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WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency

Micah L. Sifry

Preface by Andrew Rasiej

"The effects of the ongoing WikiLeaks are cumulative––sort of like mercury poisoning––and reveal much about how dreadful many of our policies, especially regarding the war in Afghanistan, have been. With insight and clarity, Micah Sifry explores the red-hot spot where politics and the Internet intersect. An indispensable resource for the future fight over secrecy and openness." —Arianna Huffington

“No one better grasps the interplay between innovative media technology and politics than Micah Sifry.” —Kevin Phillips, author, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism

"A leading participant in and observer of how the Internet is changing politics and society, Micah Sifry has given us a riveting, from-the-trenches report on how the clash between power, truth, access, transparency and small-d democracy is unfolding in our newly hyper-networked world. Inspired by Wikileaks and the urgent debates that have been ignited by that phenomenon and its founder, Sifry explores the rise of the transparency movement in the US and around the world. This is a fascinating, trenchant and personal guide for smart, engaged people who seek to understand the new realities of this age of transparency." —Katrina vanden Heuvel

"Micah Sifry doesn't just know WikiLeaks. He sees how it relates to everything from Obama's victory to the Tea Party's appearance to electoral politics in Croatia, and he uses his incredible breadth of experience to show us how Wikileaks is part of a large, long-term trend in favor of the spread and visibility of information about our world, including information people often don't want shared." —Clay Shirky

"Just one piece of a much larger story of how the people and the powerful relate to each other: That's how Micah Sifry sees Wikileaks. By studying so carefully how technology is changing politics, he's been preparing for years to write this book. We should be grateful that he actually did." —Jay Rosen, Professor of journalism, New York University; author of PressThink.org

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About the Book

The United States government is diligent—some might say to the point of obsession—in defending its borders against invaders, be they terrorists, natural disasters, or illegal immigrants. Now we are told a small, international band of renegades armed with nothing more than laptops presents the greatest threat to the U.S. regime since the close of the Cold War. WikiLeaks’ release of a massive trove of secret official documents has riled politicians from across the spectrum. The WikiLeaks organizers themselves “are going to have blood on their hands” (U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman), it is the “9/11 of world diplomacy” (Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini), they present “a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States” (U.S. Congressman Peter King). Even noted free-speech advocate Floyd Abrams says that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “may yet have much to answer for” and blames him for the certain defeat of federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists. Hyperbole, hysteria? Certainly. We heard much the same in 1971, when Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times (ironically, Abrams was the Times’ lawyer in that case).

Welcome to the Age of Transparency. But political analyst and writer Micah Sifry argues that WikiLeaks is not the whole story: it is a symptom, an indicator of an ongoing generational and philosophical struggle between older, closed systems, and the new open culture of the Internet. “What is new,” he writes, “is our ability to connect, individually and together, with greater ease than at any time in human history. As a result, information is flowing more freely into the public arena, powered by seemingly unstoppable networks of people all over the world cooperating to share vital data and prevent its suppression.” Despite Assange’s arrest, the publication of secret documents continues, and websites replicating WikiLeaks’ activities have sprung up in Indonesia, Russia, the European Union, and elsewhere. As Sifry shows, this is part of a larger movement for greater governmental and corporate transparency: “when you combine connectivity with transparency—the ability for more people to see, share and shape what is going on around them—the result is a huge increase in social energy, which is being channeled in all kinds of directions.”

Publication February 21st 2011 • 224 pages
paperback ISBN 978-1-935928-31-7 •  ebook ISBN 978-1-935928-32-4

About the Author

Photo of Micah L. Sifry courtesy James Roderick
As the co-founder and curator of the Personal Democracy Forum (where Julian Assange has spoken twice), editor of its award-winning techPresident.com blog, and a senior technology adviser to the Sunlight Foundation, Micah L. Sifry is perfectly situated for this analysis, the first book-length discussion of WikiLeaks to appear in print. A former editor and writer at The Nation Magazine, he is the author of one book (Spoiling for a Fight, 2002), co-author of another (Is that a Politician in Your Pocket?, 2004) and co-editor of two anthologies: The Iraq War Reader (2003) and The Gulf War Reader (1991). He is also a member of the board of Consumers Union. His personal blog is at micah.sifry.com.

Preface by Andrew Rasiej, co-founder of Personal Democracy Forum. Andrew Rasiej, a futurist, social entrepreneur, and technology advisor to many politicians, is the chair of the famed New York Tech Meetup. He was the 2004 chair of the Howard Dean Technology Advisory Committee.

In the Media

Net Effects – International Institute of Strategic Studies, December 9th 2011

Socialism.com, August 2011

bookTV.org, June 7th 2011

The Australian, May 14th 2011

The American Prospect, May 10th 2011

Boing Boing, April 20th 2011

Publishers Weekly, April 18th 2011

The Guardian, April 11th 2011

The Guardian, April 9th 2011

Metromix Chicago, March 10th 2011

Mother Jones, March 9th 2011

GRITtv, March 4th 2011

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, March 3rd 2011

The Nation, March 3rd 2011

Business News Network: Part One, February 24th 2011

Business News Network: Part Two, February 24th 2011

Business News Network: Part Three, February 24th 2011

FT.com, February 18th 2011

Technology Review, February 11th 2011

The Huffington Post, February 9th 2011

Publishers Weekly, February 9th 2011

The Progressive Reader, February 9th 2011

The Guardian, February 2nd 2011

bookforum.com, January 13th 2011