Panel explores WikiLeaks fallout

February 7, 2011

State secrets, information freedom, and technology’s contentious role in democracy will be probed by three UW–Madison professors Thursday, Feb. 10 at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

“WikiLeaks: Where Do You Stand?” will feature the interdisciplinary panel of communication arts professor Robert Glenn Howard, English professor Anne McClintock and journalism and mass communications professor Lewis Friedland at 5:30 p.m. Moderated by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Steve Paulson, the event is free and open to the public.

“The panelists are likely to address the history of leaks, from the Pentagon Papers to the Zimmerman Telegram, and their effect on diplomacy,” says Mary Ellen Gabriel, marketing and outreach manager at the Center for the Humanities. “Questions involve journalism ethics and the idea of ‘techno-blowback,’ or the unanticipated ripples created by new, fast-moving technology in times of war and other catastrophe.”

The Web site and media organization WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 by 39-year-old Australian Julian Assange, who sought to accumulate and streamline the release of classified government and corporate documents.

Last fall, the organization exposed more than a quarter million private diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department, messages ranging from embarrassing revelations about world leaders to more sensitive national security exchanges. The group has also leaked thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan field reports.

“The fallout from WikiLeaks has shaken governments, corporations, and individuals,” Gabriel says. “It’s reverberating across academia as well, as scholars debate issues of journalism ethics, human rights, paranoia, international diplomacy, and much more.”

The discussion is part of the UW-Center for the Humanities public lecture series, “Humanities NOW,” which seeks to examine pressing contemporary issues. The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery are located at 330 North Orchard St.

— Sally Younger