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The Features of Radical Transparency in Australia

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Radical transparency is a term used in various fields, including business, software design, politics, and governance, to refer to approaches that radically increase the openness in a specific process or data. It is also a method that utilizes vast networked information to reveal previously confidential information. In the 21st century, radical transparency has been incorporated into the public through the use of modern information technologies such as the internet. The use of the internet has led to radical transparency being broken down into voluntary and involuntary transparency (Heemsbergen, 2016). Voluntary transparency comprises of revealing of previously withheld information to the public. Involuntary transparency involves the reveal of secrets and information without the consent of the party that held the information. Involuntary radical transparency has become monotonous in the digital age, where modern forms of involuntary network data dissemination methods are used. The paper focuses on radical transparency, especially in Australia. The article will further highlight the role played by WikiLeaks and their connection to the media. Moreover, the paper will evaluate the role of deception and secrecy in politics. Finally the paper will analyze the impact of Cablegate on Australian law evaluating whether law was broken in revealing the classified cables.

Globaleaks, SecureDrop, Snowden, Anonymous and WikiLeaks have been the leading companies using digital technologies to uncover political secrets. WikiLeaks is the company that has been globally known to leak vast secrets enhancing radical transparency worldwide. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange began the company as a little experiment in radical transparency (Heemsbergen, 2016). By the 2000s, the page posted private documents ranging from Sarah Palin’s emails to Swiss Bank documents. The company’s breakthrough came in 2010 when it posted a graphic video showing the killing of several Iraqis, including Reuters journalists by the U.S military. The company received numerous praise form transparency, and libertarians advocates and shame fell to the US military.

The viral video posted showed US military in a helicopter flying over a group of unarmed men walking down a Baghdad suburb street in the company of two Reuters journalists. The Military then fired at men killing a dozen men and the two journalists in 2007. In the military defense, they claimed that the killings were unintentional, and they confused the camera gear as weapons. They blamed WikiLeaks for the editing of the video, but it did not change the fact that innocent men who did not engage in any violence were killed that day (Heemsbergen, 2015). The additional killing of the journalist proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the killings were an act of hostile action.

Consequently, WikiLeaks posted the largest cache of leaked material, which was a set of diplomatic cables and army documents in 2010. The leak mainly focused on the conduct of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is during this period that the United States declared it a threat through the national security officials (Kampmark, 2016). The leak of the classified documents intensified the public’s right to know in the US. The tension was not something new since it had occurred in the 1970s about the Pentagon Papers, which were leaked linking the US involvement in the Vietnam War. However, a confidant of the leaker Chelsea Manning was handed to the authorities and would serve seven years in prison (Heemsbergen, 2015). In 2016 WikiLeaks further posted hacked emails obtained by the Russian Intelligence apparently in an effort to sway the US presidential election. The leak was from stolen hacked emails by the Russian intelligence from the Democratic National Committee. The director of CIA then, in 2017, Mike Pompeo declared WikiLeaks as a hostile intelligence service. WikiLeaks is at the forefront to incorporate a radical transparency culture into society.

WikiLeaks raises several issues in its various disclosures. The 2010 revelations prove that the set conventional mechanism to regulate information held by the government is no longer functional, creating a significant obstacle in the achievement of radical transparency (Johnson, 2015). WikiLeaks, therefore, aims to challenge the increasing government tendencies as well as the growth of unaccountable power. The extensive leaks also prove that there exist obstacles to the achievement of radical transparency, even in the digital age. Moreover, the large volume of classified information revealed in 2010 shows that the quantity of such information held by governments is continuously increasing.

Additionally, in this digital age, both political and commercial considerations disrupt the free flow of information hence making it almost impossible to realize radical transparency. When WikiLeaks released the US department cables in 2010, they used various companies such as Apple, EveryDNS.net, PayPal, and Amazon Web services. However, the companies cut their services, claiming that it violated contracts, and it posed threats to businesses that would hinder other clients. WikiLeak’s ability to distribute leaked information was crippled, and it also damaged it financially. Companies willing to support the radical transparency journey are few, making the journey even more stringent (Johnson, 2015). Moreover, the extradition threats issued to the founder have forced him to seek refuge in the Cambodian embassy crippling the ability for the company to operate adequately. The jailing of a confidant of the leaker Chelsea Manning for seven years also serves as a significant setback in the achievement of radical transparency. The Government is therefore ready to act fast and ruthless to ensure that ensure classified information remains classified as citing American interests. Administrative controls have been instilled on access to sensitive information.

The content leaked from the Defense Department was also deemed very complicated and did not spark strong reaction nor press attention since the story was not easy to grasp. The major media houses that WikiLeaks chose to handle the information releases also did not meet their expectations (Johnson, 2015). The media houses functioned as gatekeepers for the information and would choose the information to be published and which to be left out. Also, the US public could be considered naïve since they did not react with the expected levels of outrage. The people choose not to oversee the abuse of power. Therefore, the achievement of radical transparency, even in the digital age, has a long way to go to be realized.

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Deception and secrecy have been used by numerous governments worldwide, claiming to hold the citizens’ best interest at heart. It is for this reason that a majority of citizens no longer trust the government; still, it does not always tell the truth (Bjola & Murray, 2016). Deception of the Vietnam War dented the trust of American people and its government. The disclosure of the Pentagon Papers revealed that government officials used security classification to keep information from the public (Fenster, 2019). It is through official secrecy such as the existence of classified files that a system if institutionalized lying cropped up. The press has also failed citizens since they are no longer vigorously question the government information. The media has been accepting official handouts as facts hence incorporating passive reporting. The submissive reporting culture has made it easy for governments to mislead the public.

Every government, for instance, the Australian government is not only built around formal checks and balances but also around a balance of confidence between the government and the people. The consent of the governed is built around democracy. Once the people are misled and not availed the truth either through secrecy or deception to base their decisions, the system may continue, but they may have been denied their democracy (Fenster, 2019). The government may decide to incorporate deception and secrecy to conceal the truth of their wrongdoing and mistakes and misleading the public. However, in a democratic state, the public should be informed hence the rationale should be unacceptable.

Secrecy and bureaucracy, however, is sometimes considered as logical. A government may need to keep some of its operations a secret to gain the upper hand in dealing with the enemy. Governments are required to maintain some level of secrecy and bureaucracy, especially in military and diplomatic operations. The military must maintain secrecy and bureaucracy in their operations in their goal to keep a given nation safe. A government may also decide to maintain secrecy and bureaucracy when conducting operations that the public may not approve of (Murray, 2016). A good example is the testing of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. The public may feel the need to oppose the government on the same, but the government has no option but perform its operations (Fenster, 2019). When secrecy and bureaucracy have a foundation in a rational concern to improving efficiency it may be considered logic. Moreover, when secrecy and bureaucracy are maintained for matters of national security then it can be regarded as legitimate.

Australia in June passed foreign interference and national security to make a complete overhaul of counterintelligence in the country. The legislation introduces stricter penalties for traditional espionage activities, such as interfering with public infrastructure and leaking classified information. The new laws had huge implications not only to whistleblowers but also to media houses who publish leaked information (Pha, 2018). The rules, according to the majority of Australians, seem to be denying them the fundamental democratic rights and the freedom of speech. Australia does not, therefore, allow radical transparency. The laws direct that for espionage offenses, a person has to commit the crime intentionally or recklessly, and the conduct should jeopardize the Australian national security or benefit the national security of a foreign country. The law directs that they must be a link to a foreign principal. Therefore, if a journalist was involved in similar conduct and the above circumstances existed then espionage offenses would apply.

In WikiLeaks conduct in 2010, publishing a series of leak sourced within the US military revealing American war crimes and diplomatic conspiracies was deemed legal. Despite using an entire Cablegate used in the highest ranks of the Rudd Labor government, under the Australian laws acted incapacity of a media organization and the editor in the interest of the public; hence they were protected (Pha, 2018). However, if WikiLeaks had been labeled a non-state hostile intelligence agency like in the USA then Assange would be considered to be charged with espionage for assisting in publishing of the leaks. In WikiLeaks case though, Assange was an Australian citizen with a media organization hence no link to a foreign principal.

The majority of Australian citizens welcomed WikiLeaks’s actions since it fulfilled the democratic right for the public to be aware of the truth. WikiLeaks not only exposed US imperialism but also revealed of the American government attempts to influence Australian politics and policy. There are concerns about the new laws since the passing of the laws the public was involved in and advised on the same (Pha, 2018). The Australian people tend to feel the laws were rushed since they were in parliament for only three days. Moreover, the rules were not subjected to any scrutiny. The Australian people have been denied the chance to vote for the most severe and punitive legislature since the Second World War. It is a fundamental principle of democracy to derive power from the people. The Labor and Coalition parties should not have any powers to deny the population democratic rights, which have been achieved through struggle and decades. The public should also come forward and express importance of being involved in legislature processes.

In a nutshell, there is a need for countries to be open to radical transparency. Governments should seek to remain truthful to their people. Governments should not cover up mistakes and wrongdoings but highlight them to the public to prevent such from happening in the future (Fluck, 2015). The act of deception and secrecy should not be present in a democratic country such as Australia. Companies such as the WikiLeaks should intensify their efforts in exposing the truth to the public. Media houses and other big companies should also join in the movement to ensure that the public is aware of the happenings worldwide. Moreover, media houses should be willing to foster governments to deliver information that is truthful and not provide false official statements. Lastly, the public should not remain naive, and any investigation that proves the government lied should hold their governments responsible for promoting the radical transparency culture.

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The Features of Radical Transparency in Australia. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-features-of-radical-transparency-in-australia/
“The Features of Radical Transparency in Australia.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-features-of-radical-transparency-in-australia/
The Features of Radical Transparency in Australia. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-features-of-radical-transparency-in-australia/> [Accessed 1 Feb. 2023].
The Features of Radical Transparency in Australia [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-features-of-radical-transparency-in-australia/
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