By Niraj Lal, WikiLeaks Party National Council member
with images by Banksy
No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men.
– Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States of America, The New Freedom, 1913
A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.
– The 14th Dalai Lama
The truth shall set you free.
– John 8:32
The greatest achievement of Wikileaks isn’t the exposure of 15,000 unreported civilian deaths in Iraq. Nor the corruption in Kenya, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, and countless countries around the world. Nor the exposure of the Church of Scientology, or the British National Party, or Stephen Conroy’s Internet filter, or the behaviour of Barclays, Kaupthing and the Julius Baer Bank. Nor the documentation of generations of global political fealty to the US State Department. Nor the exposure of vast privatised surveillance across continents.
No. The greatest achievement of Wikileaks is to help make a world where people with power who do stupid shit can get found out. To make governments of the future pause before they commit to the unethical, illegal or unconstitutional. To make those who would commit acts of atrocity consider the possibility of future exposure. Who polices the police? The people.
The common response to the expanding surveillance of our lives is ‘well, if you don’t do anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide’. But this argument is stronger for those wielding power. Those wielding lethal force, those who hold the powers of surveillance and those funded by our taxes. The idea of Wikileaks helps this scrutiny take place. The idea of the Wikileaks Party is to take this scrutiny to the Australian parliament.
It isn’t love letters that should be surveilled, nor facebook posts, nor family phone calls, but the decisions to go to illegal wars, the conversations to negotiate free trade agreements that are anything but, the analysis that leads to foreign bases on Australian soil, and the billion dollar deals between governments and arms manufacturers for military equipment that we questionably need.
“To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day” Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography in 1913. One hundred years hence, the task is still before us.
In Australia’s austerity budget of 2013, when our nation was unable to afford action on climate change, health, education or post a surplus, we managed to increase defence spending by 5%. But we didn’t bat an eyelid. This included $2,900,000,000 on electronic attack aircraft, and $91,000,000 on Information Communications Technology. Programs that compliment what the Washington Post describes as America’s $52,600,000,000 Black Budget for the National Intelligence Program, to conduct bulk surveillance of the planet – or at least those of us that happen to use Google, Apple, Microsoft, Skype, Facebook, Yahoo or Youtube.
It is worth pausing to consider the equivalent surveillance we are under today, 40 years ago would have been:
Australia Post postmen steaming open our every envelope at the post office, photocopying it, keeping it on file (in case we commit a future crime), and resealing it for forwarding. Telecom Australia placing bugs on our phones and recording our every call. Every shop assistant recording our every purchase, just in case a future intelligence agency would like to look at it. All without judicial oversight.
Would we have allowed this in a world without the internet? Does our use of the internet mean we must resign to this surveillance? I don’t think so. Certainly not without increased scrutiny of those who watch us, commit our men and women to war, and spend our taxes. Wikileaks and the Wikileaks Party provides a way to shove the pendulum of surveillance the other way.
Wikileaks shouldn’t have been as revolutionary idea as it was. The role it plays is what mainstream media should do as a matter of course. That it created such a stir is a statement of the paucity of current media. But it is an idea that can’t be stopped.
The WIkileaks Party is an expression of this idea in Australia’s parliamentary democracy. The Australian Senate is our house of review – the chamber in which we scrutinise legislation and government expenditure. The Wikileaks Party brings the disinfectant of sunlight to this chamber. And whilst the party is young, the principles behind it are old:
“There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.”
– Joseph Pulitzer
“For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.”
– Mark 4:22
Nij is a member of the National Council of the Wikileaks Party.
The images in this piece are by Banksy. We don’t think he cares about copyright, but you should check out his website and buy something from his shop.
In unrelated matters, Nij researches how to make solar panels better at the Australian National University; is the current ACT Young Tall Poppy of the Year; graduated with a PhD in physics as a Gates Scholar from the University of Cambridge; and used to work as a cycle courier in Perth.