A lot has been written about Wikileaks in the last few days, since its release of secret documents telling us what many have already come to believe about the war in Afghanistan, but one very important point has not been mentioned.
That is the inevitability of Wikileaks.
In a world that already hosts 4chan, Pirate Bay, and a whole host of spammers, crackers, and other malefactors, it's crazy to think that a host would not be found for secrets governments don't want revealed.
The fact that the current Wikileaks is run by an Australian named Julian Assange (right) is just a delicious irony. Not because press baron Rupert Murdoch is an Aussie, but because of how hard both political parties there have worked the last few years to censor the Internet, or at least their nation's view of it.
They've failed, just as China has failed, because even a global government might find it tough to stop Internet communication, and national governments have no chance.
For every "secret," there is someone who wants it revealed. For every taboo, there is someone who seeks it out. Whether it's drugs, guns, or just naked people bouncing up and down, where there is demand there is supply.
This is relevant to open source because open source depends heavily on this fact. The ability to absolutely enforce law online has always been binary. Copyright and patent law are, in this context, little different from laws on national security or pornography.
It's also relevant because Assange himself has a background in open source. Wikipedia (from which the picture above was taken) credits him as the author of Strobe, an early port scanner, as well as Usenet's NNTPCache. While the U.S. government has condemned him, he has been honored by Amnesty International and others.
It's something the U.S. takes advantage of whenever it's in our interest. We want Iranians to know that all is not lost. We want the Chinese to know that greater freedom is out there. We want radical Muslims to know there are alternatives to their bleak world view. We want to know Russia's secrets.
Just as Wikileaks wants to get inside our secrets.
In that effort, we all take advantage of the unequal fight between cops and robbers. That is, the cop has to watch every entrance. The robber only has to find one way in.
This is how crooks and secret agents have worked for centuries. The difference isn't always clear. As the constant arrests and returns of spies shows, one man's traitor is another's freedom fighter, one man's leaker another's truth teller.
Now that it's all online it just happens faster. But if we're to allow it at all, because we want to know what others don't want us to know, then we have to accept the fact that open windows work both ways.