Keeping War Secrets Is a Losing Battle

Secrecy is the soul of business, and there is no business more secret than war. Or at least that was the case before the online organization WikiLeaks made 90,000 secret documents concerning the war in Afghanistan available to the public. The WikiLeaks website specializes in telling secrets; it is the Deep Throat* of the Internet age. WikiLeaks has already suggested to the government of Iceland that the Nordic island serve as a sanctuary for journalists and their confidential sources, with laws to protect the leak of information like the Cayman Islands protect tax evaders.

This week WikiLeaks and its founder, Australian journalist Julian Assange, provoked Washington. The ease with which WikiLeaks obtained and circulated information from a situation that requires secrecy proves that these organizations are here to stay — at least in democratic countries. (After all, soldiers are addicted to social networking websites and walk around armed with mobile phones that have recording devices.) Countries that ignore this can only continue to rely on their soldiers’ oath of loyalty and silence. Because leaks are unavoidable, democracies have no alternative but to teach their troops not to disappoint and their citizens not to assume that wars are invitations to tea. This last battle is almost impossible to win.

*Translator’s Note: Deep Throat was the secret informant in the Watergate case.

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