In Taking Stock of WikiLeaks, by George Friedman (Stratfor Consulting), a well known geopolicy analyst, provides the best snapshot yet of the overall panorama of the big Wikileaks facts and issues. It frames them from the perspective of someone who deals with geopolitical people and realities every day, as opposed to the legions of journalists, pundits, bloggers and entertainers who have saturated the Internet with every conceivable position, posture, and permutation on this interesting—but which might not ultimately prove all that significant of a—moment in our global digital history.

While it never really takes a strong position about the rightness or wrongness, it does appear to find that question irrelevant, as it marks down many extravagant claims by Assange, and others, that the entire affair matters much at all—except perhaps to the people blogging it for hit traffic, and those career government spooks who will be tasked with keeping our future secrets.

I don’t like to give anyone else the final word, but in this case Robert Gates’ view is definitive. One can pretend that WikiLeaks has redefined geopolitics, but it hasn’t come close.

Is this just an insider wonk's pragmatic take on this hyperbolic issue, or another attempt to minimize the entire issue for the benefit of the administration, and those defense industry CEOs in desperate need of pithy poolside remarks that debunk all those shrill civil libertarians? You can decide for yourself.

As for me, while I know it's not stylish to withhold judgment on breaking issues, I've remained relatively agnostic on the whole Wikileaks show.  I think it contains many thorny issues that should not be discussed too cavalierly by the uninformed public, who are quick to make bad decisions about complex things, nor too openly vetted by the really informed professionals for fear that someone can wind up with a lot of scratches—or dead.  It's certainly one of the trickier issues to responsibly parse as we've seen in a very long time.

My working, but still tentative position is that releasing this stuff is a crime, and must be one, but publishing it is perfectly legal, and must remain so. The government's jihad against Assange and Wikileaks is probably far more about looking tough before our allies, and intimidating future leakers, than any  concerns about national security. Michael Moore's passion for drama, notwithstanding, this may not actually be all that big a deal, when you strip away all the hyperbole and what if scenarios. But then again, it might be in ways we can't see yet. I am not Glenn Greenwald, so I don't have to be sure of my position on anything.

It would be absurd to suggest that espionage or treason be legal, just as it would be ridiculous to block the truth once it is released. That's why I've encouraged people to download a copy of the Wikileaks data and keep it safe for history.  The problem I have with it all is "whose truth is it, anyway?"  It's very easy to see future leaks being gamed for their disinformation value, just as it's easy to see even our casual confidences now being hidden more deeply, and our really big secrets getting burrowed so deeply that almost no one will ever know what or where they are.

But as I said, I am still grokking all this, so while I try to figure all this out in my own head, I look for good explainers that help me grasp those nasty nagging nuances. This article, while clearly taking a policy wonk's dismissive tone toward any claims of revolutionary importance, is nonetheless the best overall summary of this fascinating story that I have read.

Pass it on. It's useful.

Read: Taking Stock of WikiLeaks


Clay Shirky: Wikileaks and the Long Haul

Video: NYU's Jay Rosen on Wikileaks


Hat tip to my long time friend @fantomaster for alerting me to this item