Over the summer, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange set up an insurance policy of sorts, and it looks as if the United States and its allies could be paying off this particular policy for years to come.
Insurance takes many forms, from the policies purchased by homeowners to a side bet placed at a blackjack table when the dealer is showing an ace. Affordable health insurance, of course, was one of the main issues of the 2010 mid-term election.
Assange, a man whose website routinely releases confidential information, has been dealing in what he calls “history insurance.” His insurance policy is in the form of an encrypted file on PirateBay.org, a Swedish website.
In the event anything happens to Assange, a decryption key will be released, allowing anyone with access to the file to read embarrassing-and potentially harmful-government secrets.
So what does history insurance mean exactly? Assange could be referring to the practice of rewriting or revising events to reflect a certain point of view.
Look, for instance, at the Texas Board of Education and their efforts to tweak the social studies material given to students in their state. Proposed curriculum changes include downplaying the influences of Thomas Jefferson and activist Caesar Chavez .
Assange’s history insurance could ensure that historical facts would be preserved without bias or alteration.
With the release of thousands of confidential government cables, it looks like his history insurance might just pay off sooner than later.
These documents allegedly include communications from Condoleezza Rice and current Secretary of State Hilary Clinton urging U.S. diplomats to gather biometric data and credit card information from many world leaders.
Already facing rape and assault charges, Assange is coming under fire for making these confidential communiqués available for public scrutiny.
But is the Australian-born Assange a dedicated seeker of truth, or just a man who likes to stir the pot to see what he can dredge up?
It is no big secret that the United States government has plenty of secrets, which is one reason why President Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law in 1966. FOIA makes federal records available to the public, except those that are covered by certain exemptions.
It appears that the communiqués released by WikiLeaks are indeed covered by the first FOIA exemption, which says that documents properly classified as secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy should not be released to the public .
The fifth exemption on the FOIA list covers “A privileged inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letter.” That seems to describe the bulk of the 250,000 cables released by WikiLeaks.
It is hard to tell what secrets are encrypted in Assange’s history insurance file. Based on the firestorm created by the release of those cables, though, it should remain locked for the foreseeable future.