"WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency" by Micah L. Sifry offers both a philosophical and practical assessment of the WikiLeaks phenomenon and the revolutionary path it may portend for the future. Mr. Sifry, who has years of experience reporting on technology and working for the cause of greater transparency and accountability in government, is the right man for the job. Mr. Sifry's keen perceptiveness and familiarity with many of the key players in the openness movement (including several interactions with Julian Assange) has prepared the author to deliver an extraordinarily astute and thought-provoking book.
Mr. Sifry does a superb job of contextualizing WikiLeaks' moment in history. Mr. Sifry describes as only he can how the Internet has provided a platform for the distribution of information, with results that can be quite discomfiting to those in power. He believes the controversy surrounding WikiLeaks has to do with its spectacular exposure of the contradictions of U.S. government policy: in which the rights of people elsewhere to challenge sovereign power is expressed on the one hand; while on the other hand, little to no tolerance is permitted when its own privileges might seem to have come under scrutiny.
Sharing his own personal experiences, Mr. Sifry discusses many lesser-known web sites that are subtly but inexorably changing politics as we know it. As Mr. Sifry demonstrates, the overall trend has been towards the wider sharing and use of information. Some might be surprised that the author's main concern is not that government and business could ever succeed at putting the information genie back in the bottle; rather it is about the rate at which ordinary citizens can adapt to a new reality in which we have access to much more information than ever before possible.
On that point, Mr. Sifry reopens the WikiLeaks case to discuss its meaning for participatory democracies. Although Mr. Sifry does not believe that Assange's peculiar personality and WikiLeaks' frequently-changing mission statement has helped its cause, he unreservedly supports the public's right to know what its government is doing. Although it should probably come as no surprise that certain dim wit politicians would lash out at WikiLeaks, the many attempts to prosecute Assange and to close the site does raise concerns about how the public might be able to permanently secure a stable platform for discussing important issues without fear of censorship or reprisal.
I highly recommend this outstanding book to everyone.