THE BLOG
12/07/2010 04:25 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Instigation Not Mitigation: The Failures in the Responses to WikiLeaks

The idea of a "breach" of any sort triggers an instinct to suppress whatever the perceived threat from that breach might be. A breach destroys an understanding of impenetrability, some barrier that we believe, whether artificial or not, protected us from some harm.

The value of how one reacts to an information breach, like that of the WikiLeaks' cables, is learned early on. The harsh realities of junior high politics teaches this simple lesson when it comes to information breach: stop it before it gets worse. But, as any 13 year old knows, causing a scene over what at the time seems like the "end of the world," relatively, will just make things worse. Especially with a sensitive issue, your overreaction draws more attention and builds a bigger issue out of something than may have been there in the first place.

The United States government, Amazon, PayPal and the myriad of other players who I am sure will become tangled up in the dissemination of the Wikileaks' cables could benefit from a simple piece of advice: play it cool.

For the government, very little of what was leaked turned out to be "secret." What was leaked does not paint a picture of some fast and loose foreign policy maneuvers or even that of incompetency. Subject to the stark reality these cables may disclose, which may be uncomfortable to many, their contents were not wildly unexpected.

For the corporations, much of the reaction seems to be a response to media, with discussions of WikiLeaks being labeled a "terrorist organization" or suggestions that media outlets like the New York Times are aiding and abetting the actions of the rogue "transnational post-media, non-state actor" that is WikiLeaks. From all of the reactions, this seems more like fodder for a briefing packet for the Model United Nations rather than a threat.

Understandably, in every period of history, there is a fear that when a government is exposed, its weaknesses shall cause such a damaging effect that the prospect of recovery seems bleak. I do not doubt that there are future documents and communications that are so sensitive that they may render the United States in a difficult, if not comprised, position.

Yet, the response of the government and corporations has done nothing to truly mitigate the threat. Rather, it has merely instigated free speech adherents, activists, technologists and a host of others to fight against the suppression of WikiLeaks' rights. The curbing of information flow, which could have happened much more quietly, has turned into a very public message about the limitations of freedom. The lawyers will "lawyer" this, the hackers will hack their response and everyone else will hit the pulpit of Twitter and Facebook to ere their grievances.

This, in many respects, could have been avoided by everyone playing it cool. As this is just the beginning, it is encouraged that those put in a position to respond to these and future WikiLeaks' cables really embrace mitigation if that is their objective. The simple steps of the government explaining what happened, controlling the story by controlling the message and providing their own content and then letting it go would have helped to massage the media and the public through all of this.

The public, at large, would not be aware of this if such an approach to mitigation would have been adopted. The instigatory tactics employed have elevated Julian Assange as the anti-hero and created a consciousness of this issue unnecessarily. While the content of the allegedly damaging cables truly displays acts of diplomacy, the response of the government and corporations domestically has been anything but.