Wikileaks exposed people to greater risk: Clinton

Accusing WikiLeaks of theft of government documents, Hillary Clinton said that the online publication of secret cables by the whistle-blower website has endangered the lives of human rights activists across the globe.

Last Updated: Feb 16, 2011, 10:17 AM IST

Washington: Accusing WikiLeaks of theft
of government documents, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
said that the online publication of secret cables by the
whistle-blower website has endangered the lives of human
rights activists across the globe.

"Without commenting on the authenticity of any
particular documents, we can observe that many of the cables
released by WikiLeaks relate to human rights work carried on
around the world," Clinton said in her speech on internet
freedom at the George Washington University.
"Our diplomats closely collaborate with activists,
journalists, and citizens to challenge the misdeeds of
oppressive governments. It is dangerous work. By publishing
diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks exposed people to even greater
risk," she said.

Noting that government confidentiality has been a
topic of debate during the past few months because of
WikiLeaks, she said but this been a false debate in many ways.

"Fundamentally, the WikiLeaks incident began with an
act of theft. Government documents were stolen, just the same
as if they had been smuggled out in a briefcase," she said.

"Some have suggested that this theft was justified
because governments have a responsibility to conduct all of
our work out in the open in the full view of our citizens. I
respectfully disagree," Clinton said.

The US Secretary of State said that America could
neither have provided its citizens` security nor promote the
cause of human rights and democracy around the world if it had
to make public every step of its efforts.
"Confidential communication gives our government the
opportunity to do work that could not be done otherwise.
Consider our work with former Soviet states to secure loose
nuclear material. By keeping the details confidential, we make
it less likely that terrorists or criminals will find the
nuclear material and steal it for their own purposes," Clinton
argued.

Observing that confidentiality was essential
especially in the internet age when dangerous information
could be sent around the world with the click of a keystroke,
she said "but of course, governments also have a duty to be
transparent. We govern with the consent of the people, and
that consent must be informed to be meaningful."

"We must be judicious about when we close off our work
to the public, and we must review our standards frequently to
make sure they are rigorous," she said.

"In the US, we have laws designed to ensure that the
government makes its work open to the people, and the Obama
Administration has also launched an unprecedented initiative
to put government data online to encourage citizen
participation and to generally increase the openness of
government," Clinton said.

The US Government`s ability to protect America, to
secure the liberties of our people, and to support the rights
and freedoms of others around the world depends on maintaining
a balance between what?s public and what should and must
remain out of the public domain, she said.

"The scale should and will always be tipped in favour
of openness, but tipping the scale over completely serves no
one`s interests," she asserted.

"I said that the WikiLeaks incident began with a
theft, just as if it had been executed by smuggling papers in
a briefcase. The fact that WikiLeaks used the internet is not
the reason we criticized its actions. WikiLeaks does not
challenge our commitment to internet freedom," she said.

Clinton denied that the US Government ever intervened
to coerce private companies to deny service to WikiLeaks.

That is not the case, she said.

"Now, some politicians and pundits publicly called for
companies to disassociate from WikiLeaks, while others
criticized them for doing so. Public officials are part of our
country`s public debates, but there is a line between
expressing views and coercing conduct. Business decisions that
private companies may have taken to enforce their own values
or policies regarding WikiLeaks were not at the direction of
the Obama Administration," Clinton said.

PTI