I will try not to rant as I type this, I promise. But I am so cross this post may not come out as even coherent. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen me try to convey my fury in 140 characters over the cables that have been ‘released’ through Wikileaks.
Now, I’ve looked at the website, I read the Madeleine McCann files on that bizarre disappearance in Portugal, and I do think that some of the information on there is valuable. However, this latest volley of information that people are getting excited about; that’s headlining every news bulletin; and for those who are saying ‘If you close down Wikileaks, you can kiss freedom of information goodbye’ or screaming ‘Censorship!’ has really distressed and angered me.
I worked for the Ministry of Defence, I was a Civil Servant in the UK, and while I now work for a government-funded department here, I am still bound by two legal documents; The Official Secrets Act and The Victorian Government Code Of Conduct. On starting any job in MOD you sign the OSA, when you leave or get posted you sign the OSA. I still cannot divulge confidential material, and I stopped working for the MOD years ago.
My first husband was in the Army, while we were married, he was sent to Bosnia on tour, providing peace keeping in a still volatile country, nearly ten years after he was first posted there as part of the UN troops that went in in the early 90s. No-one should have to have a conversation that starts:
‘We need to talk about how you want to be told if I’m injured or killed while I’m out there.’
And yet, that is exactly what conversation every single spouse, or partner, or son, or daughter, or parent has to have when someone they love is preparing for deployment. Do you choose a high-ranking officer, or a Priest, or a Padre to come to tell you someone you love has been killed? Do you want to be woken in the middle of the night, or would you prefer to wait and be told in the morning? Do you want their picture to be released and make a public statement, because as soon as they are seriously injured or killed, their name HAS to be released. Your only option for some privacy is not to make a statement, and not release a picture, but then you have to think about the papers in the UK who will hound your family and friends for quotes on your behalf, before sending cameras to funerals to get pictures of grieving spouses, ideally children.
This latest information released through Wikileaks is highly sensitive. It’s not about freedom of information. Top secret cables around diplomatic matters; conversations between Hillary Clinton and Kevin Rudd; information on vital infrastructure cabling, buildings and facilities, not only what they are, but where they are, is unravelling everything people have spent years fighting to hold onto.
People complain about having to go through extra security at airports. What do you think is likely to happen if a suicide bomber tipped up at a innocuous office building, blowing himself up and bringing down vital satellite communications? What do you think is likely to happen to troops already fighting in high-risk areas, defending people who have been persecuted by regimes that are at best, brutal; stoning people to death for adultery.
People here are still complaining about not getting the world cup, losing out to Qatar. Here homosexuals are able to move around freely. There they have to live in hiding, for fear of being given lashes. I think losing the world cup is the least of our worries this week, given the proverbial hitting the fan in the name of the ‘public’s right to know’ – there are 1000s of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, what do you think the diplomatic feeling is out there at the moment towards foreign soldiers, no matter what flag is on their shoulder?
My ex-husband wasn’t out on tour very long to Bosnia, he was brought back on short notice because a routine operation went wrong and he wasn’t fit to serve, but standing on my own in a queue buying Christmas decorations for a house with only me in was one of the worst days of my life, I had never been filled with such despair. When I met him, he’d been in the Army for over 15 years. He’d been to the Gulf twice, Bosnia three times, the Falklands twice, Germany, Kosovo. We had 7 addresses in 5 years. You relied on the other military families to get you through. Being an Army wife immediately gave you a connection with your neighbour.
I am incandescent with rage because military families all over the world are now in a much more precarious position. Because people are too stupid, and are not looking far enough forward, to see what damage these leaks are going to have. Diplomatic relationships take years to build, releasing what has been said in a closed meeting between two countries about a third is not a wise move. On the news tonight they are now starting to blame the US for the information contained in the cables, no, you should be blaming the person who is releasing them, that is why they are closed meetings. Blame the moronic Julian Assange for publishing them, endangering millions of people on the planet because of his hubris.
This is no longer about censorship, this is no longer about the public’s right to know, this will threaten homeland security for every single one of us.