WikiLeaks, media last bastions of trust for US

Underground author, Suelette Dreyfus, defends release of diplomat documents

The release of diplomatic documents by WikiLeaks last year has given people more insight into how the US government works according to Suelette Dreyfus.

Dreyfus is the author of Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier, the 1997 book that featured the exploits of Mendax — the hacker handle of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange.

Dreyfus told this week's Q&A show that people in the US now understand how their government worked behind "closed mahogany doors." She said that WikiLeaks has also shown that governments don't always act in the interests of their own people. "In that sense, it's a true whistle blower," Dreyfus said.

According to Dreyfus, WikiLeaks said the regulators of democracy have "failed" people and WikiLeaks, together with the media, was the last safeguard.

"I would say that the US is at a crisis point because it has become a surveillance state and the [National Security Agency] is intercepting 1.7 billion emails and telephone calls," Dreyfus said.

"People don't have the privacy they had 10 years ago. The reason that WikiLeaks has resonated with the population is because people are saying that the regulators of democracy have failed us and you do have corporate collapses because the regulators have failed us."

She also said that she was sad to see the US entering a period of decline with the second financial down turn. "That's a bad thing for the world."

Australian human rights advocate, Hanifa Deen, backed Dreyfus and said WikiLeaks was right to release Australian documents too.

"We are not good at political education in Australia so to lift the veil and see what is the reason behind decisions demystifies the whole process. We need to wake up and realise that this goes on and it's not in a diplomatic sphere," she said.

Former Coalition Senator ,Nick Minchin, disagreed with the rest of the panel and said it was "dreadful" that WikiLeaks exposed those diplomatic cables because diplomacy was how countries avoid war.

"For nations to remain at peace requires artful diplomacy," he said.

"If ambassadors and foreign embassy officials can't honestly report back to their governments on what is happening on the ground in those countries, which they now can't do because of the fear that the things they write will be exposed in the public arena, I think that will set back the course for diplomacy and I think that is bad for world peace," Minchin said.

Got a security tip-off? Contact Hamish Barwick at hamish_barwick at idg.com.au

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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