My contribution to a discussion forum entitled “Leaky Geopolitics” has just been published in Geopolitics 17: 681-711.
The idea behind this piece was to examine what WikiLeaks might mean geopolitically. The piece includes contributions by Simon Springer, Heather Chi, Fiona McConnell, Julie Cupples, Kevin Glynn, Barney Warf and Wes Attewell and was put together by Simon and Heather.
Here’s part of the Abstract:
The ‘Wikigate’ scandal thus represents an important occasion to take stock and think critically about what this case tells us about the nature of sovereign power, freedom of information, the limits of democracy, and importantly, the violence of the state when it attempts to manage these considerations. This forum explores a series of challenges inspired by WikiLeaks, which we hope will prompt further debate and reflection within critical geopolitics.
The only other discussion of WikiLeaks by geographers I’m aware of came from my colleagues here at UKY: Sue Roberts, Anna Secor and Matt Zook in Antipode earlier this year (we all seem to have liked the “leaky” metaphor!). What I think we were trying to do here was to explore alternatives to the state, and in my case, how the state “outsources” itself, especially (using Matt Hannah’s term) how there are emerging battles over “epistemic sovereignty.”
If the state is outsourcing itself in defense and intelligence contracting, the fact that WikiLeaks tried to play on the same ball field and got squelched reveals much about how the game is supposed to be played. A parallel I didn’t mention in the piece because it developed after we submitted it is the present “concern” about leaks, eg by Dianne Feinstein the Senate Intelligence Committee Chair. Over the past two months sher’s been all about stopping leaks of classified material, and yet when it suits her purpose she is apparently known to be a serial leaker herself.
This is my final paragraph:
An inescapable conclusion is not that sovereignty is being weakened or challenged, but rather that it is being outsourced and redeployed beyond the state. This is cause for concern, because there is less accountability in such arrangements, not to mention that contractors can work outside the military chain of command (for example, contractors are used to operate the CIA’s drone system). WikiLeaks is a minor but symbolically powerful figure operating among governmental outsourcing and acting as an outlet for whistle-blowers and providing oversight and transparency. Until (at a minimum) there is true participatory bi-directional dataveillance, we must continue to value WikiLeaks for these efforts.