to begin with, then use those sites as "proof" of any "truth".
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        Oct 23 2012: I understand your doubts Rick but for me it is what it is.

        I've seen most of it before on documentaries from the BBC and German national broadcasting channels that all don't have any interest than to expose the truth.
        You're not that young so most faces and names has to be familiar to you and are traceable on the net.
        A lot of CIA people involved in those stories gave account of the facts after retirement that confirm every opposing voice that spoke at the time those things where actually happening.
        I remember one guy that got a bag of money on several missions as some new president was elected in a South - or Middle American state that planned reforming the state of affairs. His mission was to offer the money with a threat that if the new elected was heading on that way a horrible accident could happen to him.

        Those things happened.
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          Oct 24 2012: Hi Franz,

          I know these things happened.

          In the 1990's my family gave refuge to a young girl from El Salvadore.
          Her family had been smuggled out of El Salvadore by the Catholic church .. well . what was left of her family anyway.
          Her mother had been so comprehensively brutalised and tortured by rebels, government and street gangs that she was the "pinup-girl" for Amnesty International who used her as a a PR object for their own agendas.
          The family had become so dysfunctional from teh trauma and harm that the daughter had to be separated in order to apply healing and nurture.
          Our own community services people warned us to not even try to do this. In a way they were right, our country simply did not have adequate resources to support our nurture.
          we did our best, but the girl ended up in teh garbage-bin of teh state "correctional" system - a one way ticket to prostitution and drug dependence.
          Through this we became aware of teh propogating stain of harm that radiates through families and their communities and down the generations - undiminished until it is healed.
          And where did that stain originate?
          The USA.
          Call me leftist, but I know - I have seen first-hand that the right wing is formed by child abuse - the right wing is a disease that does not want to be healed.
          I don't need any conspiracy theory - i have seen it in the streets, i have seen it in gangland, in government approved motorcycle gangs and brothels, in corporations from teh bottom to the top, in the churches and in the judiciary. Personally seen it all.
          Most people are brilliant - most people are reasonable, most people have empathy and compassion.
          It's the psychopaths. And it is the sociopaths that they create by damaging the children.

          We, as a species have urgent need to weed-out these monsters and bend our entire resource to finding a cure for them - and to identify them so that good people can make their own decisions regarding them.
          This is the only issue worth fighting for.
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        Oct 24 2012: Hey Rick, many thanks for having the heart to engage in robust discussion!

        I concede in philosophy and personal experience that secrets are necessary in conflict.
        However, one must examine the conflict.
        I have been in a few fist-fights - mostly growing up in a violent community, but also later in day-to-day life.
        About half of the conflicts i got entangled in I resolved by not fighting. Some were resolved by demonstrating superior strength before the violence erupted, some I had to just punch out. Of the full-on punch ups, i usually terminated the conflict by guaging when the oponent's adrenalin had subsided (pride satisfied) and found a political "excuse" to terminate the agression before someone got killed. Of all those fights, the factors were psychopathy, sociopathy, alcohol-induced delusional paranoia, tribal agression (a form of psychopathy) or male sexual competition (another form of psychopathy - testosterone induced).

        All of these factors are open to "gaming" by third parties. Such gaming also falls into the realm of psychopathy/sociopathy.

        It is the third party gaming dynamic that generates secrets through the conflict loophole - and they widen the conflict loophole as wide as they can in order to cover their lies - the role of secrets is to prevent the entire conflict collapsing on themselves.

        But back to the topic - a whistleblower is someone who's loyalty is violated by conflict between the organisational objective and the whistleblower's wider value system. Without some kind of haven, the whistleblower will be prevented or punished by the organisation as a demonstration to other potential whistleblowers. Wikileaks provides that haven.

        As an aside - if Assange is touched, the USA administration will have another conflict to worry about. We all like to believe that we have recourse to our own values - if supression of that potential is demonstrated, all people of conscience will become the enemy of any administration involved. I see Gulags.

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