During WWII, the allied soldiers going into battle were given a document which admonished each one to personally, vigilantly, perform your duty in SAFEGUARDING MILITARY INFORMATION. Slogans were created to help civilians and military personnel remember that the ultimate cost of someone leaking military information could very possibly result in the death and destruction of their comrades-in-arms. Probably the most popular slogan was Loose Lips Might Sink Ships, which has evolved today in a simplified form: Loose Lips Sink Ships. Others are just as valid, catchy, and applicable today:
Defense On The Sea Begins On The Shore
Defense In The Field Begins In The Factory
Careless Talk Costs Lives
Silence Means Security
Prior to Hilter’s all-consuming attempt to rule the world, Germans were sent to the American Southwest to learn the Navajo language. During the First World War, Navajo was used for secret codes in Europe. But because someone let the secret leak out, Windtalkers could only used in the Pacific during WWII.
There are other phrases we learned as children to help us make decisions on what to say and what not to say. One I still use today is Discretion is the better part of valor.
The children’s game – Chinese Whispers – is a fun way to demonstrate the vicious inaccuracies of unmitigated gossip.
The concept of Freedom of Speech is something which sets us apart from the bad guys. Many countries share this ideal. I exercise this right every time I open my laptop, sing in public, or take pen in hand. (In this day and age, perhaps we need to promote a bill to amend this to be more comprehensive. Perhaps we need to rename it the Freedom of Communication.)
But does freedom of speech mean we have no need of censorship? Does it mean we have no responsibility for the consequences of what we say and write? Any one of you who has been the victim of gossip knows the answer. Any one of you who said something – even truthful – at the wrong time knows the answer. The answer to Does this make me look fat? depends on what you perceive as the future of your relationship with the questioner.
My generation was at the cutting edge of the internet. I learned to email and set up websites and design emoticons in my twenties. I never thought about someone tracking me down or following my every type-stroke to determine what laundry detergent I would prefer to buy. I send emails and articles to my friends with wild abandon. I send emails and information to my fellow employees with caution because all things I send via my job’s system become a matter of public record. I didn’t realize until I began researching this subject that there are programs I could put on my computer which will mask who I am, where my computer is, what information I gathered, and what sites I visited. I can acknowledge that some people might need to be able to utilize this convoluted “onion”, but I still can’t wrap my mind around why everyone would want to use it.
I used to write letters and manuscripts long-hand. It took about a week for the intended reader to receive my words. If I burned the paper, the message was lost forever. Now, I create entire novels on an electric device and press the key that used to be named RETURN when I was in high school, and my words can be broadcast across the globe and to as many people as I wish in a matter of seconds. I can use two keys to copy and paste vast quantities of information, none of which I have to write myself. None of which I have to verify myself. I can just accept it whole-hog and send it further afield without breaking a sweat.
But what does get broken by such actions? Copyright laws, respect, verification of facts versus just gossip, taking authority for my actions and facing the consequences for such.
Truth must be told. Absolutely. That’s why I use a minimum of three different resources for each and every article I write. You’d be amazed how inaccurate information posted on the internet can be.
There have always been secrets. There is no such thing as a secret. Both of these sentences are true.
I cannot be responsible for what you read or say or write or copy/paste. But you can ask any of my friends or students if I can be trusted to keep their confidence. Since I am responsible for what I read or say or write or copy/paste; the answer is yes.
According to the article Cyber-dissidents launch WikiLeaks , a site for whistleblowers. South China Morning Post. 11 January 2007, WikiLeaks states that its primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations.
Harold Koh, Legal Adviser of the Department of State, was quoted in The Washington Post 27 November 2010, We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials.
According to various articles about Julian Assange, self-proclaimed soul of WikiLeaks, he doesn’t discriminate how the information is taken from the original hosts nor does he hold the informants accountable for accuracies or breaches of national security which may or may not leave the people named in these leaks vulnerable to assassination, torture, or genocide. He believes, through their freedom to comment (communicate in writing on this site) on the Leaks, his readers will eventually dissect truth from innuendo, praise from insult, and secrets from salvation.
The question was not if WikiLeaks had the right or the responsibility to broadcast the information they gathered. And before I ask you the question, I'd like you to ponder the following: Will you feed into this universe? Will you play this internet game of Chinese Whispers? Will you pass on information gathered by hackers and traitors? Or, will you take a second to ascertain the truth before repeating the really juicy gossip?
As stated in Loose Lips Sink Ships, EyeWitness to History, (1997)
If you come home during war your lips must remain sealed and your written hand must be guided by self-imposed censorship. This takes guts. Have you got them or do you want your buddies and your country to pay the price for your showing off. You've faced the battle front; it’s little enough to ask you to face this 'home front.'
The question now is Whose lips will sink ships?