Not long before Assange began the controlled release of U.S. State Departments documents in November, he teased an interviewer playfully with the old rhyme "Remember , remember the 5th of November" which refers to Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. [Read the well written and illustrated account of it HERE. ] Assange knows very well that Fawkes failed 400 years ago. The plotters were crushed by the Crown, and then mocked by generations of pressmen more loyal to Parliament than to their paying readers.
The Crown constantly sought to deny information to the public by controlling media, and that tradition never died out. (CRTC for you and me!) Modern censorship has deep roots. For example, in 1663 Sir Roger L'Estrange became the King's Surveyor of the Press and he relished the work. What he wrote about the riff raff of his own time still applies to you and I. Sir Roger on newspaper publishing: "I think it makes the Multitude too familiar with the actions and counsels of their superiors, too pragmatic and censorious, and gives them not only an itch but a kind of colorable right and license to be meddling with the government." As newspapers disappear, and are replaced by news and information websites, we must decide the level of control and manipulation we will tolerate in our lives. If Julian Assange was a Canadian passport holder the chorus of Opposition MPs and TV network Allstars would rival the din of a pack of lovesick coyotes.
All of this invites the obvious question - Where are Canada's Info-Anarchists? Do they even exist? We have legions of Winston Smith's in Ottawa "weeding" and "redacting" federal records, but probably not a one who has the gumption to do what U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning did. Not one.
Long before the conception of WIKILEAKS there were plenty of courageous Americans and Europeans willing to web-publish secret government files, some of them won through ATIP research and others delivered by anonymous email. The campus based National Security Archive is a prime example. I've been following NSA since 1994, the year I first surfed the Net on dialup. One of the books NSA published in the 1990s was WHITE HOUSE E-MAIL (1995). It contained the emails of two American Presidents, which are in fact a PUBLIC RECORD. Sadly, we may never read its Canadian equivalent PARLIAMENTARY E-MAIL. (The office emails of a Prime Minister, a Premier and a Mayor, are PUBLIC PROPERTY but who in this country has read any?) John Young's CRYPTOME site in New York also performs heroic service and I am a devoted fan of his excellent work. Young was asked to participate in setting up Wikileaks but his own projects occupy most of his day.
Of course there are NO CANADIAN WEBSITES offering purloined federal or provincial files. The National Archives of Canada is mandated to decide what is retained for the permanent collection, but the bitter truth is that Ottawa bureaucracy destroys much before the juiciest file groups are perused by archivists. That is one reason Canadian Parliamentarians can make self-serving claims about being vigilant in safeguarding of our democratic system. Their confidence derives from our utter inability to monitor what they get up to. Canada is the only "democracy" which tampers with its citizens private mail, running mail opening operations 24/7. Our "democracy" tolerates the strong arming of Internet Service Providers, requiring them to assist the police by providing surveillance of citizens without a search warrant, and in real time. Our "democracy" requires bank employees, accountants and real estate sales persons to act as a clandestine informant, and rat out any client who offers "suspicious" cash. Muslim terrorism certainly angers Canadians but we don't really fear it. We suppress our anger because government tells us who to like, and punishes the expression of "hate". Actually our greatest fear should be that the American Democracy, its commitment to openness, might degenerate to the level of our own. If that should happen, the so called "Free World" would be doomed.
WHITE HOUSE E-MAIL, a 254 page book compiled by the NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE in 1995, revealed the secrets of two Republican administrations. If a President's personal email is public property, and has been for fifteen years, why should Hilary Clinton's State Department get special treatment?
The only Canadian secret pertaining to this book is why I had to pay BOLLUM'S BOOKS $21.95 for it in Vancouver, when the cover price in 1995 was $14.95. I'm being facetious of course. We all know why the Canadian dollar was kept artificially low. But hey, making pesky U.S. books unaffordable did keep Pierre Berton and his crack platoon of researchers employed.