The following is a guest post by Kerry Sulkowicz, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who is the managing principal of Boswell Group LLC. He advises business and political leaders on the dynamics of authority and governance, leadership transitions, and psychological due diligence. The opinions expressed are his own.
With the publication last week of WikiLeaks’ trove of classified documents on the Afghanistan war, the focus has been on the devastating picture they provide of the war. But a critical piece of the puzzle is not being addressed: what are the motivations of the leakers?
According to WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, the documents reveal “the more pervasive levels of violence” and “the general squalor of war.” Sadly, that’s no surprise.
What’s not so obvious is why people leak confidential material. We have yet to hear from Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst who was arrested on charges of leaking a video of an American helicopter attack in Iraq to WikiLeaks, and who is suspected of leaking all the other material. According to WikiLeaks, its goal is to reveal “unethical behavior” by governments and corporations through “principled leaking.”
Undoubtedly, the belief that you are doing something good drives many to leak documents. The WikiLeaks website cites the famous Supreme Court decision that “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.” Only the most paranoid and controlling would disagree. There is certainly no shortage of deceptive behavior in business and government, and WikiLeaks is far from the only organization devoted to exposing it.