After watching a screening of the documentary ‘We Steal Secrets’, by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney on Wikileaks, Matt Taibbi sees a massive looming showdown with the public over state secrets. The recent government prosecutions of whistleblowers have, in Taibbi’s opinion “Reflected an obvious institutional terror of letting the public see the sausage-factory locked behind the closed doors not only of the state, but of banks and universities and other such institutional pillars of society.” And that terror indicates there are secrets far, far worse than the ones released by institutions like WikiLeaks. Which is truly frightening given what has already come out. Says Taibbi:
What will we find out? We already know that our armies mass-murder women and children in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, that our soldiers joke about smoldering bodies from the safety of gunships, that some of our closest diplomatic allies starve and repress their own citizens, and we may even have gotten a glimpse or two of a banking system that uses computerized insider trading programs to steal from everyone who has an IRA or a mutual fund or any stock at all by manipulating markets like the NYSE.
According to Taibbi, the government has effectively thwarted the attempts of individuals like Julian Assange and Bradley Manning with prolonged smear campaigns, but won’t be able to when more secrets are published by bigger institutions that have the ability to withstand immense government pressure:
But the stink is rising to the surface. It’s all coming out. And when it isn’t Julian Assange the next time but The New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian standing in the line of fire, the state will probably lose, just as it lost in the Pentagon Papers case, because those organizations will be careful to only publish materials clearly in the public interest – there’s no conceivable legal justification for keeping us from knowing the policies of our own country (although stranger things have happened).
The mass expansion of the internet has been closely mirrored by the rise of the security state, following the simple logic that there’s a lot of stuff the government doesn’t want us to know about. As the public’s ability to know exactly what their government’s are up to increases, so does the militancy of the government in finding and prosecuting those responsible for it.
And the thing is, neither side is backing down, making Taibbi’s prediction a near certainty.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.