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Alum speaks out against WikiLeaks

An information leak can cause quite an uproar.

WikiLeaks, an international media organization devoted to revealing classified information from anonymous sources, released a wave of U.S. diplomatic information Sunday that included comments U.S. officials privately made about other world leaders.

Larry Sanger, Ohio State alumnus and cofounder of Wikipedia, said the recent leak could sour U.S. foreign relations.

Many world leaders share Sanger’s concerns.

According to news reports, Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, described the leaks as the “Sept. 11 of world diplomacy.”

On Thursday and Friday, Sanger wrote a series of Tweets saying that WikiLeaks is an enemy of the U.S. and should be dealt with accordingly.

“I always felt that if I’m in a position to have a positive impact on the world, I feel it’s my duty to do what I can,” Sanger said in a telephone interview with The Lantern Tuesday.

Besides the most recent leak, WikiLeaks released thousands of classified documents in the past year about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The very problem with WikiLeaks, in my opinion, is that it’s irresponsibly dangerous,” Sanger said.

Officials at WikiLeaks were not available for comment, and Sanger said he could not remember ever speaking with Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.

Assange is a former hacker. The governments of Sweden, Australia and now the United States are after Assange, Sanger said.

“He’s an international outlaw,” Sanger said. “He keeps doing things that directly attack … perfectly legitimate government operations.”

Sanger said Assange contends that absolute openness and transparency are necessary components in government.

Sanger does not agree.

“There are certain things that, if revealed, would violate the privacy of individuals not associated with the government,” Sanger said.

John Mueller, professor of political science and Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies at OSU, questioned the impact of the leaks.

“There are laws being broken by some people releasing the material, but the question is, why was this a secret in the first place?” Mueller said.

Some of the leaked information contained statements government officials made in private. Mueller said that although that might be embarrassing, there hasn’t been an awe-inspiring revelation to come out of the leaks. Still, Mueller said some criticism is justified.

“I can see why people are concerned about it,” he said. “Secrecy is not all that compatible with democracy.”

Some news organizations, including The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, did not publish the information provided by WikiLeaks. The New York Times did.

“They’ve done something wrong. By essentially giving the WikiLeaks an extremely prominent platform and endorsement … they’ve done something that could be really damaging to the United States,” Sanger said.

Throughout the week, Sanger has dealt with the controversy from his Twitter statements. But he hasn’t backed off from the statement and wants to make clear that Wikipedia is not associated with WikiLeaks in any way.

A “wiki” is a website that lets Web users edit and create linked pages. WikiLeaks has strayed from that definition, as it can be edited only by WikiLeaks employees.

Besides making that distinction, Sanger said he felt obligated to take a stance.

“To our cynical world, it’s going to sound a little ridiculous,” Sanger said. “But I really did think of it as my patriotic duty.”

Sanger earned his master’s and doctoral degree in philosophy from OSU in 1995 and 2000, respectively.

News reports from MCT wire service contributed to this story. 

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