I’m back to being dissatisfied with Public Forum debate topics. The February topic is “Resolved: Wikileaks is a threat to United States national security,” which is laughable taken at face value. I suppose it’s great for talking head punditry, but actually thinking? It’s not doing anything for me. Fortunately, buried deep in my RSS backlog, I had an article by Lawrence Lessig, who is pretty dang awesome — and was kind and generous enough to correspond with me when I was a lowly undergrad researching a term paper back in yesteryear — and he makes an honest case against the leaks that our culture has sprung which can actually work extensively on both sides of this topic because it’s nuanced like that, but I think it works best on the affirmative…
I heard on the radio the other day that YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are collaborating on a social short-video sharing site. They’re calling it YouTwitFace. Which is silly but it really talks to why the potential of naked transparency that Wikileaks iconifies is dangerous: It’s not so much that people shouldn’t have the unvarnished truth, but rather that they don’t have the attention span to rationally digest the information they’re getting, which is the crucial point that Lawrence Lessig writes about in “Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government”
Before we get there, let’s briefly clarify that we’re talking about Wikileaks as an icon of uncontrolled government openness which could happen anywhere — posting incriminating photos to Flickr or video to YouTube of, oh say, abuse at Abu Ghraib, or mentioning to a New York Times reporter the actual name of an otherwise covert CIA agent (Valerie Plame), or just recently Al Jazeera posting Israeli-Palestinian negotiation documentation. Wikileaks is not new and unique in the least, and is being directly mimicked by OpenLeaks, online as of January 27th, so we’ll be talking about it as phenomenon rather than thing. Lawrence Lessig summarizes the phenomenon thusly:
The pattern is familiar. The network disables a certain kind of control. The response of those who benefitted from that control is a frantic effort to restore it. Depending upon your perspective, restoration seems justified or not. But regardless of your perspective, restoration fails. Despite the best efforts of the most powerful, the control–so long as there is “an Internet”–is lost.
So what we’re up against is contending that access to this wealth of information is a likely detriment — that’s threat — to our national security, comprised of our ability to use economic, military and political power and exercise diplomacy to ensure the ongoing survival of our nation such as it is.
Sadly, it is not all that our civics teachers have told us America is supposed to be. Indeed, the past decade has painted America as a brutal imperialist plutocracy. The Bush administration invoked state secrecy 39 times to avoid having to defend itself from the rule of law, as Al Jazeera reports, while noting that the Obama administration has done it again so that the United States doesn’t have to defend itself from allegations that it kidnapped and tortured practically random people in ironic waging of its war on terror. Our government allowed financial engineers to go gambling with our money and then bailed them out when they lost to help ensure that they can keep their salaries and bonuses that make them wealthier than 90% of the nation, most of whom presumably weren’t nearly so woefully incompetent at the jobs they used to have. We’ve done a lot of dumb things that undermine our cultural narratives, and that’s why we have respectable and honorable people like Ron Paul, for example, going on the news and on the floor of congress saying we need more leaks like Wikileaks, more transparency that isn’t managed by the executive branch. He specifically wants to threaten how power is coalescing into readily abuseable form because that’s not what America is supposed to be.
But with all due respect to congressman Paul, using transparency to undermine the power structure of the nation, even to make the nation transparently better, is fraught with peril. Lawrence Lessig explains this position
How could anyone be against transparency? Its virtues and its utilities seem so crushingly obvious. But I have increasingly come to worry that there is an error at the core of this unquestioned goodness. We are not thinking critically enough about where and when transparency works, and where and when it may lead to confusion, or to worse. And I fear that the inevitable success of this movement–if pursued alone, without any sensitivity to the full complexity of the idea of perfect openness–will inspire not reform, but disgust. The “naked transparency movement,” as I will call it here, is not going to inspire change. It will simply push any faith in our political system over the cliff.
Basically Lessig is leery of how the naked transparency movement ignores how people inconsistently react to information. As Fung, Graham, and Weil describe in Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency,
[R]esponses to information are inseparable from their interests, desires, resources, cognitive capacities, and social contexts. Owing to these and other factors, people may ignore information, or misunderstand it, or misuse it. Whether and how new information is used to further public objectives depends upon its incorporation into complex chains of comprehension, action, and response.
The Boston Globe supports this, reporting on “How facts backfire“:
Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs.
Lessig wraps this up, noting that
there are overwhelming reasons why the data about influence that this movement would produce will not enable comparisons that are meaningful. This is not to say the data will not have an effect. It will. But the effect, I fear, is not one that anybody in the “naked transparency movement,” or any other thoughtful citizen, would want.
So what we’re saying here is that given a humanly-unconsumeable volume of information, people will pick out the pieces of information that best fit their frame and automatically discount anything — no matter how factual — that somebody else reports because they choose to disbelieve its frame. (When was the last time a conservative saw an honest report on MSNBC or a liberal something fair and balanced on Fox News?) The Iraqis will look to reports of US soldier misbehavior to justify feeling resentful towards the continued presence of heavily armed foreigners in their streets. (To be fair, really, when was the last time you saw heavily armed foreigners in your streets? We don’t need Wikileaks to tell us we wouldn’t like it.) Generally speaking, people will take the shortest bit of cognitive salve to let them get back to their private lives or cognitive irritant that finishes pushing them out of their quiet desperation. It’s sad, yeah, but just look at the staccato style of this debate — we don’t have time to get into genuinely in-depth reasoning here. Which goes directly to the crux of Lessig’s argument, that
This is the problem of attention-span. To understand something–an essay, an argument, a proof of innocence– requires a certain amount of attention. But on many issues, the average, or even rational, amount of attention given to understand many of these correlations, and their defamatory implications, is almost always less than the amount of time required. The result is a systemic misunderstanding–at least if the story is reported in a context, or in a manner, that does not neutralize such misunderstanding. The listing and correlating of data hardly qualifies as such a context. Understanding how and why some stories will be understood, or not understood, provides the key to grasping what is wrong with the tyranny of transparency… Once we have named it, you will begin to see the attention-span problem everywhere, in public and private life. Think of politics, increasingly the art of exploiting attention-span problems–tagging your opponent with barbs that no one has time to understand, let alone analyze. Think of any complex public policy issue, from the economy to debates about levels of foreign aid.
And if we get to a point where our government — or any societal authority, really — is being hounded by incomplete charges of double-dealing, incomprehensible protests of acting in bad faith, and half-baked accusations out outright malfeasance, then that authority, that government, is going to become too paralyzed to move in any direction, whether for good or ill. You’ll see that political and diplomatic and economic action become constrained such that their ability to preserve the security of their state — or in our case, the United States — is threatened. And you’ll see that the Tea Party got to televise a response to the State of the Union address.
That’s the aff case and I’m fairly certain that it’s too long, which I consider to be a flaw of the format as you may recall from a couple of months ago. I would summarize this case with an observation Carl Malamud made when writing about Lessig’s article: “Engraved on the walls of the U.S. Capitol are these words by Louis Brandeis: ‘The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.'” The threat that leaks pose doesn’t come from statecrafters like Russian foreign minister Sergie Lavrov, who says Russia isn’t going to treat the United States differently. The threat comes from the most ordinary of citizens believing that their errant notions — like “Obama is secretly muslim” according to 20% of the populous — are justified because the leaked information either proves it to be true of is a sneaky cover-up. That’s where the lunacy is, that’s where the ongoing threat to our democracy’s ability to function is, so that’s where the threat to our national security is, and Wikileaks and the whole leaky culture exacerbates the situation by dumping out spurious information of dubious accuracy for the masters of agendas to pick of and meme up as they see fit. Our nation is burning, and Wikileaks has a liquid to throw on it — which smells of gasoline.
But let’s pause to look back to Russia, and do check out the photo of Putin as he looks like he’d make a good Patrician of Ankh-Morpork if Lord Havelock Vetinari were to retire. Anyway, his perspective is rather cutting and different: leaks are threatening not because of what is leaked, but because of how poorly people — especially government officials — react to them.
But [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin] saved his tartest quote to slam what he sees as the hypocritical contrast between the West’s democracy promotion in Russia and the multi-pronged attack on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange… “So, you know, as they say in the countryside, some people’s cows can moo, but yours should keep quiet. So I would like to shoot the puck back at our American colleagues,” Putin snarked, questioning whether Assange’s arrest in the U.K. represented “full democracy.”
Put another way, the overreaction to leaked information, predicted by Lessig because it’s a common pattern, effectively predicted as a natural effect of technological advancement by Korbyzski some 90 years ago, makes our exceptionalist Ameriocentric hypocrisy that we’re doing on the record for everybody to see the real threat to our ability to engage in diplomacy and exercise political power, and thus the real threat to our national security. But: because it was predictable, just like the reaction of a crowd when somebody tells them that they’re about to die in a fire, it is reasonable to apply the blame to Wikileaks.
Through all of this, it’s important to ask “well, how can we mitigate the threat?” and the answer is easier said than done: elect brighter and more level-headed leaders who won’t do or allow their delegates to do anything that they wouldn’t want to see on Al Jazeera.
Update: So I’ve found so much more interesting stuff, it’s hard to wrap rational thought around it.
- Affirmative: The deluge of information available on the Web has made the country ungovernable, according to EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow. “The political system is broken partly because of Internet,’ Barlow said. ‘It’s made it impossible to govern anything the size of the nation-state. We’re going back to the city-state. The nation-state is ungovernably information-rich.” The unfettered transparency of WikiLeaks et al exacerbates this problem. Further, it may be suggested that entirely open data is opposed to free-market capitalism as it prevents a division of labors between those who labor in industry and those who labor in the service of the public.
- Affirmative: A “State of the Net” conference brought up a mixed variety of points. There’s a video that goes for just over an hour and is worth watching if you’ve read this far. One of the points that was brought up is that the Internet makes it easier to connect with somebody far away who shares your opinions than it does to connect with somebody locally, but with a differing opinion, that you might be able to achieve something real with. This goes back to the paradox of the Internet is that the wide variety of choices help to ensure that people can tune out the choices they don’t like. More importantly, this issue of not having to compromise to accomplish on the Internet was acknowledged by the populist professor Clay Shirky as a crucial mitigator to the Internet’s ability to improve democracy.
- Affirmative: From the same conference, we get more of other people’s cows moo-ing. “The US finds itself in a twist… our policies for our own people are a bit different than the ones we’re promoting [in the Middle East]. And that’s something that each one of the government agencies needs to address internally because there’s some cognitive dissonance in how those policies go forward,” said (I think) Alex — it’s right near the end, do watch the video to get the precise attribution. The point here is that the revelation of cognitive dissonance weakens our government’s ability to exercise diplomatic and political power which is a threat to our national security.
I’m going to come back to the “State of the Net” conference in just a moment for the negative side of things, but look at that last point. It sets up a beautiful debate: when in conflict, democracy is preferable to stability. Currently, Israel is disagreeing with that, but the Obama administration appears to be doing a very lovely job in helping the Egyptian military keep perspective. But I digress from the point, and that is that our foreign policy which loves democracy has, historically, favored stability. And when Hamas was legitimately elected to power in Palestine, our spreading democracy to the world didn’t look nearly so good. Indeed, we tend to support governments that are in favor of our democracy rather than their own as Zvi Bar’el observes:
If you’re a Saudi king who buys billions of dollars of American weapons, you’re pro-Western and therefore entitled to continue to rule a country without a parliament, one where thieves’ hands are amputated and women aren’t allowed to drive. If you’re an Egyptian president who supports the peace process, you’re pro-Western and have permission to continue to impose emergency rule in your country, jail journalists and opposition members, and fix elections.
So while just last month we had heads of state that appeared legitimate enough to deal with, now
all of a sudden, into the whirlwind, into the era of certainty and the lexicon in which the region’s countries are neatly packaged, the Arab “street” erupts, a sophisticated street. It uses “our” methods: Facebook and Twitter – the tools of democracy we have invented – to present us with a situation of disorder. How do you defend yourself against this? This Arab street has already used these tools to depose Tunisian President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, and its ideas have gone viral. What if it manages to establish democracy in Egypt? … They’re not shouting “God is great,” but “corruption out,” “dictator out” and “we want jobs.” Such nice slogans make you identify with them. … We don’t have to wait for other regimes to fall to understand that the revolution is happening before our very eyes. … But it’s a revolution of awareness and of the fundamental notions of what the Middle East is. Most importantly, we need a revolution in the way the West views the region.
If you’re listening to the words, you’ll notice that Wikileaks wasn’t mentioned there. But if you look at Egypt, Facebook and Twitter and the whole bloody Internet was taken down such that any information that got out was, in a sense, leaked despite the government’s attempt to suppress it. But more importantly, consider the difference between a professional diplomat like Lavrov (mentioned above) and whoever it is that the mob can get to channel their discontent to form a new government. If the Saudi monarchy falls to revolt and the people see from leaked government information how deep our support for their deposed oppressors went, it will have a brutal impact on the 17% of our oil supply that we import from Saudi Arabia. Which is both why we should be working a lot harder towards energy independence, and also why — as long as we’re depending on the dubious stability of certain nations — leaked information can pose a threat to our national security.
Now it’s easy for the negative to nay-say this and claim that it’s not really going to happen — people will click “Like!” and that’s that. But we only have this perception of slacktivism here in the United States because we’re geographically distributed. In more compressed parts of the world, the communication of information that the Internet enables puts people closer to action. As Alexis Ohanian, Reddit founder, noted in an interview with Bloomberg:
The Internet is just a means of communication for people to do stuff… Slactivism certainly exists, but you can’t get away from the power of that raw data, of that raw footage.
And the spread of that information to other people within the proximity necessary to actually take actions is what gives rise to what Ohanian referred to as Little Brother:
Large governments and corporations are now sort of accountable to Little Brother, to people like us thanks to the Internet in a way that they’ve never been before. And wikileaks has sort of become the poster child for this… But it’s not a story about about Julian; it’s a story about the fact that now there are these platforms online and in Openleaks… is going to be a new way for third parties to take anonymous data from sources who are leaking all over the world. … I’m sort of reminded of what we were told when the Patriot Act came out, so if there are any large governments or corporations who are worried about this, remember: If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about. So at the end of the day, this is a very kind of new world we’re living in and unless you’re going to unplug every Internet connection it’s not going to go away.
With the crucial point there being that this debate is not merely about Wikileaks, but rather about the subversion of information control and how it threatens our national security. In this case, I believe Ohanian might claim that Little Brother makes it difficult for government to get anything done and that’s a good thing. But we’re not making the claim that the status quo of American hegemony is good or bad, merely that it is and that having Little Brother staring at it and disapprovingly asking if it’s being a good role model threatens it.
So the affirmative rests heavily on conflating people and information, which it argues is the right thing to do because people are predictable. But in that State of the Net conference, Clay Shirky observed that “We have historically overestimated the value of access to information and underestimated the value of access to one another as the value of the system.” He goes on to call email the “serial killer app” because it’s the bottom line of interpersonal communication and if information is leaked to a distribution list of friends, it’s still leaked — rather more so, actually, than if it was just sitting out on the web where anybody could find it but nobody ever did. We can trace this back to the Pentagon Papers of Vietnam, or to loose lips sinking ships in WWII posters; Wikileaks is not new and merely posting information somewhere doesn’t mean that it can or will be acted upon. Furthermore, in the affirmative case, it’s noted that it’s not going to persuade anybody: if Saudis happen to believe that the US is the only thing propping their king up, we’ll have a heck of a time convincing them otherwise regardless of any words or transcripts we might produce.
There is a critical difference, though, and that is that confidence can be manipulated, as it was when leaking information about Iraq’s WMDs and the identity of certain covert operatives. Those leaks were possible because of the decline of investigative journalism. As Lessig wrote (still in “Against Transparency”) regarding the pressures that the Internet — and, to be fair, 24/7 cable news — put newspapers under:
First on the chopping block is investigative journalism, with its risky return, and even when successful, a return not measured in cash. Less than 10 percent of large daily newspapers in America have four investigative journalists or more. More than 40 percent have no investigative journalists at all. One need not hate the Internet to be deeply worried about the repercussions of this development for democracy.
In the State of the Net video, Jerry Berman points out that De Toqueville’s observation on democracy in America was that if people weren’t brought together by something — and he credited the early press with mass communication that could bring people together — then they would become isolated and selfish, descending into (as Berman switched writers) lives of quiet desperation. So while it may be a sorry replacement for investigative journalism that gives us haiku such as “The United States / and South Korea must apply / patience and pressure.” devoid of any analysis, it’s the current and modern way to check in on our government, our corporations, our Plutarchs, et cetera. And that’s why congressman Ron Paul says that there should be more sites supporting the leakage of information: “When truth is treason, we’re in trouble.”
At this point, as the negative, I’d be revisiting the definition of the United States and taking the definition to a high-minded ideological level. The United States is rule of law, due process of law, and equal treatment under the law — such that people can redress their grievances against the government which just so happens to be of, by and for the people. If “state secrets” prevent people from redressing grievances against the government, then we’re not the United States anymore. If the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on us while we only get Valerie Plame’s name in return, then we’re not the United States anymore. We’re not the United States where anybody — in this case, a guy with a Kenyan father — can grow up to be President because in the abominable reality of the affirmative, the President doesn’t matter. All that matters to the affirmative’s world-view, where uncontrolled information threatens the existence of their nation, is maintaining power. Which is a bit preposterous, as Shirky noted in the State of the Net video, but is more precisely debunked by the (appropriately anonymous) Public Strategist talking about the so-called levers of power:
It took me to the Cabinet Office where, I deluded myself, I would get access to the levers of power, and would be able to make the world a better place as a result… the delusion is to think that those levers are necessarily connected to anything, that they directly control any machinery, that anybody hears the little bell ringing in the corner, that brass and polish are correlated with consequence. … And that matters. It matters because once you recognise that fact, you can start to do things differently. People do, of course, recognise it at the level of caricature I have described here and nobody will admit to believing that they can get things done simply by pulling the levers of power. But inactions speak louder than words and the myth of the lever is harder to eradicate than any of us like to admit.
With that in mind, I’d like to close this debate by re-framing the word “government” because in the United States, the government is supposed to be comprised of public servants. Because while we may say that President Obama is a great leader (or a closet Muslim socialist who wasn’t actually born here, but I say he’s a great leader) his actual job is to be a public servant. To protect the collective interests of the citizenry. To uphold the constitution which defines our citizenry as being different from, for example, the citizenry of Burma. And as far as I can tell, if we as citizens have public servants that are afraid of revealing how they’re serving us and our interests, then they’re probably not serving our interests and we should fire them, preferably before they find a new excuse for invading some other nation.
Now, to be fair to the affirmative and to Lessig, shallowness of thought (promoted by the cognitive style of the Internet, see also Carr’s book The Shallows) is something of a concern as noted by Edgar Allen Poe from back in the days before the Internet: “The enormous multiplication of books in every branch of knowledge is one of the greatest evils of this age; since it presents one of the most serious obstacles to the acquisition of correct information.” But Shirky points out in the Wall Street Journal that this is trying to blame the book for the failing reader’s illiteracy. Ultimately, if people don’t understand what they’re consuming then we need to dedicate more effort to helping them learn to understand. More precisely he says:
Reading is an unnatural act; we are no more evolved to read books than we are to use computers. Literate societies become literate by investing extraordinary resources, every year, training children to read. Now it’s our turn to figure out what response we need to shape our use of digital tools.
So with regards to whether the information is true or not or in context or not really doesn’t matter too much. And I can claim that because some people believe that Fox and MSNBC — to name just a couple — are reasonably unbiased sources of news. I can claim this because conventional media is no longer a reliable distributor of correct information either, rather quite the opposite because market pressure supports them ideologically skewing their perspective to that of their audience. Saying that Wikileaks is a threat because people don’t fully understand what’s posted there is nothing compared to the threat that the New York Times posed with a special report on Iraq’s WMD program. The information isn’t the problem; the problem is the conclusion-jumping busybodies who think that if they can attribute their opinion to somebody else then it suddenly becomes true, and they’ll listen to whatever supports their bizarre ideas. But if you must externalize this concern and say that there is a threat to the United States coming from Australia, then we on the negative propose that it is not Julian Assange but rather Rupert Murdoch who threatens our national security.
Late Breaking Updates!
- But it is hardly enough to say that we want more media literacy, not when data analysis may be able to reveal latent (or active) biases in information. Analysis become a form of meta-openness, if you will, and if you’re interested. Which most people aren’t.
- Some people might look at how social media is facilitating revolts and claiming that it wouldn’t happen here. Malcolm Gladwell despairs at the slacktivists, for example. But looked at through a different lens, the Civil Rights Movement could be viewed as an insurgency similar to the ones that use networking quite adeptly to coordinate their efforts. I suspect the problem is that Gladwell is basing his hypothesis on Twitter and Facebook, rather than on a community like 4chan’s Anonymous and others that are quite adept at the flash mob.
- If you’re wondering why people hold their opinions despite the facts, comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell sums it up with “People don’t want the meaning of life, they want the experience of life.” So we shouldn’t be surprised when people reject information, no matter how factual, that doesn’t mesh with their experience inclusive of — and this is where people get messy — the experience of holding their incorrect opinion.
- But really, how much can people read into the most basic and factual information, no matter how accidentally leaked? Well, Cardinal Richelieu is reported to have claimed, or perhaps bragged, that “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.”
And this brings us to our final point from Bruce Schneier on the overarching value of privacy. See, while the negative claims that the government is comprised of public servants, there’s a bit of cognitive sleight of hand in that the negative doesn’t actually recognize those servants as being people too. I can’t say it’s entirely unfair — it’s the same sort of behavior we might expect of a Little Brother that has seen the abominable Patriot Act spawned in our land, to say nothing of selective subpoenas on communications used to demonstrate malfeasance when they weren’t intended for any larger audience because they self-consciously demonstrate a bit of bad grace, bad taste, and — by existing for longer than 10 seconds — bad judgment. But if we want our privacy to express what we know to be inappropriate outside of a very limited audience, then under what moral standard is it possibly appropriate to claim a right to the privacy of public servants? As Schneier concludes:
How many of us have paused during conversation in the past four-and-a-half years, suddenly aware that we might be eavesdropped on? Probably it was a phone conversation, although maybe it was an e-mail or instant-message exchange or a conversation in a public place. Maybe the topic was terrorism, or politics, or Islam. We stop suddenly, momentarily afraid that our words might be taken out of context, then we laugh at our paranoia and go on. But our demeanor has changed, and our words are subtly altered. … This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And it’s our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives. … Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that’s why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.
And so because Little Brother is no different from Big Brother in a nation where government is of, by and for the people, we have to see that the capricious denial of privacy by leak-facilitating technologies is a threat to our nation and our way of life.
Except that, as Joshua-Michéle Ross points out in “The Digital Panopticon” (May 2009) “The social technologies we see in use today are fundamentally panoptical – the architecture of participation is inherently an architecture of surveillance.” Put another way, Schneier represents the linear societal norm falling behind Korzybski’s exponential technological advancement. A lack of privacy is only dehumanizing because we’ve not yet made the necessary changes to not be dehumanized by our panoptical society. And if you know European history, this makes sense on another level because prior to the invention of the chimney, there was no privacy in the great communal halls of Europe. Privacy was a luxury of the affluent, not an inherent element of our humanity.
On a side note, Wikileaks has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Somebody should mention these things, I suppose, but I don’t know what the obvious impact is:
Whistle-blower site WikiLeaks has been nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize by a Norwegian politician who cited its role in freedom of speech, news agency NTB reported Wednesday. … “WikiLeaks is one of this century’s most important contributors to freedom of speech and transparency,” parliamentarian Snorre Valen said in his nomination. … Valen cited WikiLeaks role in disclosing the assests of Tunisia’s former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his nearest family, contributing to the protests that forced them into exile… also noted WikiLeaks publication of documents relating to corruption by authorities, governments and corporations as well as “illegal surveillance, war crimes and torture committed by a number of states.”